Unions say ACA threat­ens their jobs and ben­e­fits

Modern Healthcare - - THE WEEK IN HEALTHCARE - Jessica Zig­mond

Pres­i­dent Barack Obama has en­joyed strong sup­port from la­bor unions. But he’s now fac­ing the wrath of some la­bor lead­ers who ar­gue that the Pa­tient Pro­tec­tion and Af­ford­able Care Act, which they sup­ported, is threat­en­ing the jobs and health ben­e­fits of their mem­bers.

As those unions see it, the White House and con­gres­sional Demo­cratic lead­ers didn’t pay suf­fi­cient at­ten­tion to union-backed mul­ti­em­ployer health plans when they drafted the 2010 law.

Of­ten called “Taft-Hart­ley” plans for the 1947 fed­eral law that de­fined the rules un­der which they op­er­ate, th­ese health plans are jointly spon­sored by la­bor unions and em­ploy­ers.

They have en­abled em­ploy­ers with union­ized work­forces, par­tic­u­larly smaller firms, to of­fer health ben­e­fits and have given work­ers more in­cen­tive to join unions.

Unions want the mul­ti­em­ployer plans to be al­lowed to pur­chase cov­er­age for their mem­bers on the new state in­sur­ance ex­changes and that mem­bers with qual­i­fy­ing in­comes be al­lowed to re­ceive fed­eral sub­si­dies to pur­chase the cov­er­age.

They warn that un­less the plans are al­lowed to do this, em­ploy­ers may drop the plans and send their em­ploy­ees to the ex­changes to buy cov­er­age on their own, with no em­ployer con­tri­bu­tion.

But even ob­servers sym­pa­thetic to unions say the unions want to have their cake and eat it, too.

The ACA does not al­low work­ers with qual­i­fy­ing em­ployer-spon­sored health ben­e­fits to buy sub­si­dized cov­er­age on the ex­changes.

The ar­gu­ment in­ten­si­fied this sum­mer when the lead­ers of the Team­sters, United Food and Com­mer­cial Work­ers and UNITE HERE unions wrote to Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and House Mi­nor­ity Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) say­ing they may have made a mis­take in sup­port­ing the health­care law.

But Chip Kerby, an at­tor­ney with Lib­erté Group who has rep­re­sented both em­ploy­ers and unions, called the unions’ po­si­tion “a stretch,” adding, “I don’t think there’s enough sup­port—cer­tainly in the House—to en­gi­neer a fix on this.”

CMS Ad­min­is­tra­tor Mar­i­lyn Taven­ner told House law­mak­ers last week that she has seen the union let­ter and that “we’ve had on­go­ing dis­cus­sions with the la­bor unions.”

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