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Collins: Wegmans Latest To Cut Benefits After Health Care Reform



(WBEN) Wegman's Supermarkets, touted for years as being one of the nation's premier places to work, is reportedly cutting health insurance benefits for part-time workers, according to Congressman Chris Collins, who spotlighted the move as being another example of unintended consequences of a  bad health care reform plan.

"As America is witnessing the impacts of Obamacare hit home, the situation with Wegmans is just one more reminder that  we're seeing business react to Obamacare in a way that is bad for the economy, is bad for jobs, bad for workers and is bad for America," Collins said in a late Thursday morning conference call with reporters.

Collins was reacting to several reports that Wegmans is eliminating its health insurance benefits for part-time workers because of The Affordable Health Care Act.

The change has not been confirmed by the company, but was reported by The Buffalo News and other outlets, based on interviews with employees who said the coverage was being changed because of the health Care Reform

"As a private company, we don’t share specifics of our employee benefits programs. It’s a given that health care reform will result in some changes to our benefits program, but it will not change our commitment to meeting the needs of our employees,” the supermarket said in a prepared statement.

Wegmans has  been on FORTUNE Magazine's annual list of the nation's best places to work for more than 15 years, in part due to the generous insurance coverage for part-time workers that would not qualify at other places

Under the law, middle-class people with no access to job-based coverage will be eligible for subsidized private insurance, while low-income uninsured people will be steered to an expanded version of Medicaid in states that accept it.

The health care law contains coverage requirements for individuals as well as companies with 50 or more workers. Both requirements were originally scheduled to take effect next Jan. 1.

Last week, the White House unexpectedly announced a one-year delay in the employer requirement, saying the administration needed more time to work out technical details that employers find too burdensome. Some saw a political motive, since Republicans have criticized the requirement on businesses as a "job killer."

But administration officials said that the individual mandate-- the one apparently  at issue at Wegmans-  would remain in place. On Wednesday, White House spokesman Jay Carney  said the law provides financial aid to low-income Americans and is flexible so that people facing financial hardships aren't punished for going without coverage.

But Republicans- like Collins- have argued that the law will hurt the middle class.

The Wegman's scenario is one that Republicans say is being duplicated at several companies across the nation.  At the end of last month, Collins went on Fox News Channel's On the Record with Greta Van Sustern and told of a WNY constituent who called his office distraught, because she lost her full time status so the employer didn't have to meet a health care reform mandate.

"She was in tears., She was working for the same fast food restaurant for 19 years, 37 and a half hours a week... She was called in and told her hours are being cut to 29. She doesn't know how she's going to make ends  (meet.)"

The Affordable Health Care Act's employer mandate for coverage  dictates that employers with under 50 employees must supply health care coverage to every employee over 40 hours a week. 

"It's incentivizing behavior we don't need," Collins said.

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