Millions of Americans have already been hurt by Obamacare, and many more -- members of unions with health care insurance plans they want to keep -- are about to be added to this list. Multiple Big Labor contracts are up for renegotiation this year, and it will be the union rank and file who will face higher premium costs, less coverage or both when all is said and done.
That’s because the law’s various coverage mandates will inevitably hike overall costs, forcing unions to either chip in or lose out. Meanwhile, the law’s so-called “Cadillac tax” — which will sock a whopping 40 percent tax on the annual cost of high-premium plans — is set to kick in in 2018. Smart management will want to take this into account now since the tax will apply to most of the multi-employer Taft-Hartley plans unions offer to members.
Workers upset over all of this should start asking some pointed questions of their unions' leaders, the vast majority of whom enthusiastically supported Obamacare when it was enacted in March 2010.
In fact, many described it as one the greatest legislative feats ever. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka called it a “momentous step forward,” while United Food and Commercial Workers Union President Joe Hansen called it “an achievement that will rank among the highest in our national experience.”
It's not that those Big Labor leaders didn't know at the time that the law would hurt their members' care. But they were apparently assured behind the scenes that President Obama would tweak the rules for them later in exchange for their help in passing it.
The president did delay the Cadillac tax, and last year he exempted Taft-Hartley plans from a re-insurance fee. But the major changes Big Labor leaders really want haven’t happened, mainly because they are too expensive for even this administration to swallow.
“We assumed that Taft-Hartley plans … would be eligible for subsidies,” Communications Workers of America President Larry Cohen told The Hill last year. They still aren't -- and as a result, for example, Transit Worker Union members in Philadelphia are seeing their coverage costs rise by $15 million a year, an increase of 12.5 percent. Other unions are planning strikes based on the higher costs.
Concern over the law’s impact roiled the AFL-CIO’s convention last year, with some leaders warning it could undermine the entire movement. In fact, none of this had to happen in the first place. If Big Labor's leaders had been truly looking out for their members’ interests all along, they would have opposed the Affordable Care Act when it counted.
Given how narrowly Obamacare ultimately passed, opposition from Big Labor almost certainly would have killed it in 2010. At a minimum, union bosses shouldn’t have spent hundreds of millions of compulsory dues dollars on re-electing Obama in 2012. Instead they acted like partisan Democrats. Rank and file workers, take note.