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.