Smart Benefits: A Bad Week Brings Reactionary Changes to Obamacare
Monday, November 25, 2013
Exchanges’ Enrollment Deadline Extended
Amidst crashes and lengthy waits on the state and federal exchange websites, The Obama administration last week announced that the December 15 deadline to enroll has been extended to December 23.
But while the administration claim websites’ malfunction is behind enrollment numbers that are way below expectations, critics argue the real reason for the shortfall may be that prices are too high.
Higher Penalties for Young Invincibles?
For one demographic, costs are likely the reason for the low enrollment: the twenty-somethings. This population has other appealing options:
- If they are under 26, they can stay on their parents’ plan
- They can take the low-cost penalty, which is much less than electing coverage
The young’s reluctance to enroll is a significant issue because the success of the exchanges is largely built on this population enrolling and offsetting the other older, sicker enrollees. As a result, last week, there was talk of increasing the penalties for this population by more than originally planned – and sooner, as early as 2015.
Terminated Plans Okay – For Now
Many existing plans for individuals and small businesses who are renewing coverage were terminated and replaced with new options that meet the essential benefits requirements under Obamacare. But amidst widespread criticism, the Obama administration has now delayed this provision for one more year until January 2015.
The issues with the extension?
- Insurers are regulated by the states and it will be up to the state insurance commissioners to decide whether to allow this delay. So some only states may allow it, while others will require renewing with the new plans
- The delay comes too late for most employers who have already made decisions about plans gone through the renewal process
Possible Exemptions for Unions to FTE Requirement
One of the biggest consequences of Obamacare is that employees are losing hours because of the pending definition of full-time status as 30 hours. Many employers who previously considered 35, 37 or 40 hours as full-time are now cutting hours to below 30 to control expenses by limiting those eligible for coverage.
The unions, the Obama administration's biggest supporters, are possibly the sharpest critics of this aspect of the law. To win back their support, the administration is now trying to exempt unions from inclusion of a new tax that goes into place in 2014 and gets assessed to insurers and self-funded employers. But that means the hefty fees ($63 per person per year) will get passed on through premium increases to everyone else.
Related Slideshow: Foodie Getaways in Massachusetts
Food lovers will love these destinations statewide for indulging your palate.
Vienna Historic Inn + Restaurant, Southbridge, MA
A feast for all your appetites. This historic inn is filled with old world charm, antiques, chandeliers & steins. Each room is adorned with soft music, ambience and uniqueness. You will be delighted with hard-to-find Austrian, German, Swiss, French as well local meats, seafood and vegan options. An extensive gluten-free menu available. The beer garden will be open through the end of the October.
Jewish Food Tour
Ahla Food Tours, Brookline, MA
Explore Jewish cuisine on this eye-opening 3-hour walking tour of historical Brookline and experience what TV Diner called a "fabulous Boston neighborhood tour!" and Jewish Advocate raved is "whetting the appetites of Jewish and non-Jewish diners alike". You'll taste authentic Jewish food - matzo ball soup, latkes, falafel, kosher wines, noodle kugel ice cream and dozens more. Hear unique anecdotes about the welcoming Brookline purveyors and savor the rich history of Jewish Brookline.
Blue Hills Brewery, Canton, MA
We're lucky in Massachusetts to have many microbreweries, large and small, for touring and tasting. But Blue Hills Brewery has combined its makes great tasting beers with a real educational imperative--an internship. A dream come true for beer lovers, candidates can vie for working with Blue Hills' Master Brewer Andris Veidis in a true apprenticeship. Not for the casual brewer. To learn more, check online, here. http://bluehillsbrewery.com/internship.php
Sweet Dessert Bar, Worcester, MA
A dessert lover's destination, Sweet was recently in the news for having challenged New York chef Dominique Ansel as laying claim to the invention of the cronut. Whether you're team Worcester or team NYC, enjoy Sweet's lounge chairs or sit at the bar, have a drink and watch as the chefs prepare a one of a kind dish for you. Not your average piece of cake, Sweet's appetizers and desserts are inspired by the freshest local ingredients, seasonal fruits, and artisan chocolates.
Old + New Dining
The Farm Table, Bernardston, MA
In the lush Pioneer Valley between Deerfield and the Vermont border, this remarkably restored 1800 farmhouse features cutting-edge green energy and the freshest local and regional foods seasonally available. Combine a delicious sojourn with holiday shopping at Kringle Candle and Kringle Christmas Barn.
Fried Clam Pilgrimage
Woodman's of Essex, Essex, MA
Keep summer alive year-round by making a pilgrimage to this institution that is counting down to its 100-year anniversary. Go for the fried clams, because that's what was invented here on July 3rd, 1916. Lawrence "Chubby" Woodman, at the humorous suggestion of a friend, fried up a few clams at his roadside stand in Essex, Massachusetts and the original fried clams were born.
East Dennis Oyster Farm, Cape Cod, MA
If you think oysters are a summer pleasure, you're right but you're wrong. Late October and November yield some of the best oysters, so consider bundling up and heading to the Cape for a tour of John and Stephanie Lowell's farm on the tidal flats off Quivett Neck. To make an appointment for a tour, go here.
Hit the Trail
Massachusetts Wine + Cheese Trail
A wine and cheese trail in Massachusetts? That’s right, the Bay State features 40 licensed wineries, producing wine from a collection of locally grown fruits – grapes, apples, cranberries, peaches, and blueberries – across, roughly, a total of 2,200-acres of wine farm land, where 439 acres are devoted exclusively to wine production. You can download a map and pick up the trail at any place, exploring small and pristine providers.
Wine in the City
City Wine Tours, Cambridge, MA
Want an urban oenophelia adventure? City Wine Tours is the perfect gateway to enjoying Boston's vibrant wine culture and best restaurants. Sip, savor, and explore as we take you on a walking tour through Boston's most historic neighborhoods, with stops at award-winning restaurants, luxury hotels and gourmet wine shops. Cheers.
A New Kind of Crawl
Dishcrawl Pioneer Valley, Springfield, MA
You love a pub crawl? How about a restaurant crawl? The foodies at Dishcrawl aim to provide you with Pioneer Valley's premier culinary social experience by bringing together neighborhood restaurants, local chefs, regional food producers and fellow food enthusiasts. Join for a one-of-a-kind gastronomic adventure! Check out next week's All Hallows Eve crawl in Amherst, MA.
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