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McDonald's, others granted health insurance waivers

Insurance provider for McDonald’s, Jack in the Box, Denny’s franchisee get one-year reprieve on premium increases for low-cost, ‘mini-med plans’

McDonald’s, Jack in the Box and a Denny’s franchisee in New Mexico are among 30 companies that received one-year waivers from a provision in the government’s health-care reform legislation raising the cost of minimum insurance benefits for seasonal, part-time and low-wage employees.

The waivers, approved by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, will not require companies to raise the minimum annual coverage over the next four years, as mandated in the health care reform law signed by President Obama earlier this year.

A report in the Wall Street Journal last week had said that McDonald’s threatened to drop health-care coverage for its hourly workers if it did not receive a waiver from the government. The Oak Brook, Ill.-based chain denied the report, claiming it was speculative and misleading.

A McDonald’s spokeswoman said the waiver was
requested by its insurance carrier, BCS Insurance, to cover all of its clients, not just the burger chain.

McDonald’s insurance carrier, Jack in the Box and QK/DRD, Denny’s largest franchisee, applied for and received a total of more than 116,000 government waivers. BCS applied for 115,000 waivers, while Jack in the Box and QK/DRD asked for 1,130 and 65 waivers, respectively.

The waivers will cover companies’ low-cost, mini-med health insurance plans, which the National Restaurant Association said typically are offered to part time, seasonal, and temporary workers, and those employees in an eligibility waiting period.

According to NRA spokeswoman Sue Hensley, the NRA asked HHS on Aug. 27 for a blanket waiver from annual limits for the mini-med plans during regulatory process for the legislation.

“We recommended the blanket waiver be kept in place until 2014 when other alternatives become available to those workers … because those [mini-med plans] are the ones most employers offer,” she said.

“In the alternative, we asked for a case-by-case waiver program to be designed to be both fast and easy to utilize by employers,” Hensley continued. “We felt our recommendations would help prevent the meaningful coverage provided by the mini-med plans from disappearing, and we are pleased that HHS has taken into account some of our comments and suggestions.”

Hensley said the waivers would make compliance easier. “We absolutely think this is good,” she said. “The process is moving forward, which is a positive thing.”

Jack in the Box and QK/DRD had not returned requests for comment at press time.

Click here to see the U.S. Department of Health and Services' list of approved applications for waiver of the annual limits requirements.

Contact Elissa Elan at [email protected].

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