Fact Check: Part-time workers at Home Depot and Trader Joe's harmed by Obamacare
October 10th, 2013
04:13 PM ET
6 months ago

Fact Check: Part-time workers at Home Depot and Trader Joe's harmed by Obamacare

The Assertion
Part time workers at companies such as Home Depot and Trader Joe's are being harmed because Obamacare is forcing their employers to drop health insurance coverage and force employees to purchase insurance on the exchanges.

Facts
It is true that these two companies have said they are dropping insurance coverage for part time workers and encouraging them to get their insurance on the state and federally-run exchanges. The move affects about 5% of Home Depot's worker or about 20,000 to 30,000 workers. These employees had low cost/low benefit "mini med" insurance plans that are prohibited under the Affordable Care Act. About 23% of Trader Joe's work force will be similarly affected.

However, Obamacare may not be the only reason behind the benefits adjustments.

Whatever the cause, will the workers be harmed?

Most part time workers have incomes low enough to be eligible for tax credits, so even those that don't receive company assistance could make out ok. The cost really depends on whether someone chooses a bronze, silver, gold or platinum plan. There is an argument that workers will benefit because the plans sold through the government-organized exchanges are significantly better than the "mini-meds" previously offered to part-time workers by these companies. It may be true but right now there's little evidence to substantiate that claim.

In Trader Joe's case, company officials,, using the calculator provided through Healthcare.gov, estimate that 70% of those working on average 17.3 hours and 29.9 hours per week will pay less for comparable insurance when they switch to a healthcare exchange plan.

For example a Trader Joe's press release cited an example an employee who is a single mom with one child, making $18 an hour and working an average of 25 hours per week. She currently pays $166.50 per month for company-provided health coverage. By moving to a healthcare exchange the worker can buy a comparable policy for $69.59 per month when one factors in the tax credits she will receive. As a result, the company says, the worker will be able to take home an additional $1,675 a year not counting the $500 one-time subsidy Trader Joe's will give her to help defray the cost of buying a policy on the exchange. "This $1,675 of additional income would not be possible if we offered her insurance under our plan, because she would not be able to receive the tax credit available under the ACA," the company said.

Plus, Trader Joes will continue to provide free coverage for basic dental and vision care for all its employees who work an average of 15 hours or more per week.

Not all of the affected Trader Joe employees will make out so well. Employees whose spouse works at another company that does not provide health insurance, and, therefore, have too much household income to qualify for tax credit, may end up having to pay more for a policy on the exchange than the health insurance plan the worker had at Trader Joe's.


Filed under: Fact Check Obamacare • Health care
soundoff (15 Responses)
  1. Rudy NYC

    Employees whose spouse works at another company that does not provide health insurance, and, therefore, have too much household income to qualify for tax credit, may end up having to pay more for a policy on the exchange than the health insurance plan the worker had at Trader Joe's.
    --------------------------
    Are they saying that there is a health care "marriage penalty" for spouses who each work a part-time job?

    October 10, 2013 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  2. Malory Archer

    In other words "Part-time workers at Home Depot and Trader Joe's harmed by Obamacare" is a pants on fire lie!

    October 10, 2013 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  3. Richard Long

    Where are the Obamacare enrollment stats?

    October 10, 2013 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  4. Teatroll McGee

    "$1,675 of additional income "

    OMG THIS IS HORRIBLE!!!! EVERYONE, GRAB YOUR PITCHFORKS...LET'S GO TO DC!!!!

    October 10, 2013 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  5. Teatroll McGee

    "Where are the Obamacare enrollment stats?"

    They've already said that they will release them at the end of each month. You have a choice: don a tinfoil hat and throw a tantrum trying desperately to sell a partisan mischaracterization of it that you hope will help the GOP/Teatrolls OR relax and recognize that the exchanges just opened and we're not talking about a product and market that was going to instigate a mooing consumer stampede like Black Friday at Walmart.

    October 10, 2013 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  6. Rick McDaniel

    Get real. We all KNOW Obamacare is the entire reason, that the insurance is no longer available, because it does NOT ALLOW that level of insurance to be offered. It doesn't give away enough, to suit the mentality of the hand out Democratic Party.

    October 10, 2013 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  7. Anonymous

    Trader Joe's pays $18.00 an hour go figure.

    October 10, 2013 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  8. John in Brooklyn

    Richard Long: "Where are the Obamacare enrollment stats?"

    Really, you think that GOP sound bite is going to work when 1) enrollment is not even two weeks old and 2) it's being managed in the midst of a government shutdown, caused by the GOP's efforts to crush the program itself?

    October 10, 2013 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  9. Malory Archer

    Richard Long

    Where are the Obamacare enrollment stats?

    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    Considering healthcare.gov has only been up and running for 9 days it's too soon to tell, however, that more than two million unique IP visitors have logged on every single day since then, it's safe to say the stats are pretty good.

    October 10, 2013 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  10. disgusted retiree

    I would that knowledge of the aca stats and fifty cents won't get you a cup of coffee! Who cares how many signed up? That is a question better asked on 1 jan 2014.

    October 10, 2013 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  11. Dave in Arizona

    As a father of a toddler who's currently on a "limited coverage" plan, I can't wait to get in on an Exchange plan. I expect it will be cheaper than what I'm paying, as well. I'm glad to hear that mother in the example above will end up not only with better insurance for herself and her child, but for a cheaper amount.

    October 10, 2013 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  12. disgusted retiree

    Does anyone honestly know of a part timer at TJs making 18 bucks an hour? Didn't that raise a follow up question from a reporter?

    October 10, 2013 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  13. smith

    So basically your ok if you have kids. What about the part-time employee`s with out kids? What if they have another part-time job? Alot what if`s.

    October 10, 2013 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  14. N Kewley

    Trader Joe's was not offering a mini-med policy that did not qualify as an adequate plan. Workers with 18 or more hours a week all had the same health care policy for the same prices whether they worked 18 or 36 hours. (Managers pay a different amount.). Perhaps some workers will benefit under the new system – depending upon household salary AND the state the worker lives in. It is too early to tell.

    The broader question though, is who pays for the shift of the worker from employer to a public exchange. Trader Joes no longer pays a significant amount of money for the employee's family medical plan ($thousands! – it IS a quality health care plan). Trader Joes also avoids the per-head fee ($65 for 2014) that the Act requires. The $500 paid to the worker is surely a savings to the company rather than the amount it previously paid for the employee's coverage. If the worker pays less as well, SOMEONE somewhere has to pick up the cost. I assume it is now the tax payer that pays through the subsidies.

    Once the bickering stops about whether to repeal or defund the ACA, perhaps we can begin examining the broader reaction of corporations and individuals to the regulation. Is this the behavior the Act was intended to bring about? Is it ecnomicaly beneficial to the country as a whole. Trader Joes and Home Depot are a small section of the various parties affected. Think about the number of Wal Mart workers who make minimum wage who now not only qualify for EIC, possibly food stamps but now ACA subsidies as well. Wal Mart pays the tax penalty or schedules them less than 30 hours a week. Either way, it is the tax payer that subsidizes Wal Mart's paltry wages.

    October 10, 2013 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  15. Data Driven

    Anyone else notice how squishy these "fact checks" have become? No more firm answers to the talking points.

    October 10, 2013 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |