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Latest News - February 2013

February 15, 2013
Tampa Tribune editorial: Obamacare strikes unions Editorial
Source: tbo.com

Labor unions have been among the biggest supporters of President Barack Obama and his health care act.

But it is revealing that now that they are seeing the costs, unions suddenly are not as enthused about the Affordable Health Care Act and want special consideration.

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that union leaders worry the law's provisions will drive up the costs of union health insurance plans, making unionized workers less competitive.

Among the costly requirements: eliminating caps on medical benefits and prescription drugs, and allowing children to stay on their parents' plans until they turn 26. These are features affecting all insurance plans.

But the unions want the subsidies that, under the act, go to low-income workers without employer coverage to also go to lower-paid members of union plans.

The issue could affect as many as 20 million Americans, who are in plans jointly managed by unions and employers. The Journal says such plans are used mostly by small companies and are common in construction, hotel and other fields where workers' hours vary.

John Wilhelm, chairman of Unite Here Health, an insurance plan for 260,000 union workers at airports, hotels, casinos and other enterprises, says he expects the president to provide the subsidy. He told the Journal of seeing the president at a 2008 rally:

"I heard him say, 'If you like your health plan, you can keep it.' … If I'm wrong and the president does not intend to keep his word, I would have severe second thoughts about the law."

Welcome to the real world.

The insurance plans of nonunion employers face the same costs, but no one is contemplating providing them a break.

The administration has been mum on the unions' subsidy request, but the law clearly intended the aid to go to workers who can't get coverage at work.

Any attempt to redefine the law to aid the administration's political allies would be a costly abuse.

At a time when union membership is shrinking precipitously, leaders see the Affordable Health Care Act's costs as further weakening them.

By increasing the costs of the employees' compensation package, the law also will increase the costs of union labor and could drive jobs to nonunion operations that don't provide insurance. These employees, under the law, would be able to get insurance on their own with the help of the federal subsidy.

It is understandable the unions would find the situation objectionable, but they should have raised their concerns when this massive government program was being pushed into law. Instead, they vigorously supported Obama and his plan.

Randy Beall of the Sheet Metal Workers International Association supported the health care act but now sees it could hurt unions' ability to offer coverage.

"If we're not offering our members insurance and pensions, why would you want to be union?" he wondered to the Journal.

The unions' financial dilemma should be illuminating to all who trust in government promises to provide something for nothing.

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