Some unions now angry about health care overhaul

By: Associated Press Email
By: Associated Press Email

WASHINGTON (AP) - They were enthusiastic backers of President Barack Obama's health care overhaul -- but now, some labor unions are afraid that it will jeopardize benefits for millions of their members.

And they're warning that unless the problem is fixed, there could be consequences for Democrats facing re-election next year.

The problem lies in the multi-employer health plans that cover unionized workers in industries with seasonal or temporary employment -- like retail and construction. They are jointly administered by unions and smaller employers, and provide continuous coverage to more than 20 million workers and family members -- even during times of unemployment.

They were already more costly to run than traditional single-employer health plans. But the Affordable Care Act has added to that cost -- for these plans and others -- by requiring health plans to cover dependents up to age 26, eliminate coverage limits and extend coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.

An official with the Operating Engineers Union says there's a concern that employers will be tempted to drop coverage through the jointly-administered plans, and let workers "fend for themselves on the health exchanges."

The head of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, Joe Hansen, says the situation "makes an untruth out of what the president said -- that if you like your insurance, you could keep it." Hansen says, "That is not going to be true for millions of workers now."

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