Ken AshfordHealth CareLeave a Comment

The Wall Street Journal got everyone all abuzz today with its "McDonald's May Drop Health Plan." The lede said:

"McDonald's Corp. has warned federal regulators that it could drop its health insurance plan for nearly 30,000 hourly restaurant workers unless regulators waive a new requirement of the U.S. health overhaul."

The conservatives crowed:  "Look what Obamacare has done!  It's forcing McD's to drop health insurance."

Specifically, McDonald's is having trouble meeting the requirement that 80% of the health plan actually go to paying medical bills (rather than administration, marketing, etc.)

Now, two points need to be made about the story:

(1)  First and foremost, it's not true.  The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has already called the article "flat out wrong," and McDonald's has said the report is "completely false."

(2)  McDonald's health plan is crap anyway. Jonathan Cohn has a very helpful explanation of what we're talking about:

As the Journal story makes clear, the policies in question are so-called mini-med plans with very limited benefits. In the case of McDonald's, according to the Journal, there are two options: Employees who go with the minimum plan pay $14 a week for a policy that won't cover more than $2,000 in medical bills a year. Employees who opt for the "generous" option pay about $32 a week for a policy that maxes out at $10,000.

To call that "insurance" is to distort the definition, since these policies would do very little to help people with even moderately serious medical conditions….

Indeed.  A $2,000 cap on medical coverage is peanuts.  So is $10,000 actually, if you actually get in a car accident or, you know, have a baby.  In the long run, McDonald's employees need policies that protect them in case of serious medical problems. And they need policies they can afford. They'll get those policies thanks to the Affordable Care Act — but not until 2014, because the administration and Congress couldn't come up with enough money to implement the full scheme sooner.