TAMPA, Fla. (WTSP) - Parcel carrier UPS is planning to drop nearly half of its 33,000 workers' spouses currently on its health insurance plan.
The company says those spouses need to get coverage from their own employers, but would still cover those spouses who don't have insurance or whose employers don't offer it.
Why? Blame Obamacare, UPS told employees.
Representatives on both sides of the Obamacare debate were digging in their heels right here in the Bay area Wednesday.
Proponents say repealing the Affordable Care Act would leave thousands with little or no coverage. Meanwhile, Obamacare opponents with the group Heritage Action were holding a town hall in South Tampa.
While opponents of Obamacare stopped short of using today's announcement from UPS to say 'I told you so', they seized the opportunity to push lawmakers to stop the Affordable Care Act refusing to fund it.
Meanwhile, if you're wondering whether other companies including your own may be thinking about making similar changes as the ones announced at UPS, the answer, experts say, is almost undoubtedly.
"You bet that your company is one of the ones that are thinking about it. All large employers are thinking about ways they can control costs," said USF Public Health Professor Jay Wolfson.
Wolfson says companies, soon mandated by law to cover pre-existing conditions and certain dependents, are looking at the on-set of Obamacare as an opportunity to shift costs.
"This is one way, as they're required to do certain things that they weren't before, to say we're gonna do it a different way. The timing is good to restructure what we do," he said.
On Wednesday in Tampa, the Heritage Action Foundation, which has urged lawmakers to end Obamacare by not funding it, called the UPS situation the tip of the iceberg. The group, holding a town hall meeting at the Crown Plaza Hotel on Kennedy Boulevard, says it's another example of consequences of the Affordable Care Act.
"There's a lack of choice there, and certainly goes against what the president had promised where if you like your plan you can keep it," said Karen Jaroch, a regional coordinator.
Those favoring healthcare-reform staged their own news conference in Tampa today, calling the Obamacare critics extreme partisans, even liars, who would force young adults off their parents' health plans, the elderly to pay more for prescriptions, and leave those with pre-existing conditions without coverage.
Brad Woodhouse, with the group Americans United for Change, said he had not seen details of the UPS announcement, but said for each such case there are people who had no insurance who will receive healthcare coverage under Obamacare.
"I don't know the answer to the UPS situation because I haven't seen what their factual basis is, but a lot of this as the law is being implemented, and as we see the economic statistics, a lot of these assertions are not being met with the facts," said Woodhouse.
Professor Wolfson says workers are likely to see more insurance shifting as big employers are forced to contend with coverage mandates.
Enrollment begins in October. Implementation of Obamacare starts in January.
As for the debate?
"I think until the next presidential election you'll be seeing plenty of this," said Wolfson.
During those months and years, more and more of Obamacare will go into effect, and Dr. Wolfson says once it's in place it's going to be harder to reverse.