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Unions express anger over ObamaCare stipulations

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
May 26th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Some labor unions are expressing their displeasure over Obama's vaunted health care reform. Special union insurance is already expensive over other insurance, and with "ObamaCare," they claim, with its special stipulations, will drive costs even higher. Many union leaders say this will make them vote against democratic candidates in 2014.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - "It makes an untruth out of what the president said - that if you like your insurance, you could keep it," Joe Hansen, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union says. "That is not going to be true for millions of workers now."

"Taft-Hartley plans" are multi-employer health plans typically cover unionized workers in retail, construction, transportation and other industries with seasonal or temporary employment. The plans are jointly administered by unions and smaller employers that pool resources. These plans offer continuous coverage, even in the event of stretches of unemployment. 

Already more expensive to maintain than traditional single-employer health plans, Obama's reportedly "Affordable Care Act" has added to that cost. Under health care reform, plans must cover dependents up to age 26, eliminate annual or lifetime coverage limits and extend coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.

"We're concerned that employers will be increasingly tempted to drop coverage through our plans and let our members fend for themselves on the health exchanges," David Treanor, director of health care initiatives at the Operating Engineers union says.

Workers shopping for insurance in state-based marketplaces, known as exchanges, can qualify for subsidies, determined by a sliding scale based on income.

There is a very real fear among unions is that "a lot of these labor contracts are very expensive, and now employers are going to have an alternative to very expensive labor health benefits," Bob Laszewski, a health care industry consultant says.

"If the workers can get benefits that are as good through ObamaCare in the exchanges, then why do you need the union?" Laszewski said. "In my mind, what the unions [fear] is that workers for the first time can get very good health benefits for a subsidized cost someplace other than the employer."

It remains unlikely that employers would drop the union plans immediately because they are subject to ongoing collective bargaining agreements.

In the past, labor unions have been among Obama's closest allies, spending millions of dollars to help him win re-election and help Democrats keep their majority in the Senate. The wrangling over health care comes as unions have continued to see steady declines in membership and attacks on public employee unions in state legislatures around the country.

The Obama administration must take care not to anger a powerful constituency as it looks ahead to the 2014 elections.

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