Universal Theme Park Will Drop Health Coverage For Its Part-Time Workers To Avoid Obamacare

Universal Orlando, a theme park resort in Florida that generates more than $1 billion dollars in annual revenue, plans to drop insurance coverage for its part-time employees at the end of this year — a tactic to avoid providing its workers with adequate health benefits under Obamacare.

The health care reform law attempts to put an end to several predatory insurance practices, and requires employers to provide their workers with sufficient insurance plans that don’t put limits on essential benefits. Universal would be required to upgrade to a more comprehensive insurance plan under Obamacare. But instead of extending better benefits to its part-time employees, the company would rather drop those workers’ health care altogether:

Universal currently offers part-time workers a limited insurance plan that has low premiums but also caps the payout of benefits. For instance, Universal’s plan costs about $18 a week for employee-only coverage but covers only a maximum of $5,000 a year toward hospital stays. There are similar caps for other services.

Those types of insurance plans — sometimes referred to as “mini-med” plans — will no longer be permitted under the federal Affordable Care Act. Beginning in 2014, the law will prohibit insurance plans that impose annual monetary limits on essential medical care such, as hospitalization, or on overall spending. […]

Critics of mini-med insurance plans say they ultimately provide little protection for workers, with meager payout limits that are nowhere near enough to cover medical emergencies. Supporters argue they are a realistic option for low-paid, limited-hour workers who can’t afford better plans. […]

Universal’s announcement has angered some employees, who say the resort can afford to provide more-comprehensive health insurance for its part-time workers. Universal Orlando’s immediate parent company, Universal Parks & Resorts, generated approximately $950 million in operating cash flow last year, up 10 percent from a year ago.

Universal has about 17,000 workers, making it one of the largest employers in Central Florida. Company officials say that only a small percentage of its employees would be impacted by the move to drop part-time coverage, since most of Universal’s part-time workers are covered under a parent’s or spouses’s insurance plan. Still, about 500 people are enrolled in Universal’s “mini-med” plan and can expect to lose all of their current health benefits after December 31st.

The resort isn’t the only hugely successful company to balk at the prospect of providing basic health benefits for its low-wage employees — who typically don’t earn enough to be able to afford to purchase insurance on their own. Wal-Mart dropped health coverage for its part-time employees two years ago. And a wide range of businesses in the restaurant industry — including Applebee’s, Olive Garden, Denny’s, and Wendy’s — have also used Obamacare as an excuse to pass the cost of health care onto their low-wage workers.