Although some labor unions enthusiastically supported the Affordable Care Act when it was being developed and debated, many now are concerned that the law's provisions could increase costs for their health insurance plans and make their workers less competitive, the Wall Street Journal reports.
About 20 million U.S. residents are covered under union-sponsored health plans, which are jointly controlled by unions and employers, according to the Journal.
The labor groups are particularly concerned about ACA provisions that:
- Eliminate caps on medical benefits and prescription drugs, which were used to control costs in many health plans; and
- Allow children to stay on their parents' insurance plans until age 26.
In order to offset those changes, the groups want lower-paid union members to be eligible for federal insurance subsidies. Officials at the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, AFL-CIO and other labor groups said they will pressure the Obama administration to offer the subsidies, adding that unionized employers might drop health coverage if they are not provided.
The administration faces the loss of one of its key allies if it does not comply with the unions' request. However, following through on the request could drive up the cost of the ACA, and nonunion employees could demand the same subsidies if they are granted to union members.
The unions and employers note that coverage for union members will not be altered or cut for years. Any such changes would have to be made during collective bargaining discussions (Adamy/Trottman, Wall Street Journal, 1/30).