Even early Obamacare backers are starting to wonder whether they made a colossal blunder. It wasn’t so long ago that Labor aided President Obama in ramming his health care scheme through Congress, fully expecting to win exemptions for unions as a reward for their service. Today, union leaders are upset that their multiemployer health care plans aren’t eligible for federal tax subsidies.
The AFL-CIO convention went so far as to blast Obamacare as “highly disruptive” in a resolution adopted Wednesday. Union chieftain Richard L. Trumka says Obamacare was a step in the right direction, but that it “wasn’t thought completely through” and there are “inadvertent holes” in it. That’s putting it mildly.
Big Labor is not-so-subtle in calling on the administration to make these health care plans eligible for subsidies. That’s not an unreasonable expectation, considering the law already exempted union health plans from the so-called Cadillac tax. “Union leaders are now awaking to the ugly reality of Obamacare,” says Sen. John Thune, South Dakota Republican, who on Monday introduced legislation that would prevent labor unions from getting a carveout from Obamacare akin to the premium subsidies that the Office of Personnel Management unilaterally granted to members of Congress.
Republicans are worried that the White House will attempt to sneak through a deal by executive fiat. In a letter to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew on Tuesday, Sen. Orrin G. Hatch and Rep. Dave Camp warned that such a move might be illegal. “Any attempt by the Administration,” the Republican lawmakers wrote, “to issue regulations or other guidance to extend [Obamacare] premium and cost-sharing subsidies to union workers covered by employer-sponsored plans — workers that already enjoy substantial tax subsidies for their health care — will be met with strong resistance. We will do whatever is within our power to ensure that the Administration does not once again provide a special exemption to unions at the expense of American taxpayers.”
The union grousing is a reminder of how Obamacare isn’t really about lowering health care costs. It has always been an exercise in cronyism, handing out favors to friends and punishing everyone else. It’s time to pull the plug.