IBEW adds its voice to call for changes in Obamacare

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WASHINGTON - The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, one of the nation's largest construction unions, has gone public with its call to change the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the health insurance revision law, so that workers covered by multi-employer plans don't get hurt or lose coverage.

In ads running July 26 in D.C.-based publications that decision-makers read, the union says the ACA as written would leave those multi-employer plans, jointly run by unions and management in construction and other industries, with disadvantages.  It would let most construction firms opt out of covering workers altogether, IBEW adds.

The union explains 95 percent of construction contractors would be exempt from the law, because they employ fewer than 50 people.  Many of those contractors join the multi-employer plans, which cover workers who move from firm to firm on jobs.

Because of the law and the way it's being interpreted, many contractors would have an incentive to drop out of covering workers, IBEW President Ed Hill says.  And low-road contractors would get an advantage over those who treat their workers right.

Besides the ads, the union published and posted a detailed, footnoted 4-page white paper on the problems facing workers covered by multi-employer plans, asking readers to contact lawmakers about the ACA's problems.

The union's objections are important because Hill, like four other union presidents who have raised concerns, cites President Obama's promise that anyone with present insurance who wants to keep it can do so.

United Food and Commercial Workers President Joe Hansen, Teamsters President James Hoffa and Unite Here President D. Taylor took their concerns public in letters to congressional leaders in mid-July, adding the White House "stonewalled" them.  Until now, Hill privately lobbied lawmakers.  Kinsey Robinson of the Roofers, the first to cite problems facing multi-employer plans, called for ACA's repair or repeal.

"I said three years ago the Affordable Care Act was a major step" in health care coverage "but not the last step," Hill said in a video on IBEW's website.  "That's why IBEW is urging the president and Congress to take steps to ensure the future of multi-employer plans," which cover 26 million workers and retirees. 

IBEW, like the other unions, wants the federal government to change ACA rules so firms participating in multi-employer plans, and workers the plans cover, would be eligible for federal insurance subsidies and tax credits.  IBEW also wants to reduce the no-coverage exemption for businesses, now 50 people, but did not say by how much.

Photo: Ed Hill (center). AFL-CIO/AP

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