Union Leaders At White House, Hammering Out Health-Care Deal With President

At a meeting with the president, union leaders are believed to be negotiating a tax on their members' benefits out of the health-care bill.

UPDATE: [01-14-10 10:36 am EST] TheWashington Postreports today that in lieu of a carve-out on the excise tax on high-cost health-care plans -- currently part of the Senate version of the health bill -- for plans arrived at by collective bargaining, House and Senate negotiators are looking at raising the threshhold for the tax in the final bill. Translation: Instead of taxing plans that cost in excess of $23,000 for a family, the tax would instead apply to plans that cost more than $25,000. Presumeably, that would exempt most of the plans negotiated by unions for their members through collective bargaining. ThePostreports that the revenue slack would be picked up by maintaining some measure of the House bill's tax on the wealthy, which had been on its way to the trash bin before labor leaders sat down yesterday with White House staff.

Congress Dailyreports (via TPM's Brian Beutler) two powerful House committee chairmen saying that a final deal between the House and Senate could be reached by this weekend.

As I write, union leaders are at the White House, trying to negotiate away that pesky excise tax written into the Senate health-care bill on the high-priced health-care plans many of their members won from employers in lieu of pay raises. they want that gone, gone from the final bill that will be crafted in the House-Senate conference process. Speaking on background, staffers from two significant labor federations confirmed that their bosses are in the room.

The very fact of the meeting suggests that the labor leaders will win some sort of concession. Speculation suggests that the unions may win some sort of deal for plans that were the outcome of labor negotiations, but leave the tax in place on plans conferred on lucky beneficiaries who did not win their deals though collective bargaining. Neither source could confirm that.

Meanwhile, National Public Radio reported this morning that the health-care tax on the wealthiest Americans that is written into the House bill would likely not remain in the final version.


Adele M. Stan is AlterNet's Washington bureau chief.