Unions say ACA threatens their jobs and benefits
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.”