Obamacare’s Catastrophic Effects on One Town

Feature: Obamacare hits Middletown, New Jersey especially hard

November 25, 2013

Residents in Middletown, known as the biggest small town in New Jersey, are no strangers to severe challenges. Neighbors have helped each other weather many storms, including Hurricane Sandy’s devastation and the loss of dozens of its residents on 9/11.

However, this time residents can do nothing to stop the emotional and financial distress hundreds of fellow residents are enduring as a result of Obamacare.

School employees, township workers, local supermarket employees, and local businesses are all dealing with Obamacare’s adverse effects.

The Washington Free Beacon interviewed many residents whose lives have been upended because of the president’s signature legislation.

The township has cut the hours of 25 workers to avoid the burdensome $500,000 per year it would have incurred to be in compliance with Obamacare. The town’s mayor said it was a difficult decision.

"It is a horrible situation all around. I know a lot of these people, they are great assets to the town," said Middletown Mayor Gerry Scharfenberger.

One woman begged the mayor not to cut her hours. "She was crying, begging me," Scharfenberger said. "My heart goes out to these workers. … Decent, hard-working people are getting hurt."

This is only the beginning, he said.

"It’s very early. We haven’t felt the full effect yet," Scharfenberger said. "I’m terrified of what else is coming next. … It’s so early and has been so catastrophic so early on."

Middletown’s schools slashed the hours of 178 of its total 300 paraprofessionals to avoid paying health insurance for the part-time employees as required by Obamacare.

Now the most vulnerable children in the school district are suffering.

"Their whole life is disrupted, the kids are really paying the price," said one paraprofessional, who asked for her name to be withheld in fear of reprisal. Each special needs child in the past would have one paraprofessional assigned to their care. Now, she said she is required to take one day off a week, and it is causing emotional distress for the child under her care.

The paraprofessional mentioned a recent attack by an autistic child on another aide; she said she believed the incident was due to a disruption in the child’s schedule.

"Obamacare is hurting all the wrong people. To see children suffer because of it is heartbreaking," the paraprofessional said.

The Middletown School District superintendent did not respond to a request for comment, nor did the Board of Education president.

At the local Stop and Shop supermarket, employee Rob Hill said his hours were cut due to Obamacare. He has now taken a second job and is working 60 hours a week to pay the bills. His brother, who works at another supermarket, is also dealing with loss of work hours.

"It’s making it worse for the middle class. It’s not the way it was supposed to be," Hill said. He said not only have his hours been cut, but there is no overtime now permitted due to ACA. His household is struggling.

According to Laura Wilton, the health administrator for the Frank Wilton Law Firm, her husband’s group insurance policy was canceled.

"The firm’s group health insurance plan, not an individual plan, was not being renewed since it didn’t meet the new Obamacare standards," she said. She explained the plan did not include now mandatory pediatric vision and dental benefits.

Wilton said in the past she chose not to have that coverage because of the exorbitant cost. "It was cheaper for us to pay out of pocket for our four kids’ vision and dental needs than buy these overpriced options," Wilton said. Now, she said, "I’m being forced to buy coverage I don’t want."

"It’s infuriating that the government is telling me to buy a product I don’t want," Wilton said. Right now she is in limbo, as the fix announced by the president last week has still not materialized. She said her insurer, Horizon Blue Cross and Blue Shield, announced they were evaluating if the president’s proposal could be accomplished.

The uncertainty of not knowing if she can keep her plan for another year, and knowing her premiums are expected to "skyrocket" in the future, is affecting business spending.

"I need to know how much it will be. I can’t purchase equipment or supplies. The budget is up in the air," Wilton said, "It is affecting spending"

Another small business owner, Linda O’Keefe, also had her insurance policy cancelled. She now is paying higher monthly premiums for a plan that gives her fewer choices. Her previous plan allowed her the liberty of choosing doctors and hospitals, a reason she picked that plan.

"I am disgusted. I’m limited in doctors and hospitals I can go to," O’Keefe said. "I’m a small business. I shopped for a long time to get a policy to meet my needs and now that policy is being taken away from me and replaced with an inferior policy."

Other small businesses across town are bracing for Obamacare.

"I go to an event, or a cocktail party, and I keep hearing from small businesses the same thing: ‘This is going to drive me out of business,’" said Scharfenberger.

"This is turning into everything he [President Obama] didn’t promise. It’s just the opposite of what he promised. It is bizzaro legislation," Scharfenberger said. "Each day, another shoe seems to drop. It’s the people who can least afford to weather the storm who are getting hurt the worst."

Published under: Feature , Obamacare