From the NALC eActivist Network:
Two U.S. senators have responded to the campaign by NALC and other unions to remove an excise tax on health plans, now in the Senate health care bill, that could negatively affect letter carriers’ health plans later in the next decade. Joined by workers and labor leaders at a press conference, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) announced an amendment to strip the Senate health care bill of the provision which would tax so-called “Cadillac” health plans. NALC is opposed to the 40 percent excise tax on “high-cost” plans, having shown how it could hit the kind of “Chevy” plans used by postal and federal employees and other middle class workers.
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The Sanders amendment would replace the excise tax on health plans with a surtax on the income of a small fraction of the wealthiest Americans, modeled after similar provisions in the House health care bill.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) has also filed an amendment that would affect the health care excise tax. Her amendment would increase the threshold amounts allowed for health plans before they are subject to the tax. While NALC believes the funding mechanisms in the House of Representatives are the fairest ways to fund health care reform, Sen. Gillibrand’s amendment is a step in the right direction.
It’s uncertain at this time whether either of these two amendments will receive a vote on the floor of the Senate. Under Senate rules, no amendment will be accepted without the votes of at least 60 senators. Senate leaders are seeking to include a whole range of changes in a single manager’s amendment with the goal of passing a final bill before the Christmas recess. However, I will write to you and ask you to contact your senators if a vote on either amendment is scheduled.
Meanwhile, the possible use of the Federal Employees Health Benefit Program (FEHBP) as a vehicle to provide non-profit health plan alternatives to the uninsured in the states has been raised. Few details are available at this time and it is too early to know how this proposal would affect us, either positively or negatively. NALC’s legislative team is in constant contact with senate leaders and their aides and will vigorously fight to protect the interests of letter carriers if changes to FEHBP are proposed. We are also working with leaders in the House of Representatives in anticipation of a House-Senate conference on health care legislation.
NALC will continue to monitor the debate and work with our allies in the labor movement to win a health care reform bill that which benefits all Americans and is fair to letter carriers and the middle class.
Fredric V. Rolando