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AFL-CIO preparing to officially criticize Obamacare, call for congressional changes

By   /   September 10, 2013  /   9 Comments

By Eric Boehm | Watchdog.org

Amid “growing frustration” with their friends in the White House, the AFL-CIO is preparing to approve a formal criticism of the Affordable Care Act that could call for congressional action to change some of the elements of the controversial law.

AP file photo

ONCE THEY WERE FRIENDS: In 2009, President Barack Obama was cheered at the AFL-CIO Labor Day picnic in Cincinnati. Some labor unions that once backed Obama’s health care initiative are beginning to call on congressional action for reform the measure.

The AFL-CIO, an umbrella group for dozens of labor unions across the nation, will voice its support for the Affordable Care Act’s goal of providing health insurance for everyone, but will also lay out a “laundry list of complaints against Obamacare,” The Hill’s Kevin Bogardus reported Tuesday morning from the AFL-CIO’s national conference in Los Angeles.

The unions are upset that Obamacare may cause some workers to lose their existing health care plans.

“People have been working with the White House for a long time. There has been growing frustration that we haven’t made any progress,” Sean McGarvey, president of the Building Trades and Construction Department, told The Hill.

Valerie Jarrett, a close adviser to Obama, has reassured the unions the White House will work to address their concerns.

But if the administration cannot affect changes, the unions plans to “demand the ACA be amended by Congress.”

The AFL-CIO’s formal complaint against Obamacare would be the latest — and loudest, by far — condemnation of the federal health care law by union groups that were once vocal supporters of the administration’s efforts.

United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers was the first major union to openly turn against the federal health care law.  In April, the 22,000-member union called for the law to be repealed, citing concerns that members may lose their existing health insurance plans.

“Our concerns over certain provisions in the ACA have not been addressed, or in some instances, totally ignored,” wrote Kinsey M. Robinson, the union’s president. “In the rush to achieve its passage, many of the Act’s provisions were not fully conceived, resulting in unintended consequences that are inconsistent with the promise that those who were satisfied with their employer sponsored coverage could keep it.”

In May, major unions in Chicago revolted against a plan by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a former Obama adviser, who announced his intention to cut health care services for public-sector employees and dump them into the Obamacare exchanges.

There’s no secret why he did it: Retiree costs for public employees in Chicago are set to explode from $109 million this year to as much as $541 million by 2023, according to the Chicago Tribune.

And in July, the leaders of three major national labor unions — including James Hoffa, president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters — sent a joint letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., asking for changes to the health care law.

Without changes, they warned, Obamacare would “destroy the very health and well-being of our members along with millions of other hardworking Americans.”

“Time is running out: Congress wrote this law; we voted for you. We have a problem; you need to fix it. The unintended consequences of the ACA are severe. Perverse incentives are already creating nightmare scenarios,” the trio of union bosses wrote.

Many of their concerns — such as the coming extinction of nonprofit health insurance plans and the multi-employer plans used by many unions, along with Obamacare’s nasty side effect of causing employers to favor part-time workers over full-time employees — likely will be echoed in the formal condemnation being prepared by the AFL-CIO.

Under the rules governing the ACA, multi-employer plans will not qualify as health insurance and those using the plans will not be eligible for federal subsidies.

The AFL-CIO, like the Teamsters and other labor unions that have come out against the law, are asking Congress to make a special exemption for them.

Other groups, like congressional staffers, who were supposed to be covered by the Affordable Care Act, have been granted backdoor exits by Congress.

It seems many labor unions are hoping to score the same kind of escape from the provisions of a law they helped pass in the first place.

Eric Boehm is a reporter for Watchdog.org. Contact him at Eric@PAIndependent.com.  Follow @PAIndependent on Twitter for more.

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Eric is a reporter for Watchdog.org and former bureau chief for Pennsylvania Independent. He lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he enjoys great weather and low taxes while writing about state governments, pensions, labor issues and economic/civil liberty. Previously, he worked for more than three years in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, covering Pennsylvania state politics and occasionally sneaking across the border to Delaware to buy six-packs of beer. He has also lived (in order of desirability) in Brussels, Belgium, Pennsburg, Pa., Fairfield, Conn., and Rochester, N.Y. His work has appeared in Reason Magazine, National Review Online, The Freeman Magazine, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Washington Examiner and elsewhere. He received a bachelor's degree from Fairfield University in 2009, but he refuses to hang on his wall until his student loans are fully paid off sometime in the mid-2020s. When he steps away from the computer, he enjoys drinking craft beers in classy bars, cheering for an eclectic mix of favorite sports teams (mostly based in Philadelphia) and traveling to new places.

  • Loki Luck III

    Completely repeal this 2700+ page debacle along with the HMO Act of 1973.

  • Dan Behrens

    The level of ignorance surrounding this bill is amazing. It is simple designed to fail so the libs can roll out the “medicare for all” mantra. How can a country with be so lazy and dim-whitted to pass this bill?

  • brikhouse

    Wow, I haven’t laughed that hard in a long time!

  • tree worm

    look how many states that have unions they are useless today, unions are for lazy ppl

  • theguywhocanpickouttheidiot

    idiot

  • theguywhocanpickouttheidiot

    How can a country with be so lazy and dim-whitted to pass this bill? first of all, its witted. as in you are a dim wit, you are dim witted. means you are stupid, like an idiot. so instead of dim wit, i could say, you, dan, are an idiot. now that we have that out of the way, what does “with be so lazy” mean? is english your second language? did something get lost when you used google translate? help me to help you dan. its what im here for, to help. you are welcome sir.

  • Dan Behrens

    I wasn’t concerned as much about the grammar or spell check but more about the message- something you seem unable to defend against. Your the small minded English teacher who makes red marks on papers to students that will live much more successful and fulfilling lives than those you judge. More than that you are the one who only feels success from another’s failure. What can be more idiotic than that?

  • theguywhocanpickouttheidiot

    dan, you insult the american people by calling them lazy and dim witted, and then you get upset when someone uses the same tactic on you. so lets talk about the message. the people of this country need medical care. they need medical care they can afford and medical care they can have realistic access to. im not a big fan of how obamacare turned out. i dont think it goes nearly far enough. i think every single american, not illegal aliens, but citizens of this great country has the right to expect health care when they need it. but since republicans wouldnt go for that, the weak ass democrats decided to adopt a republican program, tweak it a bit, and pass it as obamacare. and right now, thats what we have. its not perfect, its not all that good, but its all we have to get more people access to the medical care they so desperately need. thats where i stand on the issue dan. next time you post, i would respectfully ask you not to attack others, and i would promise not to attack you. thank you.

  • Dan Behrens

    Actually the American People by a 57- 43 margin from most polls oppose Obamacare. I have to shake my head to someone who post critically the practice of attacking others with a handle like “thehuywhocanpickouttheidiot”. You must see the hypocrisy in that. Regardless of the double speak we can agree about one thing- what this bill is disguised to be. We both know that this is designed to create single payer- something that not only would never pass but the American people would have been against had it been presented. Your theory that this bill is the Republicans fault is false. NO republican voted for Obamacare- meaning anything that the dems could have agreed on would have passed. The democrats had the ability for single payer had they been willing to pass it. There were enough democrats who disagreed with your wish and Obama’s wish of Universal Health care to not even bring it to a vote. Now the point of this article is coming to fruition. Many honest people,and honest businesses, and honest unions are being put in a position of losing their hard earned health care so we can implement a horrible bill with futuristic goals of the takeover of the health care industry. It is a disgusting power play which maintains the liberal philosophy of the more people that depend on government; the more government will grow; and the more power democrats will have. We will not see a better health care system through this bill or Universal Health Care. All this law will provide is antidotal evidence for people who want to feel good about being a liberal. Responsibility and accountability will be thrown out the window. Personal liberties will be discarded for the good of society as a whole- after all if health care is a right and the government controls it; the individual is no longer protected. Not only death panels, but food restrictions, lifestyle restrictions, and mandatory exercise time.
    To put this much power in the hands of Washington is dangerous. Lets imagine its 1982 and the Aids epidemic is taking over the gay community; the government in the guise of the cost of healthcare would immediately outlaw homosexuality. This may seem extreme but what the liberals seem to not understand is these sorts of things will be happening under this law; its inevitable.