The United Parcel Service (“UPS”) recently made a big statement when they decided to drop 15,000 working spouses eligible for health coverage through their own employers from the UPS plan in 2014. The shipping conglomerate explained the change in a memo to its workers and repeatedly cited the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”) as the reason for the new policy. Rising medical costs “combined with the costs associated with the Affordable Care Act, have made it increasingly difficult to continue providing the same level of health care benefits to our employees at an affordable cost,” the memo stated. The new policy will not affect union workers, as their health benefits are already spelled out in labor contracts, but will apply to about a quarter of the UPS U.S. workforce.
Some proponents of the ACA say that the new health care law will have little effect on companies, but do not tell UPS that. By dropping the eligible spouses, it is estimated that they will save $60 million a year. While UPS may be the most well-known company to drop spouses, they are not the first. Other companies have increasingly explored ways to eliminate spouses from plans as a cost-saving measure. Some have paid employees a bonus if spouses get coverage elsewhere; others have even imposed penalties on employees who enroll working spouses. Now that UPS, a household name, has taken this measure, it is likely that more companies will follow their lead.
The ACA requires large employers to cover employees and dependent children, but not spouses or domestic partners. Among the ACA-related costs is a research fee and a temporary fee of $63 per member that will be used to stabilize online marketplaces. In addition, the ACA bans annual and lifetime coverage limits and requires dependent children to now be covered up to age 26. Beginning in 2018, companies will have to pay a “Cadillac tax” on high value plans. Because of the law’s individual mandate, employees who may have previously opted out of enrollment will now be more likely to sign up for coverage. All of these factors, according to UPS, contribute to rising costs. By making spouses ineligible for enrollment, the company hopes to keep insurance premiums at or below current levels for its employees.
The law is aimed at providing affordable health care insurance to all, but by eliminating spousal coverage, UPS is making it clear they will not be footing the bill.
Molly Nicol Lewis is an Associate of McBrayer, McGinnis, Leslie & Kirkland, PLLC. Ms. Lewis concentrates her practice in healthcare law and is located in the firm’s Lexington office. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (859) 231-8780.
This article is intended as a summary of federal and state law and does not constitute legal advice.