BUSINESS
06/17/2014 03:51 pm ET

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz: Obamacare Is A 'Net Positive'

Wendy George/The Huffington Post

Despite its disastrous rollout, Obamacare has been a good thing overall, according to Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz.

“I think it’s a net positive,” Schultz said Tuesday of President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act. “Millions of Americans have health insurance today. Companies that did not pay for health insurance are now doing it.”

Last year, Schultz expressed concern that the botched rollout of the HealthCare.gov website would overshadow what he believed were the law’s good intentions. At the height of the problem in October, Schultz told CNBC, “Unfortunately, in this kind of situation, execution trumps strategy. It might be a great strategy, but the execution is really flawed. It’s off the rails.”

But now that officials have fixed the site and more than 8 million Americans have signed up for insurance, he said, the program's benefits outweigh its issues.

“No plan would have been perfect,” he said. “It'll be refined, improved.”

Schultz spoke with HuffPost reporters and editors as part of a media tour promoting a new Starbucks program that offers workers the chance to get a college degree at an extreme discount.

Unlike many corporate chiefs and franchisees, Schultz said he has no plans to cut benefits as a result of the law. Business owners have periodically made waves by suggesting Obamacare would push them to cut their employees’ hours so they wouldn’t have to cover them. Obamacare requires that businesses with 50 or more full-time employees provide health insurance to anyone working at least 30 hours a week.

Schultz noted that Starbucks’ plan was always more generous than the new law requires, offering coverage to employees working 20 hours or more per week. He said that “the first question we got from shareholders” about the law was whether Starbucks would bump up its threshold to 30 hours to save money.

“That’s millions of dollars and we wouldn’t do it,” Schultz said.

Still, it’s possible that kicking part-time employees off the company’s plan could actually result in a better deal for them if they buy insurance through the Obamacare exchanges instead. In many cases, part-time workers may make so little that they would qualify for subsidies under the law, but they aren’t eligible if their company offers an affordable plan that meets Obamacare’s standards. If the employees qualify for Medicaid, they're still eligible even if their employer offers an affordable plan.

Trader Joe’s announced last year that it would stop offering health insurance to its part-time workforce, much to those workers' chagrin. But several months later, some employees told HuffPost that the decision actually worked out in their favor.

That's because by providing affordable insurance, Obamacare frees up some workers staying at their jobs only for health benefits to leave and pursue other opportunities, like finding more fulfilling jobs that don’t offer insurance, starting a business, taking care of their kids or retiring.

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