Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Healthcare Reform Bill "Compromises"

Hi All,

I'm sorry, but to me these health care reform bill "compromises", offered as a panacea to labor by the White House, look to me like putting a band-aid on a sucking chest wound.

The "exchanges" look a lot like yet another unfunded federal mandate laid on the states, which will result in 50 different approaches ranging from great options to no option at all.

The New York Times reported that "Union officials seem pretty sure that collective bargaining units of all sizes will be included in the exchanges in 2017." I may be cynical but "pretty sure" is a hell of a weak hook to try to hang your hat on with an issue this important.

* State & municipal employees, including those not in unions, are part of the collective bargaining exemption until 2018 Okay, what happens in 2018?

* Thresholds for the excise tax are raised for both individuals and families. Thresholds went up $400 for individuals and $1,000 for families, not much to cheer about here. It would be better to have the tax be based on overall compensation, say tax benefits for those who earn over $200,000 per year.

* Dental & Vision plans do not count towards the excise tax threshold after 2015. That basically saves every American from losing their dental & vision coverage from their employer, as this is likely where companies would have first looked to save money on the coverage. Again, this is true for everyone, not just union members. Okay, but, vision and dental are insurance extras that are not very large components of medical plans and many employers don't even include them, yet another band-aid in my opinion.

*"Starting in 2017, employees covered by collective bargaining agreements at all levels will be able to participate in the exchanges." That's all well and good, but if the burden for setting up and running the exchanges is put on the states this will create chaos, with 50 different deals.

We need to take a much harder line here. We need a well defined, national public option if there is going to be a tax on employer plans. Otherwise, all we've done is shifted much of the financial liability for health care from corporate employers to working Americans.

If we don't hold our Democratic Party leaders' feet to the fire on the health care bill and follow up with a hard line on labor law reform, including making sure EFCA is passed asap, we will be dealing with a lot more Republicans after the next election.

Bob D

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