Politics: Unions shocked to discover ObamaCare has 'unintended consequences'

Published by: Dan Calabrese on Friday May 24th, 2013

Dan Calabrese

By DAN CALABRESE - Oh Noes.

Alternate subhead: Bahahahahahahahahaha!

But that would be mean. And even though they own no small culpability for foisting this turkey on the nation, it would be so . . . mean . . . to be mean. So let's just deal with the shocking facts that of course the unions had no way to see coming until now. The AP, and not its usual ObamaCare shill Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, reports:

The problem lies in the unique multiemployer health plans that cover unionized workers in retail, construction, transportation and other industries with seasonal or temporary employment. Known as Taft-Hartley plans, they are jointly administered by unions and smaller employers that pool resources to offer more than 20 million workers and family members continuous coverage, even during times of unemployment.

The union plans were already more costly to run than traditional single-employer health plans. The Affordable Care Act has added to that cost — for the unions' and other plans — by requiring health plans to cover dependents up to age 26, eliminate annual or lifetime coverage limits and extend coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.

"We're concerned that employers will be increasingly tempted to drop coverage through our plans and let our members fend for themselves on the health exchanges," said David Treanor, director of health care initiatives at the Operating Engineers union.

Workers seeking coverage in the state-based marketplaces, known as exchanges, can qualify for subsidies, determined by a sliding scale based on income. By contrast, the new law does not allow workers in the union plans to receive similar subsidies.

Bob Laszewski, a health care industry consultant, said the real fear among unions is that "a lot of these labor contracts are very expensive and now employers are going to have an alternative to very expensive labor health benefits."

"If the workers can get benefits that are as good through Obamacare in the exchanges, then why do you need the union?" Laszewski said. "In my mind, what the unions are fearing is that workers for the first time can get very good health benefits for a subsidized cost someplace other than the employer."

Bingo.

Unions have always survived by strong-arming employers into wage and benefit that make no economic sense, but are accepted anyway because of the trouble unions will make if they're not, and because labor laws have typically been written to back the unions' play. What ObamaCare does is create a blanket statutory mandate for this economic irrationality, so it's no longer necessary to join a union that will win it on your behalf through collective bargaining.

So yes, good question, why do you need the union? Now the law forces the insanity that used to require union thuggery, and the unions backed the law. Oops!

Remember, those healthy 26-year-olds the law requires to be covered on their parents' insurance policies may not be accessing much in the way of health care services, but they're still costing employers' money and they're sure as hell not paying any union dues. If you're the employer, why not lop them off on the exchange? What do you have to gain by keeping them on, or by keeping your whole workforce on for that matter?

It's hard to resist schadenfreude here, isn't it? Conservatives were warning anyone who would listen that ObamaCare would overflow with "unintended consequences" like this one, but Democrats and their most loyal constituency groups wouldn't hear a word of it.

It seems on a certain level like a result of partisanship gone wild in this sense: The way the game works these days is that if Team Red says something - anything, no matter what it is - Team Blue disbelieves it reflexively. I'd have to say the reverse is largely true as well. It's a lie because those liars over there said it. There were a lot of solid, rational reasons to give credence to the warnings about how ObamaCare would actually work in practice, but because of who was saying it, it was mandatory to reject it out of hand and go full speed ahead.

The left also deluded itself to no small degree by confusing statutory language with real-life results. The law says you can keep your coverage if you like it, therefore no one will lose their coverage! Sure. Unless, of course, other impacts of the law cause your coverage to disappear.  That requires you to think a bit beyond the wording in Section C, Paragraph 7, or whatever it says at that FactCheck.org link you put up on Facebook.

That being said, I would like to now return us to the question of death panels. When Sarah Palin warned of the dangers of the Independent Payment Advisory Board, the left responded by declaring her warning "debunked" because there are no death panels in the bill. Well of course. There is no decimation of union power in the bill either. It is happening because screwing with markets has consequences. The left's defense of IPAB is to point out language in the bill forbidding IPAB from denying anyone treatment. See? The law says you can't do it, so that means IPAB won't do it.

Why don't you go ask Lois Lerner if it's likely to work that way in practice, since of course no one in Washington would violate the law to achieve an objective. Oh. I know why you don't ask Lois Lerner. She would just take the Fifth.

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