Responding To Angry Workers, Trader Joe’s Tells Part-Timers To Apply For Obamacare Subsidy

October 4, 2013  |  

Responding to employees who were angered by the food store chain’s decision to drop health insurance for part-timers, Trader Joe’s has announced some changes it is making because of the Affordable Care Act. Now Trader Joe’s says it has invited workers who may face higher premiums on the Obamacare insurance exchanges to apply for additional subsidies from the company, according to a memo obtained by The Huffington Post.

This marks a change of heart for the grocer. Trader Joe’s had previous informed part-time employees that as of next year, they would no longer be eligible for company-sponsored health plans. “Although employees averaging 18 hours a week had traditionally qualified for the plan, workers with less than 30 hours a week learned they would be given a check for $500 and nudged into state-run insurance exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act,” reports HuffPo.

Under the health care reform, companies with 50 or more full-time employees must offer coverage to workers working at least 30 hours a week or face penalties, though the Obama administration recently decided to delay that rule for a year.

“Trader Joe’s decision apparently infuriated its part-time employees, many of whom wrote to HuffPost describing the move as a betrayal by a company that had been seen as worker-friendly,” reports HuffPo.

The company argued in a follow-up memo to workers that it couldn’t match the deals to be found under Obamacare, especially when the subsidies for low-wage earners are considered. A memo from Laurie Mead, vice president of human resources, sent on September 13 said that it would consider increasing the subsidy beyond $500 to employees facing unique circumstances as they seek out coverage on the exchanges.

“We understand that special situations may arise, situations requiring additional careful consideration,” Mead wrote. “If the upcoming move to a healthcare exchange exacerbates the burden of an existing hardship for you or your family, we want to know about it. Depending on the situation, Trader Joe’s may provide additional money to you to help with your transition to a healthcare exchange.”

Eligible workers were told to submit a letter by Nov. 1 explaining their situation, along with the first page of their 2012 tax return and an estimate for their health care premium on the Obamacare exchanges.

The memo however, did not say how many workers would receive the grants or how much the company planned to spend on them.

What do you think of Trader Joe’s move?

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