This is a highly instructive story about Wal-Mart dropping health coverage for part-time workers (hat tip to a reader -- I always forget to ask if they are OK having their name used). The writer is amazed at unintended consequences that were so hard to envision that complete non-experts like me predicted them days after the law's passage.
- The writer is amazed that Wal-Mart would support Obamacare and then try to evade its provisions. This is how the corporate state works. Wal-Mart was an enthusiastic supporter of Obamacare NOT because it believed the law made any sense, and not because it had any intention of complying with its spirit, but because it knew that its size, political clout, and infrastructure would allow it to duck the new costs of Obamacare more easily than its competition.
- We see unintended consequences run wild. Wal-Mart was guilted into providing some health care coverage of part time workers because of tear-jerker news stories about these folks having no other alternative. But under Obamacare, they do have an alternative (Uncle Sam) so the pressure on Wal-Mart to provide the care to avoid bad PR is removed.
- I am amazed that we seem to naturally assume that providing health care is an employer's obligation. This is just bizarre, and applies to none of our other needs. Employers pay us money, we spend it according to our preferences to fulfill our needs and caprices (a great phrase I stole from Agatha Christie via Hercule Poirot). “Walmart is effectively shifting the costs of paying for its employees onto the federal government with this new plan". I would have said that Wal-Mart is shifting the choice of how to spend their total compensation back on the employee.
- The cat is almost out of the bag on the story I have promised to be the biggest economic story of 2013: "Several employers in recent months, including Darden Restaurants, owner of Olive Garden and Red Lobster, and a New York-area Applebee’s franchise owner, said they are considering cutting employee hours to push more workers below the 30-hour threshold." These guys are just being coy in public if they are saying "considering." I know insiders in the restaurant industry and they have been working on definite plans to part-time their entire work force for well over a year. By mid-2013, the service worker who works more than 30 hours a week will be a dinosaur
- Some time in the past, we really screwed up the whole concept of health care "insurance." One person complains in the article: “The packages Walmart is providing for low-income people aren’t offering very much coverage except for catastrophes." Gee, I could have sworn this is exactly what insurance is supposed to be. Her statement is like saying "my home insurance isn't offering much coverage except in the case of major damage to my house."
- Every extra dollar Wal-Mart pays for its employee's health care costs is another dollar added to the shopping bill of the lower income people who shop there.