Health & Human Services

AFL-CIO Calls for Changes to Obamacare

The AFL-CIO is asking for changes to the Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama’s landmark health-care overhaul, potentially opening fissures between the White House and one of its staunch political allies
September 12, 2013

The AFL-CIO is asking for changes to the Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama’s landmark health-care overhaul, potentially opening fissures between the White House and one of its staunch political allies.

The largest U.S. labor federation approved a resolution yesterday urging amendments to the law in a voice vote on the final day of its quadrennial convention in Los Angeles.

The action by the AFL-CIO, which endorsed the law when it passed in 2010, adds to the political challenges facing the Obama administration as it implements the law. Republicans have vowed to block the union-backed changes, making it unlikely they could get through Congress.

“If the Affordable Care Act is not fixed and it destroys the health and welfare funds that we have all fought for and stand for, then I believe it needs to be repealed,” Terry O’Sullivan, general president of the Laborer’s International Union of North America, said on the convention floor. “We can’t have the unintended consequences for the proud men and women that we represent to be collateral damage in the health care fight in this country.”

Labor groups were among the strongest proponents of the health-care law when it was being debated by Congress, and the Obama administration is trying to maintain their support as it rolls out new insurance programs this fall. Two top administration officials, White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett and Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, were in Los Angeles this week to reassure union officials that the White House is open to weighing changes.

“We are committed to making the law work to make health care more effective and affordable for all Americans, including those covered by multi-employer plans,” Sabrina Siddiqui, a Treasury Department spokeswoman, said in an e-mail.

Larry Cohen, president of the Communications Workers of America, said the resolution is only the first step in the bid to fix the health-care law.

“Realistically there’ll be no progressive legislative fixes with the Republican House,” Cohen said in an interview. “All they want to do is eliminate health care and put people on their own. I don’t think this is going to get fixed in a meaningful way in the weeks ahead.”

The AFL-CIO’s resolution calls for changes to several provisions in the law. The union group wants multi-employer health plans run by labor organizations classified in a way that would make their members eligible for federal subsidies. It said it strongly opposes the law’s requirement that health plans, including union plans, pay a reinsurance fee of about $63 per member next year to the government.

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