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How not to succeed in business: Promise to dodge Obamacare mandates

Darden Restaurants, the company that owns Olive Garden and Red Lobster, revised earning projection downwards today. The culprit, at least in part: Negative media attention that the company received after promising to test limiting workers' hours as a way to dodge Obamacare's insurance mandate.

"In light of these upcoming changes, we are being cautious about our sales and earnings forecast for the full year," Darden CEO Clarence Otis said in a statement.  "Our outlook for the year also reflects the potential impact, though difficult to measure, of recent negative media coverage that focused on Darden within the full-service segment and how we might accommodate healthcare reform."

Darden began testing a plan under which it would hire more part-time employees in October, who would work fewer than 40 hours a week. That would exempt the company from the health law's mandate to provide health insurance coverage to all full-time workers.

Separate research from YouGov suggests that other restaurant chains that have recently criticized the Affordable Care Act have seen their favorability dip shortly thereafter.

This doesn't necessarily mean that Obamacare has suddenly gotten more popular, with Americans boycotting Red Lobster in its defense. The country was divided on the Affordable Care Act before the election and, according to new polling data, they have remained similarly split over it. 

This might say more about how Americans feel about their health insurance coverage. As much as Americans have negative opinions about the larger health-care system, they also tend to have pretty positive views of their own health insurance. Politifact has sifted through this data before, and found that polls that ask Americans whether they're satisfied with their health-care plan can find upwards of 80 percent of respondents agreeing with them. 

There are even some indications of satisfaction going up: A JD Power and Associates study this year, including members of 141 health plans, found a slight uptick in its scale of consumer insurance. 

Americans are still pretty divided on the Affordable Care Act. That's not the case with health insurance: The majority tend to like their coverage and aren't fans of seeing it dropped. 



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Brad Plumer · December 4, 2012

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