Despite all the support, money, and tireless campaigning, it looks like organized labor will have to endure President Barack Obama’s major health care overhaul like the rest of us.
Many union bosses have for months lobbied U.S. lawmakers to amend the Affordable Care Act to accommodate union workers and small employers in the construction, retail, and transportation industries.
But it appears their efforts have been in vain.
In a leak to the Washington Post Friday, a White House official said the administration “does not see a legal way for individuals in multiemployer group health plans to receive individual market tax credits as well as the favorable tax treatment associated with employer-provided health insurance at the same time.”
The official said the White House is working to find a compromise.
“The Administration will work with multiemployer plans and other non-profit plans and encourage them to offer coverage through the Marketplace, on an equal footing, to create new, high-quality, affordable options for all Americans,” the official says.
But that may not be enough to placate certain union bosses.
“[T]hey’re not necessarily happy about it,” the Washington Post reports, adding labor bosses are looking into the idea. “It means giving up the advantages they get by being associated with employers, and it will entail significant disruption for their members.”
Following the Washington Post’s revelation, the Treasury Department issued a formal letter explaining the White House’s reason for turning down union requests (see attached below).
Treasury’s announcement comes just days after the AFL-CIO, one of the largest private sector unions in the United States, passed a resolution stating Obamacare, which it branded as “highly disruptive,” will force workers and employers to abandon their union-sponsored health plans because they’ll become too costly.
And some union bosses say the resolution didn’t go far enough.
Sean McGarvey, head of the AFL-CIO’s Building and Construction Trades Department, submitted a draft saying Obamacare needs to be repealed unless it Congress amends it to offer protection for union multi-employer plans, CBS News notes.
The final AFL-CIO resolution claims Obamacare will drive up the cost of health care plans jointly administered by unions and employers in construction and similar industries.
Union bosses fought vigorously to have the law changed so that it would “make their low-income workers eligible for the same types of federal subsidies they could get in the exchanges,” CBS explains.
“They have also suggested rules that would treat their multi-employer plans as qualified exchange plans under the new law,” the report adds.
AFL-CIO boss Richard Trumka even traveled to the White House several times to see if he could change their minds on Obamacare.
During the apparently failed negotiations, the Congressional Research Service said that requested changes would be unlawful.
The White House reportedly instructed labor leaders not to voice their misgiving in the form of a resolution, a source told the Associated Press.
The source, who spoke on the condition on anonymity, said union leaders explained the resolution was to bring attention to their concerns.
When asked if it had taken steps to discourage the resolution, the White House said in a statement Wednesday night that administration officials “are in regular contact with a variety of stakeholders, including unions, as part of our efforts to ensure smooth implementation and to improve the law.”
And on Friday, just before Treasury made its announcement and just after union bosses met at the White House to discuss their Obamacare woes, Trumka was in no mood to speak with the press.
A group of reporters asked the labor boss what his top policy “ask” was, to which he reportedly responded that his wish was for “you all to stop following me,” POLITCO reports.
Trumka met for more than an hour behind closed-door with President Obama and top White House officials, the report notes.
“It was a good meeting,” Trumka said after the meeting. “We’re continuing to work on problem solving. You’ve got the only quote you’re going to get.”
The White House declined to say who was at the meeting.
Here’s the full Treasury letter:
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