The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, July 10, 2015

Union Leaders laud Supreme Court on health care ruling

By The Building Tradesman

WASHINGTON (PAI) - By and large, union leaders applauded the U.S. Supreme Court's 6-3 ruling on June 25, keeping the Affordable Care Act’s federal individual payments for health care insurance subsidies for users of health care exchanges, state or federal.

The leaders, including AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, praised the court for retaining individual access to affordable health care. But Laborers President Terry O’Sullivan reminded lawmakers the ACA still needs major work on its mistreatment of multi-employer labor-management-run health care plans, and that lawmakers should repeal the so-called “Cadillac tax” on high-value health care plans. 

"Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve insurance markets, not destroy them," the court majority said. The challengers wanted to outlaw the subsidies in states that did not establish their own health care exchanges to cover the uninsured - some 7 million-9 million people in 34 states.  The largest group of uninsured is in deep-red Texas. 

Trumka said Congress should now add protections to the ACA, since the court kept the subsidies.  Additions are unlikely in the GOP-run Congress. The House GOP's money bill for the Health and Human Services Department -- which helps administer the ACA -- again bans use of money to implement the law.  Trumka demanded the Republicans halt those efforts. 

He called the court’s ruling "an important victory for the millions of people who need financial assistance to make health insurance affordable and for everyone committed to improving America’s health care system.”  It also removes the threat of them being “at the mercy of” the law’s GOP foes, who hate the law and its mover President Barack Obama.

Trumka advocated expansion of Medicaid to “low-income workers in every state and making changes that will protect and strengthen the health coverage workers have fought for on the job."  He was not specific. Laborers President O’Sullivan, in his criticisms, was. 

Likely speaking for most building trades union leaders, he called expanded access to health care “a good thing,” but said legislators must fix two major ACA holes: Its threat to multi-employer plans and the imposition of the so-called “Cadillac tax” on individuals with high-value health care plans, starting in 2018.  A transition tax has already cost his union’s health care plans $45 million.

Those two problems create “the Obama Administration’s pick-pocketing of working people” to fund the ACA, O’Sullivan said. Other unions, including the Steel Workers and the Communications Workers, are also campaigning to repeal the “Cadillac tax.”