Unite Here Backs Up Letter to Lawmakers with Detailed Criticism of ACA’s Impact on Health Plans

WASHINGTON –Unite Here, whose president, D Taylor, previously urged lawmakers to fix the Affordable Care Act’s impact on multi-employer health care plans, has backed the critique with a detailed report laying out the negative effects on plans that now, union leaders say, cover 20 million people nationwide.

Predictably, Right Wing media seized on Unite Here’s analysis as yet another reason to dump Democratic President Barack Obama’s 2010 health care law, which unions backed.  The health care law is a leading GOP bugaboo – and campaign issue.

The AFL-CIO is talking with the Obama administration about the ACA’s impact on the multi-employer plans, found in industries such as construction, groceries, and, Unite Here says, hospitality.  Its 300,000 workers include tens of thousands in that sector.

“If employers follow the incentives in Obamacare, the hospitality industry will face labor strife, Unite Here members from around the nation will face pay cuts to keep good coverage, and the funds that deliver innovative care to thousands of service workers will be destroyed,” the union’s analysis concludes.

The ACA’s negative impact on multi-employer plans produced tension at last year’s AFL-CIO convention.  Taylor and Laborers President Terry O’Sullivan again stated the problems to Democratic congressional leaders in a letter earlier in 2014.

“For two years, unions and employer partners have patiently explained to the Obama administration and Congress the potential damage the ACA poses to these unique, successful non-profit health plans,” called Taft-Hartley plans, the report says.

After accommodating businesses, churches and congressional staffers’ problems with the ACA, “It is ironic the administration is now highlighting issues of economic inequality without acting to preserve health plans that have been achieving the goals of the ACA for decades.  Without a smart fix, the ACA will heighten the inequality the administration seeks to reduce,” the union’s analysis warns.

“We take seriously the promise that ‘If you like your health plan, you can keep it. Period,’” the report said of Obama’s now-controversial statement uttered during his campaign for the ACA’s passage.  “Unite Here members like their health plans.  Unite Here’s plans are ready to compete with the corporate giants of the health insurance industry if Washington will simply create a level playing field.”

The Irony Of Obamacare: Making Inequality Worse praises the ACA’s goal of extending  coverage to all, but then criticizes details.  The act would produce a massive transfer of wealth – $965 billion – to insurers, leads employers to cut workers’ hours and would discriminate against multi-employer plans, among other impacts.

“Without smart fixes, the ACA threatens the middle class with higher premiums, loss of hours, and a shift to part-time work and less comprehensive coverage,” the report adds.

Congressional Democrats have been loath to reopen debate on fixes to the ACA, as the GOP would seize the opportunity to trash it.  The Republican-run House has voted 50 times along party lines to do so.

Besides the “trillion-dollar transfer of wealth” to the insurers, other specifics in the report include:

  • Discrimination against multi-employer plans.  The report says Taft-Hartley plans are barred from offering their plans to the public and the administration “refused to find a way to allow them to do so.”  That leaves the Taft-Hartley plans “entering a skewed marketplace facing competition with multibillion-dollar insurers poised to pocket a trillion tax dollars over the next decade.   Down the road, these plans face an accelerating slide down this uneven playing field.”
  • Penalizing ‘good actors.’  ACA rules also say health plans must cover dependents up to age 26, but bars them from imposing more premiums to pay for the coverage.  “Plans that achieved efficiencies through providing good health care prior to reform are punished.  Plans that ‘solved’ financial problems by increasing employee costs before reform are rewarded by continuing to charge high premiums and cost sharing.”
  • “Strangling fair competition:  The administration blocked many non-profit health funds from competing for the law’s subsidies by refusing to set fair regulations for different types of plans.  The unbalanced playing field will give employers…powerful incentives to drop coverage.”
  • Moving to part-time work: The ACA covers full-time workers, toiling at least 30 hours a week.  Unite Here says 388 employers have announced hours cuts since early 2012 to get below the ACA’s threshold of the equivalent of 50 full-timers.
  • Pay cuts: “If employers follow the incentives in the law, they will push families onto the” state health care “exchanges to buy coverage,” as employers drop workers.  “This will force low-wage service industry employees to spend $2, $3 or even $5 an hour of their pay to buy similar coverage,” Unite Here’s analysis says.