July 18, 2013
Hatch to Unions: Join GOP in Calling for Health Law Delay
The Affordable Care Act is upsetting some political alliances and inspiring a flurry of letter-writing among politicians.
Last week, three union presidents wrote a letter to Congress’s top Democrats, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and House Minority leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, sharply criticizing the Obama administration and the law’s impact on union-run health plans. Today, the unions got a response of sorts — from Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch.
The Utah Republican wrote to James Hoffa, president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, and two other union presidents, asking them to join Republicans in calling for a “permanent delay” of the law “until we are able to come up with a plan that will achieve the law’s stated goals.” In the meantime, he argued, the law would drive up costs while failing to cover as many people as once promised.
Since last year, union leaders have complained that many of the law’s requirements will drive up costs for union-sponsored health-care plans that are managed jointly by unions and mostly small employers, potentially causing unionized employers to drop the plans that cover more than 20 million people.
In a letter dated July 11 to Sen. Reid and Rep. Pelosi, the union presidents said that without changes the Affordable Care Act will devastate union-sponsored health-insurance plans. Union officials have also been upset that the Obama administration listened to employer requests to delay a provision requiring bigger companies to provide insurance coverage or pay a penalty. That rule, which had been scheduled to take effect in early 2014, has been pushed back a year.
The union officials called the delay “disconcerting.” They also said union arguments have been “disregarded and met with a stone wall by the White House.”
“Since your activities to encourage changes to the law have, to date, been unsuccessful,” Sen. Hatch wrote, “I want to invite you to join me in an effort to help the Obama Administration and Congress understand the full impact the law has had and will continue to have.”
The Utah Republican told the labor leaders that he agreed with their assessment that the law is motivating employers to cut workers’ hours and “destroy the foundation” of the 40 hour work week.
“My colleagues here in Congress – members of both parties – have highlighted similar concerns with the law,” Sen. Hatch wrote. Last week, he and fellow Republicans sent a separate letter to the White House calling for delaying the law’s implementation indefinitely.
It’s not clear whether the Teamsters, the United Food and Commercial Workers and Unite Here, a union that represents hotel and laundry workers, would ever consider joining forces with Republicans on the issue. Leigh Strope, a spokeswoman for the Teamsters, said the union declined to comment on Sen. Hatch’s letter. A Unite Here spokeswoman also declined to comment. A UFCW spokesman couldn’t immediately be reached.
Sen. Hatch, who once worked as a construction worker in the Wood, Wire and Metal Lathers Union, typically opposes union-backed legislation. But Julia Lawless, his press secretary, held out hope that unions would accept the invitation.
“We certainly hope these organizations join us in this effort,” said Ms. Lawless. “With each passing day we are watching ObamaCare unravel and it’s hard-working, middle-class families –including union families – that are being forced to pay the price.”
View a full copy of the article here.