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Washington Examiner: Obamacare leaves unions in a bad spot

Published: February 22, 2013

JOHN Wilhelm was one of the millions of Americans who took President Obama at his word when the then-candidate talked about health care during the 2008 presidential race. He recalled the president's words during a Nevada rally that year.

“I heard him say, ‘If you like your health plan, you can keep it,'” Wilhelm recently told The Wall Street Journal. “If I'm wrong, and the president does not intend to keep his word, I would have severe second thoughts about the law.”

That is a significant issue for Wilhelm, who is the chairman of UNITE HERE Health, the insurance plan for 260,000 service-sector union workers. It is beginning to look like more and more employers will either cut back coverage or drop it altogether as the administration's new health care mandates make those private insurance plans uneconomical.

That leaves the unions — which, remember, were Obama's allies in the getting the bill passed in the first place — in a bad situation. Negotiating with employers over health care coverage is one of the main benefits they provide their members. As one union official told the Journal: “If we're not offering our members insurance and pension, why would you want to be union?” Quite so.

Big Labor's solution to this is to pressure the administration to extend subsidies to the type of health care plans jointly managed by unions and employers. In other words, the unions want the administration literally to pay off unionized companies not to drop their coverage.

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