As Americans voiced their disapproval and outrage over the then-proposed Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, President Obama and other leading Democrats pushed ahead, assuring Americans that costs would be reasonable, doctors supported the healthcare overhaul and that unions overwhelmingly supported the massive program.
While unions, largely, did support Obamacare in the beginning, the realities of the skyrocketing costs, the likely rationing of care, the redundant bureaucracy and the heavy-handed enforcement mandates has forced union officials to dramatically rethink support for the healthcare overhaul and top union officials throughout the country are rapidly emerging as some of the harshest critics of the economically unsustainable healthcare reforms.
On Wednesday, President of the Laborers’ International Union of North America Terry O’Sullivan spoke at an AFL-CIO union convention in Los Angeles. O’Sullivan represents about a half-million union members. O’Sullivan rose to publicly voice union opposition to Obamacare and to urge that if Obamacare cannot be fixed, that it should be repealed.
“On behalf of the Laborers’ International Union, I rise to support resolution number 54,” O’Sullivan began. “While we have concerns that it does not go far enough, because brothers and sisters, If the Affordable Care Act is not fixed and it destroys the health and welfare funds we have all fought for and stand for than I believe it should be repealed. We don’t want it repealed, we want it fixed, fixed, fixed!”
O’Sullivan referenced the union resolution that blasted Obamacare and demanded remedies to the problems it provides for union workers.
Unions leaders, who have invested large amounts of time, energy and political capital into the healthcare overhaul, have been weary of outright denouncing the law that aims to remedy some longstanding healthcare coverage issues. However, the inflexibility of Obamacare has created many unintended consequences that have hurt labor practices in America, such as businesses being forced to drop employees down to part-time to avoid purchasing insurance.
While O’Sullivan commented that there were positive aspects of the Affordable Care Act, he took issue with the effects the law has had on businesses and, by extension, the workers.
“We can’t have the unintended consequences for the proud men and women that we represent to be collateral damage in the healthcare fight in this country.”
The opposition to Obamacare, however, is much more widespread than Mr. O’Sullivan. The AFL-CIO, the largest union federation in the country that represents 57 unions and more than 12 million workers, has awakened to the harsh realities that face Americans under Obamacare. While initially spending millions to help champion the passing of the law, the Affordable Care Act has taken on an entirely new trajectory as we near closer to full implementation and people are losing their healthcare and rates continue to climb.
Chiefly amongst the concerns by union leaders is the failed promise by Democrats that participants can keep their healthcare coverage and doctors. Under the current agreements, workers like laborers and electricians can change jobs among participating employers and remain in the same healthcare plan that has been crafted to protect workers who work in more high-risk manual labor jobs that are more prone to injury. These plans have been negotiated over time and the high cost healthcare plans have been factors in wage negotiations.
However, despite promises that workers can keep their current insurance plans, Obamacare could allow companies to force their employees to state-based exchanges, leaving those left in the union plans to pay much higher premiums for lessened care.
In July, Teamsters President Jimmy Hoffa wrote a scathing letter to Sen. Harry Reid and Rep. Nancy Pelosi voicing union discontent. “Congress wrote this law; we voted for you,” he wrote. “We have a problem; you need to fix it.”
The AFL-CIO has emerged as a staunch critic of the current Obamacare layout as the aforementioned consequences are jeopardizing union healthcare. The AFL-CIO has requested certain exemptions for unions, but President Obama has made it clear that he cannot offer union exemptions as many on the right have voiced outrage at the notion that those who helped craft and pass the legislation now which to opt-out of it.
With Republicans leading the charge to defund Obamacare, the law remains in jeopardy. While initially lowballed as costing Americans roughly $900 billion over a ten-year period, the spending hasgone out of control and the practical ten-year projections from the date of implementation has the healthcare overhaul costing a likely $1.8 trillion over ten years.
With opposition from Republicans, opposition from the vast majority of Americans, runaway costs and now the unions turning on the deeply flawed healthcare reforms, Obamacare is in real jeopardy.
If unions have turned against Obamacare, it seems the Democrats have lost their last (and strongest) ally in the fight to keep their sinking ship afloat.