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UNIONS HAVING CONTRACT NEGOTIATION PROBLEMS BECAUSE OF OBAMACARE

6a00d8341bf7d953ef0192abded29b970d-800wiMAY 27, 2014

Costs associated with the health law are snarling contract negotiations around the country and causing problems for the farm workers union health plan. Meanwhile, the administration announced regulations last week that will make it very expensive for companies to move workers off a company health plan and onto the law's marketplaces.

The Wall Street Journal: New Costs From Health Law Snarl Union Contract Talks
Disputes between unions and employers over paying for

new costs associated with the Affordable Care Act are roiling labor talks nationwide. Unions and employers are tussling over who will pick up the tab for new mandates, such as coverage for dependent children to age 26, as well as future costs, such as a tax on premium health plans starting in 2018. The question is poised to become a significant point of tension as tens of thousands of labor contracts covering millions of workers expire in the next several years , with ACA-related cost increases ranging from 5 percent to 12.5 percent in current talks (Maher and Trottman, 5/26).

Los Angeles Times: Insurance Plan For Farmworkers Falls Short Of Obamacare Rules
Years ago, legendary activist Cesar Chavez helped create the first health insurance plan for farmworkers who toiled for meager wages in California's fields. ... But like many other insurance plans around the country, it doesn't fully meet requirements set by President Obama's health care law. Unless supplemental insurance is purchased, the farmworkers say, 10,700 people could lose coverage. Some Democrats want taxpayers to pick up the $3.2 million tab for the extra insurance so the health care plan can keep operating. But the proposed subsidy has sparked concern about Democrats trying to prop up one union's health care coverage when other insurance plans have also struggled to meet new federal requirements (Megerian, 5/26).

The New York Times: IRS Bars Employers From Dumping Workers Into Health Exchanges
Many employers had thought they could shift health costs to the government by sending their employees to a health insurance exchange with a tax-free contribution of cash to help pay premiums, but the Obama administration has squelched the idea in a new ruling. Such arrangements do not satisfy the health care law, the administration said, and employers may be subject to a tax penalty of $100 a day -- or $36,500 a year -- for each employee who goes into the individual marketplace. The ruling this month, by the Internal Revenue Service, blocks any wholesale move by employers to dump employees into the exchanges (Pear, 5/25).

The New York Times: Insurers Once On The Fence Plan To Join Health Exchanges In ’15
In a sign of the growing potential under the federal health care law, several insurers that have been sitting on the sidelines say they will sell policies on the new exchanges in the coming year, and others plan to expand their offerings to more states. ... In New Hampshire, for example, where Anthem Blue Cross is the only insurer offering individual coverage on the state exchange, two other plans, both from Massachusetts, say they intend to offer policies next year. ... UnitedHealth Group and Cigna, which were notable in their caution about the exchanges last year, are expected to enter more markets this year. In Washington State, United is among four new insurers that have told state regulators they are interested in offering plans in 2015 (Abelson, 5/25).

The Associated Press: Big Insurance Rate Hikes In The Future?
The wild hikes in health insurance rates that blindsided many Americans in recent years may become less frequent because of the health care overhaul. Final rates for 2015 won't be out for months, but early filings from insurers suggest price increases of 10 percent or more. That may sound like a lot, but rates have risen as much as 20 or 30 percent in recent years. The rates that emerge over the next few months for 2015 will carry considerable political weight, since they will come out before Republicans and Democrats settle their fight for Congressional control in next fall's midterm elections. Republicans are vowing to make failures of the law a main theme of their election push, and abnormally high premiums might bolster their argument (Murphy, 5/26).

Kaiser Health News: Too Early To Calculate Success Of ACA Marketplaces
Over $7 billion of taxpayer money went into creating the health law’s insurance marketplaces, and about 8 million people signed up. But some experts say it's actually still too early to declare these markets a success or failure. So, what can we say about what the public is getting for its money? (Whitney, 5/27).

The Washington Post: Health Care Law's Small-Business Exchange Right On Track -- With One Glaring Exception
Six months have passed since the Obama administration announced that the launch of the health care law’s online insurance marketplace for small businesses would be delayed until November, more than a year after its originally scheduled start. So, how is the work coming? Six months from now, can small employers across the country expect to finally sign on to a fully functioning health insurance exchange? So far, the answer seems to be yes -- with an asterisk (Harrison, 5/26).

The Associated Press: Poll: Sign-Ups Rise But Little Love For Health Law
A new Associated Press-GfK poll finds that public opinion continues to run deeply negative on the Affordable Care Act, Obama's signature effort to cover the uninsured. Forty-three percent oppose the law, compared with just 28 percent in support. The pattern illustrates why the health care law remains a favored target for Republicans seeking a Senate majority in the midterm elections (Alonso-Zaldivar and Agriesta, 5/23).

The Washington Post: How Are Obamacare Enrollees Using Their New Coverage?
Athenahealth, which provides electronic health records and online practice management software to doctors, has some interesting perspective on what primary care providers have experienced in the ACA's first few months. Working with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Athenahealth has been analyzing data from the 12,700 doctors in its network. Their data show that proportion of new patient visits actually dropped slightly in the first three months of this year compared to the same period in 2013. Athenahealth offers three possible explanations for this (Millman, 5/23).

This is part of Kaiser Health News' Daily Report - a summary of health policy coverage from more than 300 news organizations. The full summary of the day's news can be found here and you can sign up for e-mail subscriptions to the Daily Report here. In addition, our staff of reporters and correspondents file original stories each day, which you can find on our home page.

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