Unions to Democrats: Hands Off Our Health Insurance

Remember Cadillac Health Insurance?  Those were plans deemed so outrageously expensive because they offered so many benefits with such low deductibles, and were typically paid for by employers, that they were to be taxes to help defray the cost of the Affordable Care Act.  But it never happened, because most Cadillac Plans, those costing more than $11,000 for individuals and $30,000 for families, are held by union workers.

Every time we get close to enforcing the tax, Congress granted a waiver… until this year, when the Cadillac Tax was simply repealed.

Now unions are upset about healthcare again, and this time it’s Democratic hopefuls that have them riled up.  The problem is that a single-payer system, including the much-discussed Medicare-for-all option, would strip union members of their gold-plated healthcare, and that simply won’t do.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, head of the largest federation of U.S. labor unions, said on Thursday that Democratic White House hopefuls should ensure their Medicare for All proposals honor union-negotiated private insurance,

Trumka told reporters at an event hosted by the Christian Science Monitor:

“There’s no question that ultimately we need to establish a single-payer system, but there has to be a role for those hard, hard-fought-for, high-quality plans that we’ve negotiated.  You can’t ask the American worker, who sacrificed wages and everything, to simply say: ‘Okay, I’ll accept this plan here.'”

Trumka didn’t address why everyone else should accept such plans.

Progressive U.S. Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have favored a Medicare for All approach that would extend the existing, government-run Medicare health insurance program to all Americans, eliminating a role for private insurance. Medicare currently serves Americans aged 65 and older.

Other candidates want to add a public option that would be offered alongside private insurance.

Candidates have invoked union-negotiated health insurance as one reason why a public option is preferable to the Medicare for All proposals offered by their rivals.

Last week at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, candidate Biden said:

“If you have a generous union-backed plan and you have given up union wages to get that plan, you can keep it.”

Most national unions, including the AFL-CIO, which is a federation of more than 50 unions that collectively represent more than 12 million workers, have yet to back a candidate.

Trumka called it a “positive sign” that candidates seem to be listening to union workers and are integrating their feedback into policy proposals.

Of transitioning to a single-payer system, Trumka said:

“It’s going to generate huge savings for employers. The question will be: what happens to the savings?  What we’re saying is our plans, we’ve negotiated hard … there has to be a way for us to recoup that.”

Maybe the savings could go to paying back the American taxpayers, who gave the unions billions of dollars when they bailed out the car companies in 2009 and guaranteed all the pensions of the union workers while eliminated the pensions of the administrative and managerial workers at those companies.

 

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