Should Unions Get Special Treatment in Health Reform?
One of the big challenges for health-care reformers who want to see the employer tax exclusion capped is the fact that labor unions, who are generally their allies on health reform, are dead-set against the idea. Now, Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) appears to be floating an unexpected solution: exempt health benefits set as part of an existing collective-bargaining agreement.
I see the short-term appeal of the proposal. It retains most of the revenue and neutralizes an important source of opposition. But it's pretty crass. The benefits won by workers in collective bargaining agreements are no more sacrosanct than the benefits negotiated by an individual worker when he settled on the terms of his job. And it's not hard to see the dangers of the (accurate!) attack that "Democrats want to tax your health benefits -- unless you join a labor union that donates mainly to Democrats." The last thing you want when levying a new tax is to make it look like an unfair new tax, or a new tax that mainly benefits your favored special interests. Like everyone else, union members -- particularly those in the aging industries that offer the best benefits -- have much to gain from health-care reform. It's not crazy to ask them to help pay for it.
June 10, 2009; 2:25 PM ET
Categories: Health Reform , Unions
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