Tuesday, August 6, 2013

PPACA Raises Pressure on Public Unions - Their Love for ObamaCare is Fading Fast

Unions are finally realizing how bad the Cadillac Tax will be for them.  

This is from Kate Taylor writing at the New York Times:  
Cities and towns across the country are pushing municipal unions to accept cheaper health benefits in anticipation of a component of the Affordable Care Act that will tax expensive plans starting in 2018.

The so-called Cadillac tax was inserted into the Affordable Care Act at the advice of economists who argued that expensive health insurance with the employee bearing little cost made people insensitive to the cost of care. In public employment, though, where benefits are arrived at through bargaining with powerful unions, switching to cheaper plans will not be easy.   
Cities including New York and Boston, and school districts from Westchester County, N.Y., to Orange County, Calif., are warning unions that if they cannot figure out how to rein in health care costs now, the price when the tax goes into effect will be steep, threatening raises and even jobs. 
“Every municipality with a generous health care plan is doing the math on this,” said J. D. Piro, a health care lawyer at a human resources consultancy, Aon Hewitt
But some prominent liberals express frustration at seeing the tax used against unions in negotiations. 
“I think it was misguided all along,” Robert B. Reich, the former labor secretary, said in an e-mail. When the law was being written, he said, he worried that the tax was “a blunt instrument that could too easily become a bargaining chit for cutting back benefits of workers.” 
“Apparently, that’s what it’s become,” Mr. Reich, who is a professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley, said. 
Under the tax, plans that cost above a certain threshold in 2018 — $10,200 annually for individual plans and $27,500 for family plans, with slightly higher cutoffs for retirees and those in high-risk professions like law enforcement — will be taxed at 40 percent of their costs in excess of the limit. (The thresholds will rise with inflation after 2018.) ...
[T]he administration of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, in its final months in office, is asking municipal unions to agree to seek new bids for the city’s health insurance business, hoping to lower premiums. It has already achieved one small victory, getting the city’s current primary insurer to freeze premiums for one year if it keeps the city’s business, the mayor said on Friday. 
But lower-cost plans are likely to involve greater out-of-pocket costs and more limited networks of doctors, and so far, the response from labor has been cool. 
Ninety-five percent of city employees and 93 percent of retirees are in the two largest plans, which require employees to pay nothing toward their premiums. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation survey, the average contribution by public employees throughout the country is 12 percent for individual plans and 23 percent for family plans. ... 
Steven Kreisberg, the director of collective bargaining and health care policy at the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, said the term Cadillac tax was misleading, because it “connotes a certain aspect of luxury in these health plans that is just factually incorrect.”...
Jonathan Gruber, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who was a paid consultant to the Obama administration on health care policy, said forcing state and local governments to rein in health care costs was exactly what the tax was intended to do.
“This is intended to shift compensation away from excessively generous health insurance toward wages,” he said. ...