Unions condemn Trumpcare; Urge health care for all

When the US House of Representatives on May 4 narrowly passed the Republican proposal to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act–also known as Obamacare–unions representing 8.4 million workers issued statements condemning the vote.

Bob Martinez, international president of IAM called the vote, “a blatant attack on working families.”

D. Taylor, president of UNITE HERE, said that because of the Republican health care proposal, which he called Trumpcare, “millions of hard-working Americans are one step closer to seeing their health care destroyed.”

RoseAnn DeMoro, executive director of National Nurses United, asked rhetorically, “did the Marquis de Sade write (the Republican) health care bill?” She also called for creating a single-payer health care plan that “would provide health care for all.”

Republicans passed their health care plan, which they called the American Health Care Act (AHCA) by a vote of 217-213.

Despite heavy pressure from party leaders and the White House, 20 Republican lawmakers defected by voting no on the bill.

AHCA, or Trumpcare as Taylor called it, will now be taken up by the Senate.

Like other critics, unions criticized Trumpcare because it cuts taxes for corporations and the wealthy by $765 billion at the expense of working people’s health care benefits.

To offset the tax cut, Trumpcare slashes Medicaid funding by $880 billion. As a result, millions of  the low-wage workers, nursing home residents, and people with disabilities will lose their Medicaid benefit.

Unions also joined other AHCA critics in condemning the legislation for allowing states to let insurance companies ignore customer protections required by Obamacare.

“They voted to strip basic health care protections from working families and allow insurance companies to sell health care plans that don’t cover essential care or necessary treatment like chemotherapy,” said Chris Shelton, president of the Communication Workers of America (CWA).

AHCA also would make it possible for insurance companies to discriminate against people with pre-existing medical conditions by charging them more for health insurance.

A pre-existing condition, according to the United Steelworkers statement on AHCA, could be anything from heartburn to heart disease.

In addition, unions blasted the Republican health care plan for making employer-based health insurance more expensive.

One of Obamacare’s features that unions have long opposed is the 40 percent tax on high quality employer-based health insurance. The tax becomes effective in 2018. AHCA delays its implementation but keeps the tax in place.

Keeping the tax will make health care more expensive for 177 million workers, said UNITE HERE’s Taylor.

There is a misconception about the high quality health care plan tax, which is also known as the Cadillac tax. The misconception is that it only applies to a few high-end health insurance plans.

But according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, one in four employer health insurance plans could be affected by the tax.

Unions also criticized the Republican health care plan as a job killer.

Because of the AHCA, “thousands of members of my union and other health care workers will lose their jobs,” said Shelton.

The New York Times reports that the health care industry is one of the leading industries for job growth.

Since 2014, according to the Times, much of the job growth at hospitals, nursing homes, outpatient clinics, and medical laboratories has been spurred by the expansion of Medicaid.

But cutting Medicaid funding by $880 as proposed in AHCA will not only end the expansion, it will cause a contraction of the benefit. Fewer people will receive medical care, and fewer dollars will be spent at local health care providers.

The contraction will lead to layoffs and other job losses.

Some unions that criticized the passage of AHCA said that protecting Obamacare from the ravages of the Republican plan isn’t enough.

“Congress needs to pass a bill that will move America toward health care for all, not the few,” said a statement on the AHCA by the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers, and Grain Millers Union (BCTGM).

One piece of legislation that if enacted would guarantee health care for all is the Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act (HR 676) sponsored by Rep. John Conyers, Jr. of Michigan.

On Wednesday, May 10, members of National Nurse United will be in Washington DC to lobby lawmakers to pass HR 676.

“Nurses understand that we are in a health care crisis that is only going to get worse for our families and communities, and so it is imperative that Congress act now to solve the crisis through the implementation of a single-payer Medicare for All system,” said Jean Ross, co-president of National Nurses United.

Conyers said that he has seen a surge in public support for a single-payer, Medicare for all system

Gallup, the Kaiser Family Foundation, and other polling organizations have found that there is majority support for Medicare for All in America today,” said Rep. Conyers in a recent editorial in the Detroit Free Press. “Thanks to this groundswell,  single payer is politically achievable.”

More than 100 members of  the US House of Representatives have signed on as co-sponsors of HR 676.

When nurses arrive at Congress on May 10, they will be urging more lawmakers to sign up as co-sponsors and to commit to voting for Medicare for All.

“Health care is a human right, and the way to make that right a reality for everyone in this country is through an expanded and improved Medicare for All system,” said Ross.

Unions: Trumpcare hurts workers; enriches the already rich

The Republican plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare, was filed in Congress on March 6.

The official title of the Republican bill is the American Health Care Act (AHCA), but D. Taylor, president of UNITE HERE, is calling the new bill “Trumpcare.”

When the bill was introduced, labor unions condemned it as a gift to the rich paid for by the working class.

One week after the bill was introduced, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its analysis of Trumpcare. The CBO analysis confirms that the unions are right.

The New York Times reports that according to the CBO analysis, Trumpcare cuts taxes on the wealthy and corporations by $1 trillion over the next ten years.

Those taxes help pay for federal subsidies that made health insurance affordable for many workers.

Trumpcare eliminates the subsidies, putting affordable health care out of reach for millions of workers.

It also reduces Medicaid funding by $880 billion and caps the growth of future funding. The reduction and cap will cause millions of low-income workers to lose Medicaid coverage.

“This isn’t a health care plan, it’s a shameful handout to corporations and the wealthy paid by working families who will pay for the tax cuts with less coverage,” said Chris Shelton, president of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) when the bill was first introduced.

“President Trump and the Republican Party ran on a promise to immediately repeal the ‘broken’ Affordable Care Act and replace it with something ‘great’,” said Taylor. “Instead, what was unveiled by House Republicans is a plan that slashes health care coverage for millions of Americans.”

Taylor made his statement before the CBO released its analysis.

If anything Taylor may have underestimated the number of people who will lose coverage.

The CBO analysis states that the Trumpcare will cause 24 million people to lose health care coverage over the next ten years. Fourteen million will lose coverage within a year of its passage.

One reason that workers will lose health care insurance is that Trumpcare eliminates Obamacare subsidies for purchasing health insurance and replaces it with tax credits.

But the Trumpcare tax credits are less generous than Obamacare subsidies and don’t increase as the price of health insurance increases.

Additionally, Trumpcare would allow insurance companies to charge older workers much more than younger workers, but  tax credits for older workers will be the same as younger workers.

Trumpcare would also phase out the Obamacare expansion of Medicaid, which made Medicaid available to many more low-income workers.

Trumpcare also changes the nature of Medicaid, which would no longer be a government benefit for workers who meet certain income requirements.

Instead, the federal government would provide grants to states. The states would determine eligibility rules and the level of benefits.

If the federal grant does not cover the cost of everyone who is eligible, benefits would be rationed. Some would get them; others wouldn’t.

“Trumpcare will gut Medicaid expansion and subsidies that have made lifesaving health care available to millions of Americans,” said Taylor.

Trumpcare could also cause employers to drop health insurance benefits for their workers.

Forbes reports that up to 7 million workers could lose their employer-based insurance benefit because of Trumpcare.

One of the reasons that workers may lose their employer-based health care benefit is that Trumpcare maintains the Obamacare excise tax, a 40 percent tax on employer-based health insurance whose premium costs exceed the national average of health care premium costs.

The high cost of the excise tax could cause some employers to drop employee health care insurance. Others may cut benefits to avoid the tax.

The excise tax would  especially hurt union workers, who through years of struggle have won good, affordable employer-based health care insurance.

By maintaining the excise tax, Trumpcare “will drive up already skyrocketing out-of-pocket costs and drive down coverage for the vast majority of Americans under age 65—more than 177 million—who get health insurance through work,” said Taylor.

RoseAnn DeMoro, executive director of National Nurses United (NNU), also joined the chorus of union leaders criticizing the anti-working class nature of Trumpcare.

“The principal effect of the new bill will be the loss of existing health coverage for tens of millions of people, without any restraints on health care industry pricing practices that add up to massive health insecurity for the American people.” writes DeMoro writing for Common Dreams.

Health care in the US can’t be fixed, continued DeMoro until “our broken, dysfunctional, profit-focused health care system (is replaced by) an improved Medicare for all system,” which would expand Medicare so that it covers everybody.

DeMoro writes that NNU is building grassroots support for a single-payer health care plan like Medicare in the state of California “that could become the national model (for) an alternative to both the ACA and the fraudulently named GOP American Health Care Act.”

 

Union fights Trumpcare’s proposal to tax employee health benefits

This week, members of UNITE HERE will be visiting local offices of their US senators and representatives to tell them to oppose a Republican-proposed tax on employee health insurance benefits.

UNITE HERE is the union of 270,000 workers employed in the the hotel, gaming, food service, manufacturing, textile, distribution, laundry, transportation, and airport industries.

A draft of a Republican proposal to repeal and replace Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare, began circulating among members of Congress on February 10.

A key feature of this proposal is a new tax on workers’ health care benefits.

The new tax on workers’ health care benefits would replace a tax on the wealthy, which currently helps fund subsidies that middle- and low-income workers use to purchase health insurance on the federal and state insurance market exchanges.

The GOP plan, also called Trumpcare, could be introduced in Congress by as early as this week.

UNITE HERE called Trumpcare’s tax on employee health care benefits a “double-whammy” on working class health care.

“The GOP is replacing Obamacare with Trumpcare, which will destroy the best aspects of the ACA while imposing one of the largest tax increases on the American middle class ever leveled by a political party,” said Mike Casey, chairperson of UNITE HERE’s Health Care Task Force. “Over 177 million Americans who depend on employer based health care for their health and well-being will soon be hit with a double-whammy by the GOP Trumpcare plan: a huge new tax on their health benefits followed by higher premiums, higher deductibles and less access to quality care. The GOP is walking the plank with Trumpcare and will soon be swimming with the wrath of an American middle class furious with their dramatic tax increase and cut in health care benefits.”

While UNITE HERE members are talking to senators and representatives about the health care benefits tax, media ads funded by the Working Americans for Affordable Health Care PAC will be informing the public about the new Trumpcare tax proposal.

Some media ads will begin running this week in five US House of Representative districts in California, Indiana, Missouri, and Virginia.

Those five districts are currently represented by Ann Wagner (R-MO), Steve Knight (R-CA), Darrell Issa (R-CA), Barbara Comstock (R-VA) and Luke Messer (R-IN).

In addition to raising taxes on workers, Trumpcare will undo much of the good done by Obamacare.

Since Obamacare was implemented, 20 million people who weren’t covered by health insurance are now covered. For many of these people, access to health insurance was made possible by subsidies provided through Obamacare.

Trumpcare eliminates those subsidies.

Since Obamacare was implemented, the percentage of people with health care insurance decreased from 18 percent to 8.6 percent.

One of the reasons for this steep decline is the fact that Obamacare made Medicaid available to more low-income workers.

Trumpcare reduces Medicaid funding and ends its status as an entitlement program, meaning that many low-income workers who qualify for Medicaid under Obamacare will no longer be able to enroll in Medicaid.

Since Obamacare was implemented, workers with pre-existing health conditions have been able to get health insurance. Prior to Obamacare, insurance companies routinely denied health insurance coverage to people with pre-existing health conditions, but Obamacare banned this practice.

Trumpcare eliminates the pre-existing condition ban.

In place of the pre-existing conditions ban, Trumpcare would help states fund high-risk health insurance pools for people with pre-existing health conditions.

But high-risk pools have been tried in the past and failed to adequately insure people with pre-existing conditions. “States that ran high-risk pools prior to the ACA found it virtually impossible to actually finance them sustainably while covering significant numbers of people,” reports Thomas Huelskoetter of Think Progress.

As part of its efforts to inform the public about Trumpcare’s shortcomings, UNITE HERE called out members of Congress who want to repeal Obamacare and replace it with Trumpcare.

“Members of Congress like Ann Wagner, Steve Knight, Darrell Issa, Barbara Comstock and Luke Messer and all the rest get first-class health care thanks to US taxpayers, and they get it for life,” said Casey. “Yet they have the audacity to consider asking those same taxpayers to pay more in taxes in order to settle for second-class health care. We will fight them in Congress and see them at the ballot box.”