GOP Seeks Union Help to Slow Obamacare Implementation

Monday, 22 Jul 2013 02:03 PM

By Melanie Batley

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Republicans are reaching out to labor leaders after union officials sent a scathing letter last week to top Democrats expressing dissatisfaction over the coming implementation of Obamacare.

In the wake of union complaints, Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican, contacted the unions to see if they can work together to "permanently delay" the healthcare law.

"I hope you will accept my invitation to provide relief from the law to all Americans and ensure that the law will no longer threaten access to insurance, increase costs, or deny individuals from keeping their existing health insurance plans as the president had promised," Hatch told the unions in a letter, according to the Washington Times.

Some of the nation's most powerful labor unions took Democrats to task over Obamacare, saying in the letter that the new healthcare law will "destroy the very health and well-being of our members."

The letter, sent by the presidents of three unions, including the powerful Teamsters, to top Democratic lawmakers outlined their concerns about how the new law will negatively impact their members. Other unions have since followed suit.

Other Republicans took note of the union opposition to Obamacare, giving ammunition to those who have continued to fight against the measure, The Times reported.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said "when even cheerleaders for the law start to become its critics, that's when you know there's something to this 'train wreck' thing everyone keeps talking about."

"When a couple unions come out this forcefully, you're going to see more unions do the same," said Sen. John Barrasso, a Wyoming Republican.

Under the new law, employers with more than 50 full-time employees must provide healthcare coverage for their workers. The law however defines "full-time" as working 30 hours a week, not the union-favored 40 hour-work week. The unions are concerned that in an effort to cut the costs of providing healthcare for workers, employers have begun to cut workers' hours significantly; down from 40 hours to below 30.

The unions also are concerned that health plans being administered jointly by unions and employers — a type of plan in which many union members participate — will not be eligible for government subsidies to offset premium costs. Yet, the plans, they say, will be taxed to help pay for the subsidies to employees in for-profit plans.

"Right now, unless you and the Obama administration enact an equitable fix, the [Affordable Care Act] 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," the labor bosses said in their July 12 letter to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, according to the Times.


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