GOODIES FOR LABOR TUCKED AWAY IN HEALTH BILL
November 17, 2009
Despite representing only about 7.6 percent of private sector employees, unions are poised to gain significant privileges, authority and financial windfalls from health care reform. Coming at the expense of tax-paying patients and businesses, these specific benefits would do little or nothing to improve our health care system, says Kevin Troutman, chairman of the Healthcare Practice Group of Fisher & Phillips LLP.
- According to research firms, unions are woefully short of funds to pay their retirees' anticipated insurance claims.
- Thus, under the House resolution, union leaders who have mismanaged these plans for their members could receive up to $10 billion in taxpayer-funded bailout money, innocuously referred to as a "reinsurance program."
Unfortunately, this is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg, say Troutman:
- Under the proposed public option, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius would wield tremendous discretionary authority to regulate participating health care workers.
- She and various federal panels, where the unions would have guaranteed seats, would take the lead in recommending health care policy.
- Thus, labor would have considerable influence over decisions affecting most doctors, nurses and patients.
- The House resolution establishes a scenario that would effectively exclude non-union employers from eligibility to work on program-funded contracts.
- It also requires participating health care providers to pay wages and benefits that have been collectively bargained or that union-friendly appointees determine are competitive; this is plainly a move toward coerced unionization.
- With guaranteed seats at the table, unions are poised to control many newly formed oversight posts and/or committees, formed in connection with new employer mandates and cooperative health care associations.
These features all encourage more unionization, explains Troutman. The unions know that under Canada's nationalized system, union membership among all health care workers is 61 percent, compared to just 11 percent in the United States. Increasing membership similarly in this country would swell labor's coffers with as much as another $2 billion in dues.
If our elected representatives are serious about health care reform, they should address the pertinent issues, without slipping in hidden favors for their political supporters, says Troutman.
Source: Kevin Troutman, "Goodies for labor tucked away in health bill," Houston Chronicle, November 13, 2009.
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