Obama’s hometown government proposes dumping 400 part-timers from health plan

Michael Volpe Contributor
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Part-time government employees working for Cook County, Illinois — President Obama’s home county — may soon lose their employer-funded health insurance and instead have to move onto Obamacare’s healthcare exchanges.

That move would once again directly contradict President Obama’s promise that Americans who like their health plans could keep them.

In a press release from the Office of Cook County Board President, Democrat Toni Preckwinkle announced that she has proposed that all part time local government employees be removed from the county’s health plan or pay the entirety of it from their own funds starting July 1, 2014.

“The proposal would require employees and officials who receive less than full-time County pay to pick up the full share of their health benefits,” Preckwinkle said in the statement. “Those who choose not to will have the option of obtaining healthcare through a health insurance marketplace, accessing healthcare through other employment, or accessing the healthcare plan of a spouse, partner or family member. The change would take place July 1, 2014 to allow individuals time to review their choices. The County estimates that the plan will affect roughly 400 individuals, including Cook County circuit court and associate judges, part-time crossing guards and commissioners for the Chicago Board of Elections.”

Preckwinkle’s office said that the proposal would save the county $2.2 million in 2014 and $4 million annually after that. Preckwinkle said the move was done for the sake of equity, fairness, and fiscal discipline.

“We want to ensure that County employees and officials have access to health benefits, but the approach has to be fair and it needs to make sense financially,” President Preckwinkle said. “We’re taking reasonable steps to improve how we manage the County’s benefits.”

Naomi Lopez-Bauman, a healthcare policy analyst with the Illinois Policy Institute, told TheDC that she isn’t surprised by the announcement because Obamacare has led to increased costs for businesses, municipal governments, and colleges all over the country.

“It’s no surprise that employers, including government employers, are cutting or eliminating part-time employee benefits given the enormous increase in costs they’re likely facing with the implementation of Obamacare,” Lopez-Bauman said.

According to rules set up by Obamacare, all employers — including municipalities like the Cook County Government — are responsible for providing health insurance to all full-time employees, which is defined as anyone working thirty or more hours weekly.

The Cook County Government joins retailers Trader Joe’s and Home Depot, which also announced earlier this summer that they would cut out part-time employees from their health insurance plans.

In September 2013, Investor’s Business Daily columnist Jed Graham compiled a list of more than four hundred businesses and organizations cutting jobs or work hours in response to Obamacare.

The trendy clothing store Forever 21 announced it would cut some full-time workers to under thirty hours a week, in a leaked memo, though the store later issued a statement claiming the move was not influenced by Obamacare.

An August 2013 survey by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans found that 15% of large employers (50 or more employees) and 20% of smaller employers had plans to adjust hours so that fewer employees qualify for full-time medical insurance under Obamacare.

According to Owen Kilmer, spokesperson for Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, President Preckwinkle plans on introducing the initiative when she introduces her 2014 Cook County budget in front of the Cook County Board at its regular board meeting on October 10, 2013.

President Obama owns a home in the trendy Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago, near the campus of the University of Chicago. Cook County covers the City of Chicago and its surrounding suburbs.