Check it out: Disney, Universal win insurance waivers By Jason Garcia, Orlando Sentinel 5:08 p.m. EST, December 15, 2010 Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando have won waivers from the federal government that exempt bare-bones health plans the two resorts offer part-time employees from new requirements imposed by this year's overhaul of the U.S. health-care system. The waivers, which were granted earlier this fall, will permit Orlando's two largest theme-park operators to continue offering limited insurance plans — commonly referred to as "mini-med" plans — that have low premiums but also low caps on annual benefit payouts. The two resorts are among more than 220 employers across the country, including Orlando-based Darden Restaurants, that have been granted waivers from a provision in the federal health-care law requiring annual limits on medical coverage to be no lower than $750,000. The minimum will escalate each year until 2014 when coverage limits are to be eliminated entirely for most health plans, effectively abolishing mini-med plans. By that time, workers will be able to qualify for tax credits to help them buy medical insurance. An estimated 1.4 million Americans are currently covered by mini-med health plans, which are widely used by low-wage employers such as retailers and restaurants. Critics say such plans provide little protection to workers, with meager payout limits that are not enough to pay for substantial medical care. Click here to subscribe to the Sunday Orlando Sentinel for only 80 cents per week! Boosters of such plans say they are the only affordable source of insurance for part-time and seasonal workers. Only a small fraction of workers at Disney and Universal are covered by mini-med plans. Disney, which employs 62,200 people in Central Florida, has approximately 1,300 part-time employees in Florida — and about 2,000 across its U.S. theme-park operations — covered by its plan. Disney's waiver was obtained through its insurance provider, Aetna Inc., which also provides mini-med plans to businesses such as Home Depot Inc., CVS Caremark Corp. and Staples Inc., according to The Wall Street Journal. "With the waiver we've secured through Aetna, our eligible part-time cast members will continue to have the option to enroll in basic coverage for services such as doctor's office visits, prescription-drug refills and emergency-room visits," Disney spokesman Bryan Malenius said. Universal's mini-med plan covers 668 part-time workers. The two-park resort employs approximately 14,300 people altogether. "We have separate and specialized medical plans for both our part-time team members and our full-time team members. The new health-care legislation would have left our part-time workers without their medical coverage," said Universal spokesman Tom Schroder. "We sought the waiver so that we could continue to provide them with the coverage they need and deserve." Neither resort would discuss details of their insurance plans. Disney said it would not provide such details for "competitive reasons," while Universal said it does not disclose details of its benefit plans. A spokesman for SeaWorld Orlando's parent company, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, which has more than 5,200 employees in the area, said the company has not applied for a similar waiver. "We also did not pass on any of the significant increase in health-care costs to our employees," SeaWorld spokesman Fred Jacobs added. Jason Garcia can be reached at email@example.com or 407-420-5414.