WASHINGTON (AP) — Low-income workers on union health plans are not eligible for the same federal subsidies available to those who buy insurance in the new state health care marketplaces, the White House said Friday.
The decision is a disappointment for labor unions, coming shortly after top union officials met for more than an hour with President Barack Obama to press their case that subsidies could be extended to union-sponsored plans.
Labor leaders have complained for months that without the subsidies, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) would drive up the cost of some union plans, leading employers to drop coverage and jeopardizing health coverage for millions of union members.
The White House cited a Treasury Department letter saying there is no legal way for union members in multiemployer group health plans to receive subsidies. In a statement, the White House said it would work with unions and encourage them to offer their multiemployer plans “through the marketplace, on an equal footing, to create new, high-quality, affordable options for all Americans.”
That alternative is not ideal for unions. They would have to turn their private plans into public, competitive plans that are open to all workers, not just union members. And they would have to meet a host of complex new requirements under federal and state laws. It would take months to work out the details, and the plans would have to be approved by federal and state regulators before being deemed qualified health plans that could offer health insurance to the public.
The AFL-CIO declined to comment on the White House decision.