Unions and Congress choke on ObamaCare
If you haven’t gotten the idea that ObamaCare is a disaster for just about everyone involved, you haven’t been paying attention. A late wake-up call was just delivered to Congress, where the ruling class, and its mighty imperial retinue, is just beginning to realize how difficult it will be to implement the monstrosity they voted into law without reading.
A story at Politico notes that Republicans managed to force “Congress to live under the rules we pass for everybody else,” as Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa put it. (Of course the Democrats tried to completely exempt themselves from the horror they inflicted upon the rest of us. Please don’t tell me that surprises you in the least.) But like much of ObamaCare, the rules about imposing it upon representatives and their staffs were “vague” and full of “quirks,” and as the third anniversary of President Obama’s health care takeover approaches this Saturday, hilarity has ensued:
Staffers who work in lawmakers’ personal offices go into exchanges — but those who work for committees don’t. And the lawmakers themselves get Obamacare — unless they are among the roughly 40 senators and 115 House members on Medicare.
And there’s a big thorny unresolved question about money: whether members and staffers in exchanges will still get a significant part of their health insurance premiums subsidized by their employer, just like other government workers. If they lose that subsidy, it’s like getting a pay cut of several thousand dollars.
[...] Ambiguities in the wording of the law also raise questions about whether long-promised retirement health plans could disappear for Hill staff. Those valuable benefits available after 20 years of service had been tied to participation in the Federal Employees Health Benefits program, but the exchanges aren’t part of FEHB.
Republican lawmakers quoted in the Politico story worry about this chaos spreading across America, and fear for the plight of businesses forced to confront regulations that confuse the hell out of the people who wrote and passed them. Strangely enough, it doesn’t seem like many Democrats have that concern, at least none who were willing to relate them to Politico.
One Democrat who is willing to take his medicine is Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, who says he’s eager to sign up for one of those notorious ObamaCare exchanges. Of course, those are a disaster too, and it look like they might not be up and running in time to welcome Brown as a customer. “Increasingly, officials in the Obama Administration are worried that the rollout of the exchanges will be chaotic, given the law’s complexity and unrealistic deadlines,” Forbes reports today.
Just how worried are those Administration officials? They’ve been reduced to hoping the ObamaCare exchanges won’t be a “third-world experience.”
“We are under 200 days from open enrollment” on the exchanges, noted Henry Chao, deputy chief information officer at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, at a recent conference. “I’m pretty nervous—I don’t know about you.”
Jane Norman of Congressional Quarterly reported Chao’s comments, which took place alongside those of Gary Cohen, another CMS official involved in exchange implementation, at a national policy forum sponsored by an insurer trade group. “It’s only prudent to not assume everything is going to work perfectly on day one,” said Cohen. “As we move closer to October, my hopes are the range of things that could go wrong gets narrower and narrower.”
Chao said that he’d once held high hopes that the exchanges would run smoothly from the beginning, but that those hopes had been dashed. “The time for debating about the size of the text on the screen, or the color, or is it a world-class user experience, that’s what we used to talk about two years ago,” said Chao. “Let’s just make sure it’s not a third-world experience.”
Smashing! So, how are President Obama’s good buddies in Big Labor handling the heath-care boondoggle that so many of them supported, once their special perks and exemptions were locked in? Well, they’re asking for even more special exemptions from the fees digging into the rest of our pockets, specifically the surprise $63-a-head surtax that popped out of the seven-foot stack of ObamaCare regulations a few days ago. From Breitbart News:
The Obama Administration says the fee “is intended to help millions of Americans purchase affordable health insurance, reduce unreimbursed usage of hospital and other medical facilities by the uninsured and thereby lower medical expenses and premiums for all.”
But the United Auto Workers Retiree Medical Trust, which covers 806,000 autoworkers, has joined others in asking federal regulators for an exemption. Boeing, which has 405,000 employees and dependents subject to the fee, has also requested an exemption. Boeing says the Obamacare fee will add $25 million in costs on top of the already $2.5 billion the company spends each year on health benefits.
Health and Human Services (HHS) denied the request by Boeing and others but said the $63 levy would not affect the thousands of retired autoworkers whose primary coverage is Medicare. Still, says HHS, it will not categorically exempt employees in court-structured benefit plans.
The Weekly Standard took a look at the growing sense of ObamaCare disenchantment among union leaders, beginning with John Wilhelm, chairman of a 260,000-strong union, who is apparently one of the last people in America who still kinda-sorta believes Barack Obama’s promise that people could keep their health-care plans if they liked those plans: “If I’m wrong, and the President does not intend to keep his word, I would have severe second thoughts about the law.”
The Obama administration has thus far issued waivers from Obama-care’s onerous requirements to unions representing 543,812 workers. By contrast, the administration has issued waivers for only 69,813 nonunion workers. While these waivers are a significant benefit, they accrue to a small fraction of the nation’s 14 million union workers. Further, many of the waivers have been granted on an annual basis, and no waiver has been granted for longer than two-and-a-half years. Eventually even union health plans are going to have to comply with Obama-care regulations.
Remember the other special bribe Obama paid to union bosses, the five-year exemption from the “Cadillac Tax” on the sort of high-end health care plans that union employees often enjoy? That’s going to be running out in 2018, which means it’s starting to ping on the sonar of long-term union employment contracts, particularly for public union employees and their lavish taxpayer-funded benefits:
This is poised to wreak havoc at the state level. In Pennsylvania, teachers in 168 of the state’s 500 school districts are working without contracts, and by the fall a majority of districts could be without contracts. Most of the negotiations in the state reportedly hinge on reining in health care benefits, rather than salaries. “District negotiators fear if unions do not make concessions now, an excise tax called for in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2010, could cost districts thousands starting in 2018,” reported the Scranton Times-Tribune earlier this month.
The other problem is Obama-care’s sticker shock. In the runup to the law’s passage, the White House was dismissive toward anyone who claimed the law’s morass of new rules would raise insurance premiums. Now no one really denies this is happening. Even though the Cadillac tax’s $10,200 and $27,500 premium thresholds were seen as defining exorbitant insurance plans, plans that don’t offer lavish benefits are becoming expensive enough to be subject to the tax.
Great news, everybody! Because Barack Obama’s health-care scheme is driving up insurance premiums, a lot more of you are about to get hit with the new “Cadillac tax” ObamaCare imposes!
And I do mean a lot more of you, because the Associated Press has a story today about insurance companies warning their customers to expect premiums to “rise from 20 to 100 percent for millions of people due to changes that will occur when key provisions of the Affordable Care Act roll out in January 2014.” That’s right, folks – your premiums are going to go up even more than they already have due to ObamaCare, and some of you will be paying double.
The Standard also notes that unions are starting to talk about dropping coverage for low-end workers and dumping them into the public exchanges… which led arrogant liberals to shriek in outrage when corporate CEOs and small business owners said they were contemplating the same strategy. Ignorant liberals are happy to tell businessmen they don’t know how to run their companies; let’s see if they’re equally willing to tell union bosses they don’t know how to run their unions.
Then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi famously declared that we had to pass ObamaCare to find out what was in it. How’s that working out for everyone? Let’s hear from you first, Pelosi staffers. Let us know if those ObamaCare exchanges manage to rise above a third-world experience when you get there, okay?