Part-time employees unsure about new health insurance options

By Maryalene LaPonsie on May 30th, 2013

When the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is fully implemented next year, it will offer new health insurance options to part-time workers who typically aren't covered by employer-sponsored group plans. However, a survey by Kronos, a workforce management solutions firm, indicates many of these workers are not aware of how health reform will impact them.

New ways to buy health insurance

The health reform law includes provisions that may help part-time workers find affordable health insurance. Currently, these workers may be limited to finding coverage on the individual market where health insurance rates are typically higher than those found through employer-sponsored group plans.

In 2014, those without group coverage will be able to shop for insurance through health insurance exchanges, online marketplaces administered by the government. In addition, those earning less than 400 percent of the federal poverty limit (approximately $88,000 for a family of four) will be eligible for tax credits to offset their premiums.

Health reform will also prohibit insurers from denying coverage to those with pre-existing conditions or charging higher premiums based upon gender or health status. Both changes are intended to provide more options to those buying individual health insurance plans.

Part-time workers not sure what reform means for them

Although part-time workers may benefit from health reform provisions, many are uncertain how they will affect them. Kronos asked part-time workers how the law would affect their quality of care, and nearly a third said they did not know.

  • Quality of care would be worse: 31 percent
  • Did not know how law would affect their quality of care: 30 percent
  • Quality of care would not change: 23 percent
  • Quality of care would be better: 16 percent

Although 71 percent of workers said they were familiar with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, only 8 percent had received any information regarding the law from their employer. Instead, 61 percent had learned about the law through the news media, 38 percent from family and friends and 36 percent from social media.

"Organizations need to start a dialogue with employees to begin to shed light on this important issue and empower them with information as it becomes available," said Paul DeCamp, partner with Jackson Lewis LLP and former Administrator of the U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division, in a written statement issued in conjunction with the survey results.

For now, many part-time workers remain confused and even angry about the health reform law. Twenty-seven percent of those surveyed told Kronos they were 'confused' by health reform changes while 22 percent said the word 'angry' described their feelings. Despite the negative response from some workers, Kronos also found 25 percent are 'hopeful' about their future health care.

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