The happiest news in America

This week has been a bit of a downer.

The exchanges have been criticized for website crashes and many other technical difficulties (though who didn’t expect that?). And despite its “big opening,” most consumers remain unaware that they actually opened — and most importantly (and sadly) — what the exchanges (and other main components of PPACA) are.

Oh, and then there’s the whole thing about the government shutting down. (Some of my favorite effects? Some food-safety operations will cease, and the CDC is halting its flu program just as flu season gets underway — plus it has to stop providing “support to state and local partners for infectious disease surveillance.” Government: Way. To. Go.)

But thankfully, one piece of news this week left me feeling happy.

No surprise there, because the news comes from the Happiest Place on Earth.

Walt Disney Co. announced Wednesday that it’s offering full-time employment to the 427 part-time employees at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., who work at least 30 hours per week. That’s the threshold at which the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requires large employers with 50 or more workers to offer basic health benefits to employees or risk paying a $2,000 per employee fine after the first 30 workers.

So, instead of rolling back these workers’ hours to avoid expanding their health coverage, Disney is choosing to promote them to full-time status, which also grants them access to better coverage.

That’s a big departure from companies doing just the opposite, reducing hours to avoid the mandate. Many companies — including Trader Joe’s, Regal Entertainment and White Castle — have cut hours and benefits of their employees, using Obamacare as an excuse. Another popular theme park, SeaWorld, said earlier this year it would cut hours for some of its employees in the same situation as Disney’s, so that it wouldn’t be required to pay for their health insurance.

For perspective, a little more than 400 employees represents a small percentage of Disney’s employees in Florida. And Disney is on very stable financial grounds, so financially, it’s not an issue. But regardless, it’s nice for them to be proactive and not blame Obamacare for making decisions that will only hurt workers and their families.

Disney’s announcement is also an important message that employer-sponsored health insurance and other employee benefits still matter. PPACA doesn’t change that, and it shouldn’t.

So, as the bad news of our country just keeps on coming, at least we can remember that there’s good sometimes. And for at least this week, we can’t deny that Disney is the happiest place — at least in America.

About the Author
Kathryn Mayer

Kathryn Mayer

Kathryn Mayer is Managing Editor for Benefits Selling magazine. She can be reached at kmayer@sbmedia.com

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