Is Your Health Insurance Plan Safe?

No matter what promises have been made, employer-provided health plans are about to change. The prognosis is murky

Peter Bohler for TIME

Peter Santiago will likely lose his workplace health plan next year.

Peter Santiago is the sort of american President Obama pledged to help with his signature health care law. In 2009, Santiago needed emergency abdominal surgery. Because his coverage had lapsed, the operation left the then 21-year-old saddled with $118,000 in medical debt that eventually forced him to declare personal bankruptcy. Due to a preexisting heart condition, Santiago was also unable to buy affordable insurance on the open market. So last year he took a part-time job at Trader Joe's that offered him coverage.

Now Santiago's employer has informed him that his insurance may soon be canceled. The Monrovia, Calif.-based grocer announced earlier this year that it would discontinue health coverage for employees who work fewer than 30 hours per week, citing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) as the reason.

Since the launch of HealthCare.gov on Oct. 1, most of the media focus has been on the website's problems and on people who bought policies individually and may be facing cancellations. But beyond all that, a more profound disruption looms. Policy experts, economists and employers say work-sponsored health coverage — the foundation of the U.S. private-insurance system — is shifting. Administration officials say the law's new regulations will shore up the employer-based insurance system, but the Congressional Budget Office predicts that by 2018, 7 million fewer people will be covered through work than if the law had never existed in the first place.

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