Drew Zahn is a WND news editor who cut his journalist teeth as a member of the award-winning staff of Leadership, Christianity Today's professional journal for church leaders. A former pastor, he is the editor of seven books, including Movie-Based Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching, which sparked his ongoing love affair with film and his weekly WND column, "Popcorn and a (world)view."More ↓Less ↑
Even though they’ll be charged with enforcing its mandates, employees of the Internal Revenue Service are petitioning Congress to be exempted from Obamacare.
The National Treasury Employees Union, which represents employees of the IRS and several other federal agencies, is asking its members to sign letters to Congress objecting to H.R. 1780, a new bill proposed by Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., which would compel federal employees, including the president, Congress and IRS, to participate in the health plans and health insurance exchanges created by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.
“I am very concerned about legislation that has been introduced by Congressman Dave Camp to push federal employees out of the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) and into the insurance exchanges established under the Affordable Care Act,” the form letters state. “The primary purpose of the Affordable Care Act was to provide a marketplace for the sale and purchase of health insurance for those who do not have such coverage – not to take coverage away from employees who already receive it through their employers.”
Yet as thousands of private-sector employees have already experienced, the net effect of Obamacare has been exactly as the union fears: incentivizing employers to drop coverage or cut work hours to avoid spiking health-insurance costs, thus stripping employees of private health-plan options and dropping them into the federal insurance exchanges.
Camp, the lawmaker referred to in the letter and the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, introduced H.R. 1780 in April after rumors top congressional leaders were attempting to exempt themselves and their staff from the exchanges, even though the PPACA specifically requires members of Congress participate in them.
Camp’s bill countered those rumors by requiring not only Congressional members, but also the president, vice president and federal employees join the exchanges as well.
“If the Obamacare exchanges are good enough for the hardworking Americans and small businesses the law claims to help, then they should be good enough for the president, vice president, Congress and federal employees,” said Camp spokeswoman Sarah Swinehart in a statement at the time. “While the majority of Americans oppose this law, we can all agree that it is only fair that our elected officials follow the same rules as everyone else.”
The Treasury employees union, however, doesn’t agree.
“I work hard and am proud of the services that I provide to your constituents every day,” the union-member letter to Congress states. “One of the main benefits I receive as a federal employee is the ability to purchase health insurance coverage through the FEHBP with an employer contribution towards those benefits. Please let me know your views on this legislation. I look forward to hearing back from you.”
As WND has reported, the NTEU isn’t the only major union to have sudden reservations about how Obamacare will be enforced.
James Hoffa of the Teamsters, as well as the presidents of the UFCW and UNITE-HERE, signed an open letter to Congressional Democrats earlier this month demanding Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., “fix” Obamacare before it “destroy[s] the very health and well-being of our members along with millions of other hardworking Americans.”
According to the letter, Obamacare is laced with “perverse incentives” that create “unintended consequences” and “nightmare scenarios.”
The first of the problems, the letter warns, is that employers are incentivized to keep employees’ workload below 30 hours a week, and many businesses are openly cutting worker hours to avoid obligations under Obamacare.
Furthermore, the letter asserts, union members with non-profit insurance plans will not be eligible for insurance subsidies afforded other citizens, yet they’ll still be taxed to pay for them.
“These restrictions will make non-profit plans like ours unsustainable,” the unions lament, “and will undermine the health-care market of viable alternatives to the big health insurance companies.”
“When you and the president sought our support for the Affordable Care Act, you pledged that if we liked the health plans we have now, we could keep them. Sadly, that promise is under threat,” the unions wrote to Reid and Pelosi. “Unless you and the Obama Administration enact an equitable fix, the ACA will shatter not only our hard-earned health benefits, but destroy the foundation of the 40-hour work week that is the backbone of the American middle class.”
The International Brotherhood of Teamsters represents over one million workers in various industries. The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, or UFCW, also represents over one million workers, mostly in the agriculture, health-care and retail food industry. UNITE-HERE is a smaller union of some roughly 265,000 members who work primarily in hotel, laundry, food service and casino gaming industries.
Together with the Service Employees International Union, or SEIU, the three unions form the Change to Win Federation, a coalition of unions originally formed as an alternative to the AFL-CIO.
The SEIU, whose purple-shirted ground troops were so visible during the Obamacare debates, however, did not sign the open letter to congressional Democrats.