Union Issues Warning About Obamacare

Unions fear health care changes will negatively impact members


A major labor union is warning that President Barack Obama’s signature health care law could "dismantle" health care coverage for many of the union’s hundreds of thousands of members.

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) released a white paper on Thursday warning that Obamacare, as the law is commonly known, "threatens to harm our members by dismantling multiemployer health plans."

The union also took out a full-page ad in Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call calling on the president to "keep your promise" by ensuring that, in the president’s words, "if you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan."

"Multiemployer" health insurance plans allow IBEW and other unions to offer health insurance to members who work for different companies.

According to the union’s white paper, "the current multiemployer plan system provides affordable, high-quality health care coverage to millions of American workers, retirees, and families."

New fees in the law, regulations on minimum-benefit requirements, and "the lack of multiemployer-specific administrative guidance" are threatening those insurance plans, IBEW claims.

"Because it does not recognize the unique nature of multiemployer plans, the Affordable Care Act contains provisions that could undermine this American success story and reduce the number of working families covered and lower the quality of their care," the Roll Call ad warns.

Other unions have raised similar concerns.

"The president’s statement to labor in 2009 [if you like your plan, you can keep it] is simply not true for millions of workers," United Food and Commercial Workers president Joseph Hansen wrote in a May column in The Hill.

"We are going back to the administration to say that this is not acceptable," International Brotherhood of Teamsters general secretary-treasurer Ken Hall said in January.

Verizon employees from the IBEW and Communications Workers of America went on strike in 2011 to protest proposed changes in the company’s health care plans, brought on in large measure by taxes imposed by Obamacare on "Cadillac" health care plans.

Both unions objected to the provision in the law imposing that tax as it made its way though Congress in 2009 and 2010. But both also urged members to support the law despite its eventual inclusion of that provision.

"Union bosses supported Obamacare because they thought they'd achieved carve outs for the plans they were offering members," noted Ben Domenech, a health care policy expert with the Heartland Institute.

"Now bit by bit, they're recognizing the deals they cut weren't good enough to protect them from the Obama administration's bureaucratic overreach," he added in an email to the Washington Free Beacon.

Obamacare opponents see mounting union opposition as an indictment of the larger law.

A House Republican leadership aide told the Free Beacon that it is "unfortunate" that unions "have taken this long to finally realize what America has known all along, that Obamacare is a bad law that hinders job growth and worsens our health care."

House Republicans are hoping to capitalize on the administration’s decision to delay the imposition of a provision requiring businesses to provide insurance to their employees. They are reportedly considering legislation to postpone other aspects of the law.

While the leadership aide noted that IBEW and other unions have spotlighted serious deficiencies in the law, he said the goal should be "delaying the negative effects and mandates for all Americans, not just big business and union donors."

Domenech is skeptical that union opposition will yield significant changes in the law, at least on the president’s end.

"Obama's approach to remaking American health care will pause for nothing, not even the priorities of his union allies," Domenech said. "His bureaucracy reigns supreme."