|By Jason Garcia, Orlando Sentinel|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
The giant theme-park resort, which generates more than
The reason: Universal currently offers part-time workers a limited insurance plan that has low premiums but also caps the payout of benefits. For instance, Universal's plan costs about
Those types of insurance plans -- sometimes referred to as "mini-med" plans -- will no longer be permitted under the federal Affordable Care Act. Beginning in 2014, the law will prohibit insurance plans that impose annual monetary limits on essential medical care such, as hospitalization, or on overall spending.
Universal is one of the largest employers in
"We care about our team members and we want them to have best, most-affordable medical benefits we can provide," Universal spokesman
Universal said it would not save any money by dropping the part-time insurance plans. The resort said it currently does not spend anything itself on plan -- it only negotiates a group rate through
Critics of mini-med insurance plans say they ultimately provide little protection for workers, with meager payout limits that are nowhere near enough to cover medical emergencies. Supporters argue they are a realistic option for low-paid, limited-hour workers who can't afford better plans.
Other large employers are grappling with the same issue as Universal.
A spokesman for
"We'd like to have the option to continue offering them, since they are popular with our part-time employees, but the ACA doesn't offer that type of flexibility," spokesman
"They have not talked to us about it yet," added
SeaWorld Orlando, too, offers some limited-benefit plans to part-time and seasonal workers. The company said it is "currently assessing options."
Other large businesses nationwide have also been paring back benefits for part-time workers. Two years ago, for instance,
Still, Universal's announcement has angered some employees, who say the resort can afford to provide more-comprehensive health insurance for its part-time workers. Universal
A few large employers -- most notably
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