A Few "Benefits" of The Affordable Care Act

By Jacinta Quesada 
By Jonathan Parker

It's really no surprise to anyone that the Affordable Care Act remains mired in controversy. And it's no surprise to some that the long process of implementing it is turning into a nightmare.

The facility I am employed at is facing a significant shortfall in the coming year. To the tune of almost $14 million. Some of the budget issues are due to medicare reimbursement changes, some are due to sequester issues and some are due to the ACA.

Here are some of the cuts made in an attempt to balance the coming deficits at our facility.

1. Tuition Reimbursement

In the past, employees wishing to further their education could look forward to tuition assistance as long as they were studying in their field. Over $3,500 a year for full time, and 50% of that for part-time. This has been totally cut.

2. Retirement contribution

Our 403 (b) contributions were matched up to 2%, not crazy, but it was something. There will no longer be any matching.

3. Salary Freeze

This is from the CEO on down. No raises or increases in benefits.

4. Suspension of bonuses

No, not huge end-of-the-year bonuses. When employees received certifications beyond what was required, or referred an applicant who was hired, we could receive small bonuses. No longer.

5. Eliminated positions

In the letter we received outlining these changes, we were assured that patient care positions would not be affected and the patient-to-nurse ratio would remain the same. 20 Positions were completely eliminated. Some were assistant manager spots in departments such as Human Resources, and some were facility positions like Housekeeping and Security. Security is an absolute necessity in any major health care facility. Our entire valet parking staff was eliminated and replaced with security guards, which were pulled from other areas in the hospital. Areas like the ER, parking lot patrols and other places where you really, really should have security. Housekeeping saw 5 positions dropped, mostly on afternoon and midnight shifts. Unfortunately they also cut many of them from 80-hour pay periods to less than 30. Within a month we lost 4 more because they couldn't afford to keep working such reduced shifts.

6. Increased insurance costs for employees

Like most other people, we saw a pretty significant increase in our insurance costs last year. In addition to that, employees who are treated by out-of-network facilities or doctors are looking at a significant increase in their health insurance premiums.

Of course, all the blame can't be laid at the feet of one system or another, but it's somewhat frightening to see how much has been affected by so little, with so many changes yet to come. At this point it seems safe to say that health care facility employees, along with retail, service and many others, will be the ones bearing the brunt of these cuts and forced to make changes in an unbalanced system.

Jonathan Parker is an EMT-Paramedic and Preparedness Instructor with a love for emergency medicine, self-sufficiency and homesteading. His goal is to empower people towards a natural and sustainable lifestyle.

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