Pelosi 'optimistic' about fixing some labor worries in Obamacare

MGN Online
Sunday, September 22, 2013 - 8:48am

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi acknowledged deep concerns by major unions about Obamacare in an interview that aired Sunday, but vowed to work on a plan to quell those worries.

"We're working on the issue," she said on CNN's "State of the Union."

Three major labor unions, including the Teamsters, sent a letter to Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid this summer, disparaging Obamacare as a plan that will "destroy the foundation of the 40 hour work week."

At issue is the Affordable Care Act's designation of a full-time employee as someone who works 30 hours per week. The president's health care law will require businesses that employ at least 50 full-time workers to provide health insurance or face a penalty, starting in 2015.

Critics of the provision argue the 30-hour mark for "full-time" employees will cause some businesses to reduce the hours of their workers to fewer than 30. That way, they won't be considered full-time employees and their employers won't be required to offer them health care insurance.

"Numerous employers have begun to cut workers' hours to avoid this obligation, and many of them are doing so openly," Teamsters president James Hoffa wrote in the letter. "The impact is two-fold: fewer hours means less pay while also losing our current health benefits."

Pelosi expressed optimism that a compromise can be worked out, as open enrollment begins October 1 and coverage starts January 1.

"There's just so much the president can do within the law," she said. "But there is some leeway to facilitate, as we are in the Congress, under the exchanges."

"I'm optimistic because there's - we will find a path," she told CNN's chief political correspondent Candy Crowley.

She said those who are using legislative maneuvers to try to delay the law-namely House Republicans-aren't doing so out of good will.

"This isn't a good faith initiative," she said. "This is an excuse to, again, hand it all over to their friends, the insurance companies, or, again, not have a public role in this important initiative."

House Republican leaders are already planning their next approach to put off the implementation of Obamacare: They plan to demand a delay, among other items, in exchange for raising the national debt ceiling in the next couple of months.

President Barack Obama and Senate Democrats insist they will not negotiate on a measure to authorize additional borrowing authority for the Treasury Department, which is projected to run out sometime in October or early November. Obama reiterated his position in a phone call with House Speaker John Boehner on Friday.

Asked in the interview if she would agree to anything that would involve a year-long delay of Obamacare, Pelosi said "Absolutely positively not."

"It's important for people to get the advantages that they will have," she said. "And in order to do that, you enlarge the pool to do it. And we're moving forward to do that."

Pelosi also argued health care costs will go down once the law starts next year.

"Now, has that message gotten out? Obviously not adequately," she said.

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