AFL-CIO mobilizes behind final healthcare bill

The leader of the AFL-CIO pledged Thursday to get behind the Democrats’ healthcare reform bill as the House prepared to for its final vote.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said while the legislation was not a perfect bill, it was a meaningful step in the right direction and the labor movement will give its “active support” to it.

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“After 60 years fighting for healthcare, we are convinced now is the time to say ‘yes,’” Trumka said.

The union federation’s support for the bill comes despite some changes to an agreement that was worked out between labor groups and the White House in January.

The most significant change is how an excise tax on high-cost insurance plans is now calculated. Instead of being adjusted to the consumer price index plus one percent to what plans are covered by the tax, it is now adjusted to just the consumer price index.

That should bring in more government revenue to help cover the uninsured but could end up taxing more plan. That is a big issue for union members who could see their benefit-heavy plans fall under the tax and was heavily lobbied against by labor groups.

Trumka said he felt that once the bill takes effect, it will do an even better job at bringing down healthcare costs than the Congressional Budget Office is predicting and unions can push for more changes to the tax once the bill has passed.

“This is not the end of healthcare reform. This is the beginning,” Trumka said. “It is a far more progressive bill. It has a far better chance of controlling costs and bringing some sense of sanity to healthcare here in America.”