Unions Wake Up to ObamaCare’s Living Nightmare

July 16, 2013

By Casey Given

For years, unions have stood behind President Obama’s health care reforms, dismissing the concerns raised by AFP and millions of Americans as right-wing propaganda. But now that the law’s unintended consequences are becoming visible as implementation looms, Big Labor has begun to change its tune. Last Thursday, the Teamsters, UFCW, and UNITE-HERE heads sent a letter to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid speaking some tough words on ObamaCare.

“Right now, unless you and the Obama Administration enact an equitable fix,” the union bosses pleaded, “the ACA will shatter not only our hard-earned health benefits, but destroy the foundation of the 40 hour work week that is the backbone of the American middle class.” They then proceeded to point out three perverse incentives of the law that will concretely affect unionized workers:

First, the law creates an incentive for employers to keep employees’ work hours below 30 hours a week. Numerous employers have begun to cut workers’ hours to avoid this obligation, and many of them are doing so openly. The impact is two-fold: fewer hours means less pay while also losing our current health benefits.

Second, millions of Americans are covered by non-profit health insurance plans like the ones in which most of our members participate. These non-profit plans are governed jointly by unions and companies under the Taft-Hartley Act. Our health plans have been built over decades by working men and women. Under the ACA as interpreted by the Administration, our employees will treated differently and not be eligible for subsidies afforded other citizens. As such, many employees will be relegated to second-class status and shut out of the help the law offers to for-profit insurance plans.

And finally, even though non-profit plans like ours won’t receive the same subsidies as for-profit plans, they’ll be taxed to pay for those subsidies. Taken together, these restrictions will make non-profit plans like ours unsustainable, and will undermine the health-care market of viable alternatives to the big health insurance companies.

While the union bosses’ analysis is spot on, they ignore a number of other perverse incentives that will affect millions of Americans seeking health care from for-profit insurers and government programs like Medicaid.

In the private sector, Americans’ access to quality health care is expected to decrease as premiums increase. According to the Congressional Budget Office, seven million workers are expected to lose their employee-sponsored health insurance by 2021. Those fortunate enough to keep their current insurance will watch the network of doctors and hospitals available to them shrink, as insurers such as Tenet Healthcare and Blue Cross & Blue Shield have already announced their intentions to decrease the options available to their customers to control for ObamaCare’s premium-increasing effects. As for premiums themselves, preliminary evidence in California’s individual exchange suggests that they could increase by 64 to 146%.

In the public sector, low-income Americans newly eligible for Medicaid will become subject to a broken and dangerous program. Since Medicaid only reimburses doctors approximately fifty cents of every dollar they spend on its patients, many doctors are unwilling to accept enrollees in the program at all. In fact, one recent Health Affairs poll found that one-third of doctors currently do not accept new Medicaid patients, leaving millions of low-income Americans with little choice but to seek low-quality care. With fiscal troubles like these, it’s no surprise that surgical patients on Medicaid are 13% more likely to die than uninsured patients and 97% more likely to die than private-insured patients.

ObamaCare’s old supporters can no longer deny the cold, hard facts. Special interests on the left like unions will soon be experiencing the same damaging effects of the broken law like every citizen and company in the country. Americans of all ideological stripes need to raise their voices in unison against the President’s broken law that will lower the quality and raise the price of health care in America – completely contrary to the political promises it was originally passed on.

To learn more about ObamaCare’s unintended consequences, check out AFP’s “Welcome to ObamaCare” blog post series:

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