Obama Huddles With Union Leaders Over Obamacare Changes

Image: Obama Huddles With Union Leaders Over Obamacare Changes

Friday, 13 Sep 2013 11:44 AM

By Wanda Carruthers and John Gizzi

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Union fears about the effect of Obamacare on their health insurance plans were getting swift attention from the White House on Friday as President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden prepared to huddle with labor leaders.

The session, scheduled for 3:35 p.m. in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, comes just two days after the largest union federation, the AFL-CIO, passed a resolution calling for sweeping changes.

The White House was staying mum about the purpose of the meeting and even canceled press spokesman Jay Carney's regular daily media briefing.

ObamaCare: You Can Win With The Facts

"It is entirely possible that this afternoon, the president will try to placate the unions; offer them some kind of exemption from some part of the plan," Fox News business contributor Stuart Varney said Friday on "Fox & Friends."

Or, Varney said, the meeting could even lead to a delay in the implementation of the individual mandate for another year, "like they've delayed the employer mandate."

"Unions offer generous plans," Varney pointed out. "They're going to be taxed. That's going to hurt membership. They're already declining. Obamacare could kill some of them off.

"The unions say, 'This is highly disruptive. We want changes.'"

The White House meeting comes after the AFL-CIO wrapped up its quadrennial meeting in Los Angeles Wednesday with a strongly worded resolution saying Obamacare will drive up costs of health insurance plans to the point where both workers and employers are forced to abandon them.

"We will be damned if we are going to lose our health insurance because of unintended consequences in the law," thundered Terry O'Sullivan, president of the Laborers' International Union of North America. "It needs to be changed. It needs to be fixed. And it needs to be fixed now!"

Harold Schaitberger, president of the International Association of Fire Fighters, who chaired the committee that hammered out the final resolution, said the motion was intended to "point out the criticisms without being overly caustic."

It was toned down from an original draft that called for repeal of the act unless changes were made. The White House had spent days lobbying the unions urging them not to pass that resolution, the Associated Press reported.

"There have to be some changes made in the areas that are giving a number of our unions great concern," said Schaitberger.

The resolution claimed Obamacare will increase costs for so-called "Cadillac plans" that are jointly administered by companies and unions, especially those in the construction, retail and transportation industries. It also expressed concern that fewer union workers would be hired, hours would be cut, and many employers would drop coverage altogether.

Immediately after the resolution was passed, the White House said there was nothing in the reforms that altered the law for union plans, but the speed at which the meeting has been arranged suggests more changes and possible delays could be on the way.

Unions had been among the most enthusiastic supporters of healthcare reform, but once it was enacted they started to see problems with the way Obamacare would be implemented.

ObamaCare:
You Can Win With The Facts

Their official change of heart comes at a critical period, less than three weeks before healthcare exchanges open for business.

"This is a crucial time," said Varney. "The unions are building up to the 2014 elections. They traditionally supported the president. Are they going to give the same support to an administration that has not come through for them, and which may ruin them with Obamacare?"


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