State AFL-CIO leaders agree ACA is “not perfect”
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Published: 16-Sep-2013

OKLAHOMA CITY – Labor leaders with the AFL-CIO union in Oklahoma City were not active in the push for a resolution at last week’s national convention in Los Angeles, but they agree it represents a significant moment in development of public policy touching the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Friday, President Barack Obama was meeting directly with national union leaders in an apparent effort to quell rising labor movement opposition to provisions of ACA, widely known as ObamaCare.

Concerning the national resolution, Oklahoma AFL-CIO president Jimmy Curry, who attended the national convention, told CapitolBeatOK, “The national leadership plans to go back to Washington and work out something specific, some plans on the improvements that are needed. The impetus for the resolution came from the buildings and trades unions. They were the ones most wanting to fix this.

“It was not as passionate an issue here locally in Oklahoma. I will wait a couple of months to hear from the national level what we can do to help. This was one of 40 or 50 resolutions that were brought up. I am not sure about it, but there are a lot of people in our movement who felt it needed to be addressed.”

In a separate interview, Ed Allen, president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFL-CIO) Local 2309 told Oklahoma Watchdog, “Something of this magnitude, making these kinds of changes to the health care system, we’re going to run into a good number of issues and problems.”

Allen was not at the L.A. convention, but observed,  “We’ll never satisfy everybody on it, but it seems clear the legislation can be made better. In a lot of ways we’re in uncharted territory. We’re supportive of the Affordable Care Act, but it’s not perfect.”

Dozens of unions and union leaders pressed for passage of the resolution during the national gathering in L.A. 

Eric Boehm, in an analysis for Watchdog.org, wrote the labor movement is “concerned about the affordability and accessibility of health insurance under Obamacare, and also worries that workers’ hours may be cut back as an unintended consequence of the law. In short, the AFL-CIO shares many of the same concerns opponents of the health care law have been raising for a long time.”

In an unusual confluence of opinion with Republican critics, including leading conservative economists, Terry O’Sullivan of the Laborers International Union of North American (LIUNA), said the ACA in its present form is likely to trigger “unintended consequences." He told delegates: “It needs to be changed and fixed now. ...We will work with the president to do everything we can to fix the Affordable Care Act. ...We want it fixed, fixed, fixed.”

National AFT nnion secretary-treasurer Lorretta Johnson decried the effects of ACA as “a work in progress” that, among other impacts, has led some para-professionals, such as adjunct college professors, nurses and public employees, to see their hours cut below the 30-hour threshold which, under ACA, triggers comprehensive health insurance coverage at employer expense, or penalties.

In a report from the convention in Los Angeles, the AFL-CIO’s Mike Hall summarized the resolution as “expressing support for the goals of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) but also addressing a number of issues about the ACA's implementation, including the way the ACA treats multi-employer health care plans.”

The resolution explicitly called for “preservation of high-quality coverage.” The resolution reads, in relevant part, “Federal agencies administering the ACA have interpreted the Act in ways that are threatening the ability of workers to keep  health care coverage through some collectively bargained, non-profit health care funds.”

U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, recently wrote to several national union leaders asking them to join Republican efforts to enact “a permanent delay in the law’s implementation.

However, the labor behemoth’s agreement with many of ObamaCare’s most ardent critics seems likely to go only so far. In addition to the resolution’s call for similar treatment of large and small health care plans, delegates renewed the union’s call for a “single-payer model” in the long term.

Contact McGuigan at patrick@capitolbeatok.com.

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