Waivers and Favors: Healthcare Reform, Obama-Style
By Marilyn M. Brannan
September 30, 2013
Almost from “day one” following passage of the “Affordable Healthcare Act,” this obnoxious law has proven to be nothing more than a sleazy racket, the objective of which is more power for an ever-growing and ever-more-corrupt centralized government. To that end, President Obama has unlawfully, unilaterally amended the law—bypassing Congress and handing out politically selective waivers, opt-outs, exemptions, and delays when it suited his purposes.
Labor unions were key to the passage of Obamacare. They spent huge sums of money electing Democrats to Congress in 2006; and in the presidential election of 2008, they spent a reported $400 million to help Obama get elected (NewsMax:“Unions Got What They Paid For,” July 19, 2013). The keystone of the Obama agenda in 2008 was the promise of national healthcare, which unions vigorously embraced and lavishly supported.
In 2009 while efforts to pass Obamacare legislation were at a fever pitch, unions made sure their members packed town hall meetings. Unions invested tens of millions of dollars in media advertising that pushed for passage of Obamacare because they thought they would get a big payoff of $10 billion to supplement their failing pension plans (“. . . Got What They Paid For”).
Today, however, unions are seeing that Obamacare is going to be enormously disruptive to the health benefits of their members and they are demanding either the repeal of Obamacare or special carve-outs and exemptions from the obligations that the rest of “regular” Americans are saddled with. In the words of powerful labor leaders James P. Hoffa, Joseph Hansen and Donald “D.” Taylor, “In campaign after campaign we have put boots on the ground, gone door-to-door to get out the vote, run phone banks and raised money to secure this vision. Now this vision has come back to haunt us” (“Labor Unions: Obamacare Will ‘Shatter’ Our Health Benefits, Cause ‘Nightmare Scenarios’,” Forbes.com, 7/15/2013).
The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) was part of a group (largely funded by the pharmaceutical industry’s lobby) that launched $12 million in television ads to support the president’s healthcare campaign; and the coalition Americans for Stable Quality Care spent tens of millions of dollars on that effort in the fall of 2009 (“ . . .Got What They Paid For”).
Now, unions are forced to seek waivers from Obama or make changes to their current health care plans—a key part of many union benefit packages. Businesses are scaling back workers’ hours and dropping insurance coverage due to higher costs and concerns about complying with ObamaCare regulations.
The labor bosses are also unhappy with the way Obamacare affects multi-employer health plans. Multi-employer plans (referred to as Taft-Hartley plans) are health insurance benefits typically arranged between a labor union in a particular industry (such as restaurants) and small employers in that industry. About 20 million workers are covered by these plans; 800,000 of Joseph Hansen’s 1.3 million UFCW members are covered this way. Unlike plans offered on the ObamaCare exchanges, unionized workers will not be eligible for subsidies because workers with employer-sponsored coverage don’t qualify. (“ . . . Obamacare Will ‘Shatter’ Our Health Benefits . . . ” Forbes.com, 7/15/2013)
Obamacare’s regulatory changes will drive up the cost of these plans in the small-group insurance market. The rules requiring plans to cover adult children up to the age of 26, the elimination of limits on annual or lifetime coverage, and the mandates that plans cover a wide range of benefits will force premiums upward.
The Taft-Hartley plans currently provide generous and costly coverage; however, small employers will (under ObamaCare) have a more financially attractive alternative, which is to drop coverage and put people on the exchanges once existing collective bargaining agreements have expired. Obviously, workers will have less incentive to join a union because (formerly) a big part of the unions’ role was to negotiate health insurance benefits for their members.
Thus, labor leaders are demanding their workers with employer-sponsored coverage also gain eligibility for ObamaCare subsidies. Otherwise, they say, their workers will be “relegated to second-class status” despite being “taxed to pay for those subsidies,” a result that will “make non-profit plans like ours unsustainable” and “destroy the very health and well-being of our members . . .” (Forbes.com, 7/15/2013)
Richard Trumka, head of the AFL-CIO, is also unhappy with the White House’s one-year delay of the employer mandate. Hoffa, Hansen, and Taylor note that “this is especially stinging [and] most disconcerting” because “the administration has responded to the concerns of businesses, but not those of labor” (Forbes.com, 7/15/2013).
Bottom line, it’s the employer mandate which is responsible for the disruptions that Trumka’s labor brothers are complaining about. Being forced to provide healthcare insurance for their full-time employees is the thing that is driving employers to cut employees’ hours and (in the union leaders’ words) destroy the 40-hour work week.
The Ironies That Change Has Wrought
What many may not realize is that for much of our history, labor unions opposed universal coverage (i.e., socialized, government-run healthcare). If the unions’ role in negotiating health coverage is taken over by the government, unions lose a big chunk of their drawing power.
In the 1930s, labor unions opposed FDR’s half-hearted attempt at universal coverage, and in the 1940s, they split on Truman’s related proposal. Decades later, unions were OK with Medicare and Medicaid, because health benefits for retirees and poor people weren’t particularly relevant to union interests. It was in the 1970s that the goals of progressives (the Left) and labor unions became closely aligned on national health care.
Thanks to the destructive policies of the Obama Administration, access to good jobs and affordable health insurance have become bigger concerns than ever for American workers. The goal of affordable health insurance is best achieved in a system where people buy health coverage for themselves, rather than obtaining it through their employers or the government. However, such an outcome would upset labor leaders, Barack Obama, and the Left in general. Forget the rhetoric about affordable healthcare and the welfare of American workers. Their objective is CONTROL.
Unions are now experiencing the bitter consequences of the “waivers for favors” game they chose to play with Barack Obama. As Jeremiah Wright (Obama’s former pastor at Trinity United Church of Christ in South Chicago) was fond of saying, “The chickens have come home to roost.”
Obviously, unions aren’t the only sector that has huge concerns about destructive fall-out from ObamaCare. Americans at every level will feel the effects, one way or another, according to forecasts that have come out of the CBO in a near-constant flow since the law was enacted. It is not a matter of “if” the axe will fall, but “when. ”
What brought us to this deplorable state of affairs?
How did we regress from the ideal of “we, the people,”—a citizenry with ultimate authority to “throw the bums out” when members of Congress forgot who sent them to Washington—to this deplorable state of affairs where one party has seized the reins of power and willfully subjected the entire populace to an unlawful, economically ruinous transformation of nearly 20% of our economy?
We have descended to a state of rule by oligarchy—rule by elites who position themselves above the citizenry, voting themselves generous pension plans, Cadillac healthcare plans, ever-higher levels of salary and benefits, and exemptions from laws that bind the rest of us.
But that’s not the worst part. This arrogant administration has presumed to place itself above the law, as evidenced by one scandal after another at the most powerful levels of government. Through one egregious abuse of power after another, our Justice Department has steadfastly refused to hold accountable those in the administration who are clearly up to their eyeballs in serious misuse of power—if not outright criminal activity.
Election to Congress has become a ticket to wealth and privilege. Transparency in government has become a thing of the past. Honesty among the powerful is now regarded as a sucker’s game, and integrity is an out-dated concept. An elitist mentality in Washington isolates the ruling elites from the electorate that sent them to Washington; and the few men and women in Washington who cling to the ideal of representing The People are bullied and castigated by the Establishment ruling class and the Liberal media.
It didn’t happen overnight. The enemies of our democratic republic have been awaiting their opportunity to transform America for at least one hundred years.
Throughout history, ordered societies have been overturned by those whose lust for power drove them to destroy the foundations of an entire society in order to achieve their goal of centralized, unchallenged control. Call it socialism, call it communism, Marxism, or fascism. The goal is the same. The outcomes are also the same: economic destruction (which results in economic slavery), rampant corruption throughout government, the perversion of law, abolition of personal and religious freedoms, moral decay . . . the list goes on and on.
The tragedy is that the cost always goes far beyond what can be calculated in terms of gross domestic product, productivity, and other measures of a nation’s strength and viability. When the move toward ever-more-powerful, centralized government is unchecked, the sources of the peoples’ existence—healthy job markets and economic opportunity, for example—are made uncertain and precarious. Productivity and creativity decline, human aspirations fade. The end result is the loss of hope.
The institutions that made America a great nation have been attacked, one by one, by our enemies within. Our Constitution and its guarantees of the right to life, liberty, property, and privacy are under attack, along with our system of representative government. The family, our religious freedoms, traditional norms of decency and morality, our public education system—all have been systematically, relentlessly attacked.
Is it any wonder we have a president today who believes rules are expendable—that he has a mandate (“I won”) to undermine rule of law, bypass Congress, and ignore the Constitution? Is it any wonder he has no problem with continually lying to the American people?
The mindset of the Left in America today is that nothing is sacred. Everything that contributed to our nation’s greatness is now fair game, to be ridiculed, undermined, and finally . . . abolished.
P.S. The Left will tell us that a few waivers here and there on the ObamaCare law—handed out unilaterally by the President—bypassing Congress and Rule of Law—are no big deal. They will tell us that “favors” here and there are just business as it has always been done in Washington.
It’s all just part of “getting ObamaCare right”—so that all Americans will ultimately be afforded their right to “free healthcare.”