Health reform implementation

GOP bill would forbid ObamaCare fix for labor

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) introduced legislation on Monday that he says will prevent labor unions from getting a “backroom deal” on ObamaCare.

Unions are lobbying the White House to change the Affordable Care Act so that nonprofit, multi-employer healthcare plans can receive tax subsidies.

Republicans want to prevent the Obama administration from taking this step, and Thune’s bill would make it illegal for the so-called Taft-Hartley health plans to get tax subsidies.

{mosads}Thune, who leads the Senate Republican Conference, introduced the measure Monday as members of the AFL-CIO met in Los Angeles for their annual conference.

“Union leaders are now awakening to the ugly reality of ObamaCare,” Thune said in a statement. “Now that the full consequences of the Democrats’ law are nearing, these same union leaders are seeking a special backroom deal from the White House.”

Union members’ multi-employer health plans are currently not eligible for the new tax subsidies offered under ObamaCare, which are designed to make health insurance more affordable. For-profit healthcare plans are eligible for the subsidies as part of the new insurance marketplaces that will launch Oct. 1.

Labor leaders fear that without the subsidies, employers will drop the multi-employer plans and shift union workers into the marketplaces, which could increase insurance costs for workers. 

Enrollees who are eligible for subsidies, which would be based on the worker’s income, have two options for receiving them: they can either pay the full premium up front and receive a subsidy check at tax time, or apply for an advanced subsidy that will be paid directly to the insurance company.

The AFL-CIO is frustrated that religious and business interests have won ObamaCare “fixes” while the administration appears to set aside union concerns. 

But Republicans like Thune argue that making multi-employer plans eligible for subsidies would unfairly shield unions from what critics see as the negative consequences of the reform law. 

Republicans have also criticized the administration for making changes to the healthcare law that benefited big businesses and lawmakers and their staffs.

The first change extended the deadline for larger businesses to provide health insurance to their employees by one year.

The second change allowed lawmakers and their staffs to continue receiving subsidized healthcare coverage when they enter the new insurance exchanges next year.

At the AFL-CIO conference in Los Angeles, labor leaders on Sunday said they expect consideration of a healthcare resolution expressing the need for an ObamaCare “fix.”

President Obama was expected to address union concerns about healthcare during an appearance at the convention. 

He ultimately chose to stay in Washington to bolster support for possible military strikes in Syria.

Thune’s bill has four co-sponsors: Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.).

—This post was updated at 5:10 p.m.

Tags John Barrasso John Thune Lamar Alexander Marco Rubio Mike Enzi

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