Obamacare

Will ObamaCare Undermine Union Membership?

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One little-discussed side effect of ObamaCare is that it could undermine union membership by reducing the incentives for some unions to offer health benefits.

The issue here is how the law deals with multiemployer health plans, which cover as many as 26 million Americans, and are especially popular with unions whose members frequently work irregular hours for multiple customers. ObamaCare  requires these plans to comply with a number of regulations that are likely to drive up costs, but it doesn't allow employers who provide benefits through multiemployer plans access to subsidies or tax credits. The only way for many of those union members currently covered by multiemployer plans to get subsidies would be for the unions to stop offering those plans.

So as the law stands now, a lot of unions that rely on multiemployer plans will end up having big incentives to drop health benefits and instead let members buy subsidized insurance through the law's exchanges. The potential cost savings aren't trivial: Last year, a representative from a multiemployer plan organization told a labor issues news site that the difference could easily be as much as $5,000 per employee annually. With savings like that on the table, it's going to be very hard to justify continuing to pay for health benefits if union members can get health insurance elsewhere. 

But here's the thing: Labor unions don't want to drop health benefits for their workers, in no small part because providing health benefits is a big part of what they exist to do. If they don't offer benefits, it's harder to attract and retain union members.

It's not surprising, then, to find that many union leaders aren't pleased with this situation. And while they haven't made much of a public fuss up until now, they are starting to complain a little more loudly. As Janet Adamy and Melanie Trottman report in The Wall Street Journal…

Some 20 million Americans are covered by the health-care plans at issue in labor's push for subsidies. The plans are jointly managed by unions and employers and used mostly by small companies. They are popular in industries such as construction or trucking or hotels, where workers' hours fluctuate. By contrast, unionized workers at big employers such as Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.GT -0.22% tend to have a more traditional insurance arrangement run through only one employer.

Top officers at the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the AFL-CIO and other large labor groups plan to keep pressing the Obama administration to expand the federal subsidies to these jointly run plans, warning that unionized employers may otherwise drop coverage. A handful of unions say they already have examined whether it makes sense to shift workers off their current plans and onto private coverage subsidized by the government. But dropping insurance altogether would undermine a central point of joining a union, labor leaders say.

"We are going back to the administration to say that this is not acceptable," said Ken Hall, general secretary-treasurer for the Teamsters, which has 1.6 million members and dependents in health-care plans. Other unions involved in the push include the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union and Unite Here, which represents service and other workers.

The Obama administration isn't quite giving the unions an outright no at this point. But it's not saying yes either. As Adamy and Trottman note, acceding to union demands here would not only result in the law costing more due to the increased availability of the subsidies, it would make it harder for the administration to say no to other groups who might expect similar treatment. Going forward, the politics of this particular subissue will be interesting to watch, because the Obama administration will have to decide between helping an ally and trying to hold down costs.

Like most groups aligned with Democrats, big labor unions were generally supportive of ObamaCare during the fight for passage. But now it looks like the health law could end up causing a lot of unions big headaches over time. 

NEXT: Woman Abandons Dog Because It's Allegedly Gay

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  1. “Like most groups aligned with Democrats, big labor unions were generally supportive of ObamaCare during the fight for passage. But now it looks like the health law could end up causing a lot of unions big headaches over time.”

    Oft evil will shall evil mar.

    1. “Dance with the one that brung you.”

    2. The only positive to Obamacare is that all of its supporters will one way or another suffer its “unintended” effects like everyone else.

      1. I’m in my early 20’s and am absolutely ecstatic to watch all my socialist college friends whine about waiting in line for appointments and having to pay higher premiums. Sort of like when all those Obama supporters freaked out after the election because their taxes went up.

        The schadenfreude will be glorious.

        1. I assume you are already watching all of them whine about not finding a job and not being able to handle their student debt?

          1. You just know they’re going to blame Republicans. According to my Socialist college friends, the reason they have to pay so much money for college is corporations.

            1. so your socialist college friends learned absolutely nothing while in school. Explains why their job prospects might be dim.

  2. OT:

    I just hate sex, and have decided I will never put myself through the torture of it again. I am in my physical prime, but my sex life is over. I wish it were not so. My tragedy is that I want to be ‘normal’. I crave the companionship of a man. I would love to be married; to build a home, to enjoy the comfort and domesticity of a life-long relationship with a partner I could cherish. I want to love and be loved.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/fem…..again.html

    After looking at the pictures, I’m not sure who (besides John of course) would ever want to fuck her anyway.

    1. To quote Randal from “Clerks”,

      [sarc]

      You will be missed

      [/sarc]

    2. Holy cow, what is up with her face? The headline claims she’s 29, but I initially thought that she had to be 50ish.

      If that’s your physical prime, I am deeply, deeply sorry.

      1. What, you’ve never seen a horsey English girl before?

    3. Skinny, but a rough looking face for a 29-year-old.

      At least she’s committing herself to not torturing some poor bastard any longer. Good on her.

      1. She looks like the bottom of my foot.

    4. She’s doing everyone a favor.

    5. I don’t know what you’re complaining about. She looks like every other British woman.

      1. So, there may not Always Be An England then? I mean, if they all look like that, and are repulsed by procreational activities to boot.

        1. There will be an England. It will simply be populated by “Asians.”

    6. How the hell can anyone hate sex? Evolutionarily speaking that’s all kinds of fail.

      1. You mean she will not be passing down her bird-like features?

        HOORAY!

      2. I’d hit it. Once you go green you’ll never be seen

    7. At least my girlfriend is attractive.

  3. “Good and hard” applies to the topic and the OT, imo.

  4. Going forward, the politics of this particular subissue will be interesting to watch, because the Obama administration will have to decide between helping an ally and trying to hold down costs.

    Who does the Obama administration need to court at this point? If his second term is anything like most of his career, “mailing it in” will be the order of the day.

    1. “If his second term is anything like most of his career, “mailing it in” will be the order of the day.”

      Those golf balls won’t hit themselves, you know.

    2. He needs to pander until the midterms. After that he’s going to be bored out his mind, because he will have nothing to do. Campaigning for the sake of basking in unearned praise will be getting old. Pandering for the sake of the party will be unnecessary. Leading the country has, of course, never even been considered. So what’s an authoritarian to do when life no longer has any interesting challenges or distractions? God help us, but we are about to find out…

      1. Golf, party, hand out Presidential Medals of Freedom to people like Bill Ayers.

      2. If he were an authoritarian, then by definition he would be really into leading the country.

        He’s not an authoritarian but is a massive narcissist. Narcissists need people adulating them or they fall apart. He’ll keep campaigning. He’ll campaign for his successor. He’ll campaign after his successor has been elected.

        His income will slowly tail off, and then will come the hot, trashy mistress like that New Age chick that snared John Edwards. The nasty divorce. The documentary on PBS chronicling his rise and fall during a pledge drive.

    3. the Obama administration will have to decide between helping an ally and trying to hold down costs.

      Why would anybody believe, for one instant, that this is a hard decision for them?

  5. We have to pass it to see what’s in it.

    They fucked everybody for a PR moment.

  6. Does anyone really think that Obamas buddies will be expected to follow the same laws as the rest of us? If so, you must have not been paying attention through this whole thing. The kings grants exceptions whereever be sees fit.

    1. Yes. I was thinking the same thing.

      Cue the waivers in 3… 2…

  7. Never gets old:
    “Obamacare loophole threatens UC students”
    “There’s a loophole in Obamacare that exempts (self-funded) student health plans,” doctoral student Charlie Eaton of the UC Student Employees Union told the regents.”
    http://www.sfgate.com/default/…..234269.php
    Now, after the guy campaigned for the crap, all I can say is: Be careful what you wish for.

  8. “ObamaCare requires these plans to comply with a number of regulations that are likely to drive up costs, but it doesn’t allow employers who provide benefits through multiemployer plans access to subsidies or tax credits. ”

    Ha ha ha.

    Does the word “waiver” ring a bell? You think the unions won’t be able to get waivers from the blue team’s apparatchiks in power?

    One thing that will be interesting with all these “waivers”. I expect a lot of churn in these waivers with the next Republican president.

  9. Alt-text fail. The correct alt-text is:

    “It’s not the lash they fear; it is my divine power.”

    http://www.coolorama.com/wp-co…..es.gif.gif

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