With a health care reform proposal being patched together for final consideration in the House of Representatives, gripes over a key element of the legislation could trip up the delicate process.
On Wednesday, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka was called into an unplanned meeting at the White House to discuss late-stage negotiations on a proposed tax on high-end insurance plans. According to sources familiar with what transpired, congressional leaders had begun discussions earlier in the day (perhaps last night) about accelerating the tax's impact in order to produce more savings under the president's revised health care bill.
Under the president's plan, those families with health care plans over $27,500 and individuals with plans over $10,200 would be taxed starting in 2018. That tax would be indexed to the Consumer Price Index plus one percent, which would provide some additional comfort to those with high-end policies -- specifically for labor workers who had bargained for these plans.
The plan, however, got tripped up after congressional negotiators received poorer-than-expected feedback from the Congressional Budget Office, a senior Democratic hill aide confirmed. And as a compromise, on Wednesday, they began discussing indexing the tax simply to the Consumer Price Index.
"What the White House is putting out is not any big major changes to the deal," said a source briefed on the matter. "What they are talking about is the way things are right now the tax was indexed to CPI+1 and they want to change it to CPI general inflation."
Trumka, who has fought tirelessly against an excise tax, was summoned to the White House to discuss the matter late in the afternoon. Whether the adjustment was agreed to or was enough to endanger the powerful union's support for health care legislation is not yet known.
The AFL-CIO will be discussing the matter more formally at a meeting among officials tomorrow.
"I can't get in to what he discussed with the White House," said AFL-CIO spokesman Eddie Vale. "But he will be discussing health care with the executive committee tomorrow."
With Additional Reporting By Arthur Delaney