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Politifact Says (Lies) Limbaugh Wrong On Unions

From the Tampa Bay Times’ ‘fact check’ site, Politifact:

Rush Limbaugh’s errant attack on grandfathered union health plans

November 5, 2013

"If your plan is the result of collective bargaining, no subsequent changes by anybody — insurance companies, Obamacare — can force your grandfathered policy to change." – Rush Limbaugh on Wednesday, October 30th, 2013 in comments on his radio show.

Mostly False

President Barack Obama made sure his union pals got special treatment in the health care law, says conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh.

How? Their health insurance plans are locked in, completely immune to new rules set forth by the Affordable Care Act, he said, noting that everyday Americans being hit with cancellation notices from their insurers don’t get the same courtesy.

"If your plan is the result of collective bargaining, no subsequent changes by anybody — insurance companies, Obamacare — can force your grandfathered policy to change," Limbaugh said about the union carve-out on his show Oct. 30.

"So, in other words, union insurers can amend their coverage. Your insurance company can’t," Limbaugh continued. "Well, your insurance company can, but you lose your grandfathered status when they do. Unions don’t because they’re covered under an amendment made pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement."

What part of this is not true? Any changes made on union insurance policies that are in effect during the term of a labor contract will not cause that plan to lose its grandfather status.

Limbaugh’s commentary leans on a Human Events column by Betsy McCaughey, the former New York lieutenant governor who once claimed that "Obamacare will question your sex life."

Which is also true. But there is a lot more support for this than one column from Ms. McCaughy. (See below.)

We contacted several experts of the health care law, as well as unions, and they agreed: The law does contain a special rule for some union-negotiated health plans, but it’s not a permanent guarantee of grandfather status…

The same section of the Affordable Care Act that talks about grandfathered policies also talks about plans agreed to through collective bargaining (section 1251 (d) on page 56).

The lawmakers who wrote this provision were not thinking of those of us without law degrees when they wrote it, so here’s the PunditFact [sic] translation: Workers whose health benefits are provided through an insurance company and were included in a collective bargaining agreement ratified before March 23, 2010, can keep their plan no matter the changes — but not for long.

Ten years is not long? When non-union plans can get cancelled every three months?

The plan is only automatically grandfathered until the termination date of the agreement.

So they do receive different treatment, but only until the agreement expires. After that, the plan must meet the same requirements of all other grandfathered plans…

Where did Limbaugh say otherwise? And again, labor contracts can be for years. But if a non-union insurance plan changes one iota, it is automatically kicked off the grandfather list.

In other words, union plans could lose their grandfathered status once the agreement expires if they reduce benefits in ways that are at odds with the health care law, just like all other grandfathered plans, said Randy G. DeFrehn, National Coordinating Committee for Multiemployer Plans executive director.

"The statement that collectively bargained plans cannot lose their grandfather status is not correct," he said.

Fortunately, Mr. Limbaugh never said that.

Experts told us most union agreements last between three to five years, which means most of those plans are already being treated like other grandfathered plans because the agreements that were in place before the health care law passed have expired…

Many union agreements are for longer than three to five years. From USA Today, July 25, 2010: "NFL, players announce new 10-year labor agreement."

Meanwhile, insurance plans get tweaked every three months. So there is quite a difference between being dropped after three months and after five years.

The law says these plans can be adjusted to comply with the Affordable Care Act without breaking the union agreement.

Our ruling

Limbaugh takes a point about real language inserted in the health care law for some union-negotiated health care plans and twists the truth.

These plans are only grandfathered for as long as the collective bargaining agreement lasts. After the agreement expires, and some already have, those plans are held to the same standards as all other grandfathered plans.

Limbaugh’s suggestion that "no subsequent changes by anybody" can change the union plans goes too far. On top of that, union-negotiated self-insured plans (which make up more than half of all union plans) are treated no differently than regular employer plans.

We rate Limbaugh’s claim Mostly False.

Well, we rate this ‘fact check’ as entirely false. Since it is.

Anyway, here is more documentation of this carve out, from a 2010 article published by SHRM, the Society for Human Resource Management which calls itself "the world’s largest association devoted to human resource management."

Special ‘Grandfathered’ Rules for Collectively Bargained Plans


Long-awaited guidance defining what is a “grandfathered health plan” under health care reform was issued in the form of interim final rules by the U.S. departments of the Treasury, Labor, and Health and Human Services and published in the Federal Register on June 17, 2010.

The regulations carve out a broader exemption from many of the new health care reform mandates and restrictions for insured health care plans subject to collective bargaining agreements, so long as these plans existed when the health care reform law was enacted. The regulatory provisions that relate to these union-negotiated plans are described below:

• Insured health plan coverage maintained under one or more collective bargaining agreements between employee representatives and one or more employers—and ratified before the grandfather date (March 23, 2010)—is considered to be grandfathered at least until the date of termination (the “termination date”) of the final collective bargaining agreement relating to the coverage that was in effect on the grandfather date.

A coverage amendment made to conform to a requirement added by the health care reform law is not treated as a termination of the collective bargaining agreement.

• Unlike the normal grandfathering rules that apply to other group health plans, changing the insurance issuer during the period of a collective bargaining agreement will not cause an insured union-negotiated health plan to lose its grandfathered status.

After the termination date, the coverage remains grandfathered until it loses that status under one of the triggering situations that apply to nonunion group health plans, as described in the regulations. The determination of grandfathered status will be made by considering changes to the terms of the coverage since the grandfather date. Therefore, changes made during the period of a collective bargaining agreement could cause the plan to lose grandfathered status immediately on the termination date.

Which is what Mr. Limbaugh said.

This article was posted by Steve on Tuesday, November 5th, 2013. Comments are currently closed.

3 Responses to “Politifact Says (Lies) Limbaugh Wrong On Unions”

  1. GetBackJack says:

    Join a Union, or die.

    This is the message of ObamaCare. Because in the end, only Unions will have affordable Health Care Plans.

  2. canary says:

    Consider the sources when Politifact let’s Katie Sanders write anything about Obama Care or politics for that matter. She should stick to her more minor health issues such how to wear clip on earrings and where dresses for brunch that will allow you to pig out.

  3. mr_bill says:

    Politifact is doing what it accuses Limbaugh of doing. They twist his statement, then declare it to be untrue based on their distortion. He said exactly what the “law of the land” says: there are two different sets of rules, one for us non-union pleebs and one for the favored classes of union members.

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