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Jobs, coverage at risk with Obamacare, MN union health official says

By   /   October 2, 2013  /   No Comments

Part 9 of 96 in the series Obamacare

By Tom Steward  | Watchdog Minnesota Bureau

ACA: As of 2018, employers will pay a 40 percent fee on the amount of health coverage above the ACA thresholds of $10,200 for individuals and $27,500 for families, putting pressure on unionized employers to explore cheaper options.

TWIN CITIES — The Affordable Care Act threatens the quality of health coverage and employment opportunities for 187,000 union workers and their dependents, a top official of a Twin Cities-based multi-employer union medical plan says.

The people affected — at least those he’s referring to — live in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

Also known as Taft-Hartley funds, multi-employer plans are negotiated under collective bargaining agreements and jointly administered by unions and employers.

About 50 union locals representing carpenters, bricklayers, machinists, electrical workers, plumbers and other trades pool their resources through the Labor Management Health Care Coalition of the Upper Midwest to leverage high quality benefits at affordable rates.

But LMHCC has warned that employer-sponsored medical coverage — called “Cadillac plans” by some — will be on the line as labor contracts come up for renewal under the new federal health-care rules.

“It is important to know when your CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) expires, because workers under CBAs expiring within the next two years are most at risk for changes in coverage,” Doug Rubbelke, LMHCC executive director, said in an email responding to questions from a Twin Cities labor publication and a Watchdog Minnesota Bureau inquiry.

As of 2018, employers will pay a 40 percent fee on the amount of health coverage above the ACA thresholds of $10,200 for individuals and $27,500 for families, putting pressure on unionized employers to explore cheaper options.

“Employers with expiring CBA’s will be tempted to see if they can produce more corporate profit by exiting the Taft-Hartley health system,” said Rubbelke, who also serves as executive director of the National Labor Alliance of Health Care Coalitions.

After health-care reform passed in 2010, hundreds of union health plans received federal waivers to cushion the impact of the first round of changes under the Affordable Care Act, including Roofers Local No. 96 — 2,838 members — the Carpenter and Joiners Welfare Fund — 21,364 members — and other LMHCC members in Minnesota and neighboring states.

But the Obama administration turned down labor’s last-ditch appeal to allow subsidies for the 20 million union members covered by multi-employer plans, even if they apply to their state insurance exchange.

“If workers go on the exchange when offered employer coverage that is affordable and covers Essential Health Benefits, they will not receive a subsidy because they have an offer of employer coverage that fits the ACA,” said Rubbelke.

In a double whammy, non-union employers whose workers obtain subsidized coverage on state exchanges could gain a competitive advantage in bidding for projects. Companies with fewer than 50 employees are exempt from taxes for failing to provide medical coverage, while companies with fewer than 25 full-time workers can qualify for tax credits.

“The anti-competitive effects of the ACA will be most dramatic in lower paid industries. The building and construction trades also will be particularly hard hit,” said Rubbelke. “Each employer, under the ACA, will be able to do an individual calculus regarding providing coverage (or not) for their workforce.”

The impact on workers and their families will vary depending on their fund and union. Longer term, the ACA could threaten the very viability of Taft-Hartley plans and undermine one of the biggest advantages labor unions have to offer their members — high quality health care coverage.

Meantime, there’s no quick cure for what ails multi-employer medical plans. “To create a different result, statutory change would be necessary, which will not happen in a deadlocked Congress,” Rubbelke said.

Contact Tom Steward at tsteward@watchdog.org

 

Part of 96 in the series Obamacare
  1. Obamacare compliance means less money for TN service agencies
  2. The mystery of Obamacare spending in Arkansas
  3. Obamacare raises questions for MD small business owners
  4. Kansas official on Obamacare: ‘Let someone else be the guinea pig’
  5. Obamacare insurance marketplace has plenty of kinks on first day
  6. OR’s Obamacare insurance marketplace hits technological snag
  7. Fail: Day 1 of the New Mexico Obamacare rollout
  8. Senator asks: Do you want this dysfunctional government taking over health care?
  9. Jobs, coverage at risk with Obamacare, MN union health official says
  10. Oregon’s Obamacare ads resemble middle school art
  11. VIDEO: Obamacare vs Affordable Care Act: Comedy triumphs in court of confusion
  12. Patience is key to navigating Illinois’ Obamacare marketplace
  13. Hawaii residents, lawmakers frustrated with health connector glitches
  14. Healthy young, key to Obamacare, aren’t buying it
  15. NM’s health exchange tries to lure ‘young invincibles’
  16. Obama drama: Senator blames governor for big rate hikes
  17. Progressive group navigates Oregon students through Obamacare
  18. Maddening: Trying to log onto federal health care site
  19. You know that one guy who successfully signed up for Obamacare? He didn’t
  20. What’s wrong? It’s been a week, and Obamacare website still not working
  21. HHS Secretary Sebelius back in FL after embarrassing Obamacare rollout
  22. Health centers enroll Floridians in Obamacare as application problems persist
  23. VIDEO: Stewart skewers Sebelius on Obamacare
  24. Obamacare effect? 9 companies exit Nebraska’s health insurance market
  25. Obamacare: Children of undocumented parents face an uncertain future
  26. Which way do we go? Obamacare navigator registration in TN in question
  27. NM health exchange tries to ease problems with Obamacare website
  28. CPA says hype over Obamacare small business tax credit is misleading
  29. Obamacare navigator under fire for arrest warrant
  30. Reports of Obamacare fraud emerge in Tennessee
  31. After two weeks, FL online Obamacare enrollees are hard to find
  32. Illinois state governor touts 100K Obamacare enrollees, all in Medicaid
  33. Kansas lawmaker calls for crackdown on Obamacare navigators
  34. WI health care exchange seeing few getting through
  35. Hawaii’s Obamacare exchange relaunches with more glitches
  36. We’ll know next month how many people in NM signed up for Obamacare — maybe
  37. Zero: Number of Nebraskans Obamacare navigators have signed up
  38. It took this Delaware woman 11 days to sign up for Obamacare – and she was the first
  39. How many people have signed up for health insurance in VA? Who knows?
  40. What else? NM federal health exchange ads stalled due to website problems
  41. Blue Cross hires temp workers to deal with Obamacare glitches
  42. If Obamacare is the next Medicare, will physicians leave en masse?
  43. Three problems that won’t be solved by fixing the Obamacare exchange glitches
  44. Plenty of Oregonians interested in Obamacare, but none can enroll online
  45. Criticize this: Obamacare premiums a near match to WI disclosures
  46. Report: Missourians will see sharp rise in premiums under Obamacare
  47. Kansas navigators say they’ve enrolled no one in Obamacare
  48. Obamacare too costly for rich Coloradans, Democrat congressman says
  49. Study: Kansas premiums to spike following Obamacare rollout
  50. Hang on to your candy: Creepy Uncle Sam is back
  51. Obamacare or bust: NM Watchdog turned back again
  52. Medical journals, experts refute claim that Medicaid cuts ER use
  53. Arkansas spends $4M on Obamacare ads, wants more
  54. LOL: In July video, HHS bragged about being ‘on schedule’ with Obamacare
  55. Illinois uses Day of the Dead to market Obamacare
  56. Sebelius denies GOP’s Terry ‘unreliable’ Obamacare info
  57. About 290,000 Washington residents lose health insurance plans
  58. Broken promise: Obamacare cancels almost 20,000 Kansas health care plans
  59. Top hospitals opt out of Obamacare
  60. Obamacare moves to intensive care
  61. Obamacare provision could lead to more Medicaid fraud
  62. Obamacare: Religious groups want to ‘move mountains’
  63. Obamacare hitting Wisconsin residents with double whammy
  64. Kansas AG: Obamacare threatens consumer privacy
  65. 1,500 in New Mexico have to move out of the high-risk insurance pool
  66. Cover Oregon website fiasco creates jobs, but costs millions
  67. For Florida’s Obamacare small business exchange, it’s crunch time
  68. Only 877 Wisconsinites have signed up for Obamacare, federal report says
  69. Just 172 in NM have completed Obamacare applications: ‘Woefully inadequate,’ says NMIX board member
  70. With only 346 Oklahomans signed up, leaders decry ‘Obamacare debacle’
  71. Defying Obamacare: ‘Send them the bill,’ NM insurance official says
  72. Kansas Obamacare enrollment dwarfed by nearly 20,000 cancellations
  73. Numbers don’t lie: In Illinois, Obamacare means Medicaid
  74. Wisconsin governor proposes insurance plan to address Obamacare rollout failure
  75. Tennesseans might know Tuesday if they can keep canceled health insurance
  76. People demand answers over Oregon’s Obamacare fail
  77. Calif. says ‘no’ to Obamacare freebies, makes own law
  78. HI health exchange violates federal law, League of Women Voters say
  79. Obamacare video winner: ‘Forget about the price tag’
  80. Harvard study finds ‘striking’ rejection of Obamacare by young Americans
  81. HI health exchange has signed up 574 people, for about $348,000 apiece
  82. Are the uninsured getting Obamacare coverage in Illinois?
  83. Secret Obamacare handbook the feds don’t want you to see is online
  84. Lost in translation: Once-supportive Hispanics turning backs on Obama, ACA
  85. HI Obamacare exchange not fiscally sustainable, lawmakers told
  86. Illinois’ latest Obamacare targets: gold diggers and momma’s boys
  87. Now Democrats are bashing California’s Obamacare exchange, too
  88. Obamacare: For $1.37M we get Richard Simmons in lurid web stream
  89. Obamacare: A welcome mat for IRS horrors
  90. California senator seeks audit of state Obamacare exchange
  91. Report: Hawaii ranks worst for Obamacare signups
  92. CA senator sues Obamacare exchange for causing policy cancellations of 1M
  93. Failure of Maryland Obamacare exchange could mean higher premiums in North Dakota
  94. Video: Watch Creepy Uncle Sam make it rain
  95. Five bright spots surrounding the Obamacare exchange failures
  96. Obamacare architect admitted in 2012 states without exchanges lose subsidies

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Tom Steward covers government waste, spending and policy issues in his home state of Minnesota. Also a documentary filmmaker and in-depth broadcast journalist, Tom's work has appeared on NPR, Animal Planet, WCCO-TV, WGBH-TV, PBS, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, KSTP-TV, CBC, among other outlets. Highlights include the fall of the Berlin Wall, a Peabody Award, the first footage in the wild of the endangered Sumatran tiger and rhino and countless individuals who shared their stories, big and small. Steward served as a communications strategist in the U.S. Senate before returning to reporting on issues and people often overlooked by other media.