EDITORIAL: Unions and Obamacare


If you thought Republicans hated Obamacare, you obviously haven’t talked to anyone in organized labor.

Unions powered the ground game that elected President Barack Obama and Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress in 2008. With the full-throated support of the rank and file, the enactment of the Affordable Care Act followed.

Today, unions are feeling a killer case of buyer’s remorse. The law’s onerous mandates and taxes are increasing costs for union health plans. Some private-sector union members face the possibility of losing coverage altogether and being sent to Obamacare exchanges for high-cost, high-deductible health insurance — without subsidies. And the law has undermined the 40-hour work week, a standard unions take credit for creating.

D Taylor, the Las Vegas-based general president of UNITE HERE, parent union of the Culinary Local 226, and Terry O’Sullivan of the Laborers’ International Union of America, sent a letter two weeks ago to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., reading in part: “It would be a sad irony indeed if the signature legislative accomplishment for an administration committed to reducing income inequality cut living standards for middle income and low-wage workers.”

Mr. Taylor told The Washington Post last month, “We want to hold the president to his word: If you like your health care coverage, you can keep it, and that just hasn’t been the case.”

On Tuesday, Mr. Taylor took the step of formally introducing himself to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. If that doesn’t send a powerful message to Sen. Reid, nothing will.

“I’ll talk with D,” Sen. Reid said last week.

But Mr. Taylor and other labor leaders don’t want to talk. They want the Obama administration to clean up the mess it has made of union health care plans negotiated and built over decades. Unions certainly have the sympathy of millions of other Americans, who’ve seen their premiums and out-of-pocket costs skyrocket and their provider networks shrink.

But unions are hardly taking the high road here. Instead of demanding a cure for the pain Obamacare has inflicted on all Americans — the law’s repeal and a fresh start at health care reform — unions are seeking exemptions, breaks and carve-outs for their own, steps that would create new incentives for workers to organize.

Republicans have suggested alternative health care reforms for years, the latest of which is the Patient Choice, Affordability, Responsibility and Empowerment Act, which gets Washington out of the business of managing the insurance industry. It’s worth debating.

If nothing else, this nasty spat proves that GOP opposition to Obamacare is not rooted in political opportunism. The Affordable Care Act is a terribly conceived, terribly written law that can’t be fixed. It is causing great economic harm to businesses, households, individuals and, yes, unions.

Hey, hey, ho, ho, Obamacare has got to go.

 

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