The Affordable Care Act was one of the most talked-about pieces of legislation during the presidential campaign, and the discussion seems unlikely to die down now that the election is over. The ACA, or "Obamacare" seems like it is here to stay now that President Obama easily won a second term.
Depending on what side of the aisle you sit on, you can view Obamacare as the best thing ever, or a financial disaster waiting to happen. It will take years before we see which side is right, but for a lot of American workers, it is already starting to have an impact.
Already there have been warnings from Applebee's and Papa Johns that they could freeze or reduce worker hours in response to Obamacare, and now we have seen similar news from Darden Restaurants (DRI), while Wal-Mart recently announced employee's healthcare costs would be going up this year.
It is not too surprising that Darden has joined the list of companies coming out against Obamacare. The restaurant industry is unlike most industries, in that it does not typically offer employees any sort of health insurance. Most businesses with over 50 employees already have employee healthcare, but for restaurants, retailers and other industries where workers are not technically full-time employees, this will be a new thing, and it makes sense that they are upset.
We could just be seeing some political posturing from these major restaurant chains, but that seems a bit unlikely. The nation had its chance to repeal Obamacare, and with President Obama winning a second term by an overwhelming margin, the people seem to have spoken. For restaurants it is not so much that costs are rising, it is that they are being forced to deal with the costs for the first time ever… so yes it makes sense that they are upset.
The situation at Wal-Mart is a bit more troubling, but still could be viewed in more than one way. The company, which employees more than 2 million workers, announced that its employees will see their healthcare costs rise between 8% and 36% next year, depending on their plan.
As a result, a lot of employees have already reported that they intend to drop coverage all together next year. For employees that are making less than $20,000 a year, any increase is going to be hard to bear, and that is why we are seeing employees opt to drop their coverage, and relying more on Medicaid as opposed to paying for their own coverage.
While the 8% to 36% sounds horrible, Wal-Mart did clarify that the average costs it employees’ will bear should rise by about 4.4% on average next year as the company eliminates some plans and changes the coverage in others. Keep in mind when you read these stories discussing Wal-Mart that the company's healthcare costs have been rising by about 6% per year.
It will take years before we see what impact Obamacare has on the average American. Its main purpose is to lower healthcare costs and get more Americans insured, but it is going to take time before we see if that is really the outcome.
Michael Fowlkes is a financial writer who has been with the Fresh Brewed Media family since 2004. Over the course of his tenure with Fresh Brewed Media, he has worn many hats, including portfolio manager, options analyst, and writer. Michael received his undergraduate degree from Virginia Tech in Accounting and got his start in finance working as a stock trader for six years at Chase Investment Counsel in Charlottesville, Va. His articles typically cover big-picture events and forecasting what impact they will have on the stock market. In addition to writing for Fresh Brewed Media, Michael also wrote for AOL's BloggingStocks for three years, focusing most of his attention on the energy and technology sectors.