THE BLOG

Still Needed: Obamacare Fix for 20 Million Working People

02/14/2014 03:02 pm ET | Updated Apr 16, 2014

This week, we again witnessed another administrative change to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by the Obama administration. That makes three in the last couple of weeks. That shouldn't really surprise anyone. The ACA is a complicated law and implementing it will take some time -- and the administration has already made a number of significant changes. Once more, however, the administration's move has impacted employers. This time, it was large employers, as reported by the Associated Press:

The Obama administration is giving another delay to business groups concerned about the health care law's requirement that larger firms cover their workers.

Unfortunately, the administration's new ruling does nothing to address the problems Obamacare creates for people in non-profit self-funded plans, like the 20 million people currently covered under Taft-Hartley coverage. This week's ACA move rewards employers, who in many cases may not offer health insurance, while continuing to discriminate against and penalize the plans of hard-working Americans.

We have been trying to get the administration to find a way to fit our plans into the ACA, to no avail. It was after all, the administration that ignored the specific nuances of non-profit self-funded plans. So, I have to say, we were surprised to see the justification for this change explained by the same Treasury official, J. Mark Iwry, who has blocked labor's efforts:

J. Mark Iwry, deputy assistant Treasury secretary for health policy, said the administration had broad "authority to grant transition relief" under a section of the Internal Revenue Code that directs the Treasury secretary to "prescribe all needful rules and regulations for the enforcement" of tax obligations. This authority has often been used to postpone the application of new laws that would cause "unreasonable administrative burdens or costs" to taxpayers, Mr. Iwry said.

Along those same lines, the Obama administration decided employers are not required to cover all full-time employees in order to avoid the employer responsibility penalty. Companies can have a two-tier benefits model that discriminates against workers while allowing swell gold-plated health plans for executives. In effect, the administration incentivizes employers to push employees into exchanges. And, that's no doubt true for the 20 million workers in Taft-Hartley plans.

In our conversations with Mr. Iwry and his administration colleagues, we have yet to see that level of flexibility. Our concerns aren't new. We'd like for officials, like Mr. Iwry, to give working people the same kind of consideration they give to business interests. But, for some reason, those officials seem more in tune with worries of the top one percent while ignoring the 20 million families who play by the rules of not-for-profit health plans and face losing the coverage they have.

Last September, the AFL-CIO unanimously endorsed a resolution supporting fixes to the ACA. This weekend, I'll be at the AFL-CIO Executive Committee meeting in Houston and look forward to discussing the next steps with my union brothers and sisters. We still want Obamacare to work for all Americans, especially our members.