President Barack Obama has made “income inequality” his theme for the 2014 mid-term elections, but it's his signature legislative achievement – Obamacare – that is making that gap between rich and poor larger, said a union that typically supports the president's policies.
White House press secretary Jay Carney speaks during his daily news briefing at the White House in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014. The secretary fielded questions from the situation in Ukraine to the 2016 Presidential election. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin) AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin
White House press secretary Jay Carney pushed back somewhat on Monday against the report by the Nevada service employees group UNITE Here that said the irony of the Affordable Care Act is a transfer of wealth of powerful companies, and higher prices for consumers.
“Ironically, the Administration’s own signature healthcare victory poses one of the most immediate challenges to redressing inequality,” said UNITE Here's findings, first reported by the Nevada political news website Ralston Reports. “Yes, the Affordable Care Act will help many more Americans gain some health insurance coverage, a significant step forward for equality. At the same time, 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.”
UNITE Here represents employees of hotels, air ports, casinos, food services, and laundry sectors.
The report's cover letter states, “Unite Here was the first union to endorse then Senator Obama. We support the addition of healthcare to millions of Americans. Yet facts are facts, and Obamacare will cost our members the equivalent of a significant pay cut to keep their hard-won benefits.”
The letter goes on to state that Democrats should not take labor's support for granted: “As election season looms, it is important for us to hold politicians accountable. Please use the enclosed information to ask those seeking our money and votes what they plan to do to ensure we can keep the healthcare we have.”
When Fox News reporter Ed Henry asked about the union's assertion Monday, Carney – after giving an explanation about workers benefits, told Henry, “I know you want to speak for the unions.”
He explained that by law the administration cannot offer the same benefits and exemptions to individuals as it does to companies and employers.
“The fact is, as the Treasury Department issued in a letter. It does not see a legal way for individuals in multi-employer group health plans to receive individual market tax credits as well as the favorable tax treatment provided with employer provided health insurance at the same time,” Carney said. “But, the administration encourages multi-employer plans and other nonprofit plans to offer coverage through the marketplace on an equal footing to create new high quality affordable options for all Americans.”
The union report, titled “The Irony of ObamaCare: Making Inequality Worse” says, “Most of the ACA’s $965 billion in subsidies will go directly to commercial insurance companies, one of the largest transfers of public wealth to private hands ever. Since the ACA passed, the average stock price of the big for-profit health insurers doubled, their top executives were paid more than a half billion dollars in cash and stock options, and in the past 2 years, the top 10 insurers have spent $25 billion on mergers and acquisitions.”
It further says Obamacare is “strangling fair competition,” because the administration “has blocked many non-profit health funds from competing for the law’s proposed trillion dollars in subsidies by refusing to set fair regulations for different types of plans.”
The report also talked about how employees are suffering by being moved to part time work, and a cutting of pay, “If employers follow the incentives in the law, they will push families onto the exchanges to buy coverage. This will force low-wage service industry employees to spend $2.00, $3.00 or even $5.00 an hour of their pay to buy similar coverage.”