Latest Solidarity Issue

Obamacare already aiding small businesses, consumers

By Bob King

In a couple of months, Americans will have new options for health care coverage. The health insurance exchanges established by the Affordable Care Act started enrolling individuals on Oct. 1. By providing individuals and small businesses with understandable information, apples-to-apples plan comparisons and a competitive marketplace, the exchanges are having an impact even before they’re formally launched.

As states begin to announce premiums for individual and small group policies for next year, they’re coming in lower than originally expected — nearly 20 percent lower, on average, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. Consumers are benefiting from more transparent prices and tougher oversight of insurance company practices. The requirement that companies spend at least 80 cents of every premium dollar on health care, and not on executive salaries and other overhead expenses, has already resulted in $3.4 billion in savings for consumers.

And something as simple as requiring insurers to publicly justify double-digit rate hikes has led to — are you ready for it? — fewer requests for double-digit rate hikes. That may seem like nothing more than common sense, but common sense is a rare quality in politics these days.

While the new health insurance exchanges are important for those who need individual coverage, most Michigan residents will continue to get their coverage as they do now — through their employers. Despite dire warnings that Obamacare would lead to skyrocketing costs, the average premium for employer-sponsored insurance increased just 3 percent last year. That’s the lowest annual rate hike since the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey started tracking costs in 1996.

At the same time, the benefit improvements that were also part of health care reform are making a difference in the lives of Michigan families. Parents no longer need to worry about their 20-something children being kicked off their employer plan and becoming uninsured; young adults are now covered until age 26. Women no longer need to pay for mammograms; recommended screenings and preventive services are now fully covered, with no out-of-pocket charges. People with devastating injuries and illnesses can no longer exhaust their coverage; lifetime limits are a thing of the past. Seniors in the Medicare prescription drug “doughnut hole” are getting additional help with their drug costs.

All this is what health care reform should be about: not “liberal” or “conservative” talking points, but helping real people in real ways.

Anyone who’s ever had to pay more for insurance because they were female, or were rejected because of a pre-existing condition, knows our old health care system was broken. And anyone who’s ever had their employer cut back on their coverage, or been forced to pick up a larger share of the cost, or accepted lower pay in order to hang on to health benefits, knows it was economically unsustainable and fundamentally flawed.

Bob King is president of the UAW. This opinion piece originally appeared in the Oct. 2, 2013 edition of the Detroit News.

Statement from UAW President Bob King on government shutdown

10/01/13

“Today is a sad day for working Americans and our democracy. Tea Party Republicans continued their extremist ways and shutdown the federal government in an attempt to implement their far, right-wing agenda. Congressional Republicans’ insistence on denying health care coverage to millions of Americans by undermining the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is immoral as well as practically futile. By refusing to fund the government they have ignored the wishes of the American people and have placed millions of jobs and economic recovery in jeopardy.

“House Republicans have done it again. In order to please the far right, they are taking money out of the pockets of working Americans, and costing our nation jobs. Any manufactured crisis that further slows growth and costs jobs is unacceptable. If the right wing in Congress were serious about preventing harm to Americans, they would pass a responsible budget and end sequestration, which is estimated to reduce employment by 900,000 in the next fiscal year. The House should pass a clean, temporary budget and debt limit increase without partisan wrangling, and work with President Obama and the Senate to strengthen our country.

“Along with millions of other workers, the livelihood of many UAW members is now in jeopardy because of this extremism. UAW members perform federally funded research at our nation’s colleges and universities, determine eligibility for social safety net programs, provide legal assistance to victims of domestic violence, build next generation vehicles for our military, and much more. A government shutdown harms all Americans now and in the future. The UAW stands ready to work with all who are serious about strengthening our economy and creating a brighter future.”

Active and retired UAW members join Alliance for Retired Americans this summer in fighting to protect and strengthen Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid

07/29/13

DETROIT - The UAW will join the Alliance for Retired Americans during the weeks of July 29 and August 12 in celebrating Medicaid's 48th anniversary (July 30) and Social Security's 78th anniversary (Aug. 14) by fighting to defend and strengthen these programs and the protections they provide to all Americans.  They have dramatically expanded access to health care and enabled millions of seniors to retire with dignity and out of poverty.  
 
Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are again under attack by right-wing extremists trying to cut benefits and privatize these programs. This fall they will once again try to pressure Congress and the Administration into cutting benefits in the name of deficit reduction.  Medicare and Medicaid programs are highly successful programs and are an efficient means to providing health coverage to retired Americans and the Affordable Care Act strengthens Medicaid in many ways.  The radical House Republican budget proposes privatizing Medicare by creating a voucher system and cutting billions of dollars from Medicaid, which many seniors use as their primary means for paying for nursing homes and long-term care.  These short-sighted proposals would force far too many seniors to choose between paying for health care or other basic necessities like food and shelter.  It is unacceptable to balance the budget on the backs of working families and there are far better ways to address our long-term fiscal problems.
 
The UAW instead supports legislation introduced by Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA).  The legislation, the Medicare Drug Savings Act, is S. 740 in the U.S. Senate and H.R. 1588 in the U.S. House of Representatives. This legislation would save the Medicare program $140 billion by eliminating the loophole that blocks Medicare from negotiating with the pharmaceutical industry for cheaper drugs.

Affordable Care Act could streamline Medicaid system

08/07/12

Crain's Detroit Business is referencing a policy report from the University of Michigan that shows The Affordable Care Act could simplify Medicaid eligibility and extend coverage to around 600,000 Michigan residents.

The paper, from the University of Michigan Center for Healthcare Research and Transformation, says the process for qualifying for Medicaid will be streamlined. At present there are 40 different ways to qualify for government-supported medical assistance in Michigan. With the Affordable Care Act, there will only be three broad categories of eligibility:

  • Pregnant women.
  • Infants and children under 19.
  • Parents and caretakers of dependent children under 19.

 

 

 

UAW statement on House vote to repeal Affordable Care Act

07/11/12

DETROIT – The UAW was deeply disappointed that the House voted today to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The UAW has had a long and proud history of supporting quality health care coverage for all Americans.

“Health care is a fundamental human right to which all Americans are entitled,” said UAW President Bob King. “Repeal of the Affordable Care Act would condemn millions of Americans to live – or die – without health care coverage.”

King added that this House vote once again puts Republicans on record supporting higher insurance rates for women; reopening the Medicare Part D doughnut hole; allowing insurance companies to deny coverage to kids with pre-existing conditions; kicking young adults off their parents' insurance plans; and forcing Americans to pay more out of pocket for mammograms and other preventative health services.
“Fortunately, none of these things will happen because today's House vote was entirely symbolic and has no chance of becoming law. It’s time for Republicans in Congress to stop playing political games and focus on strengthening the middle class and putting Americans back to work,” King said.

“Instead of symbolic votes on health care, the House should vote to create more than two million jobs by immediately passing President Obama’s American Jobs Act,” he said.

“Repeal of the Affordable Care Act would be a step backward, one with devastating consequences for our nation. Instead of repealing the ACA, Congress should be working to expedite its implementation in order to provide health care coverage to the tens of millions of uninsured Americans as swiftly as possible,” King added.