Elections Analysis: Labor and Health Care

November 6, 2014

pic-HealthCostsThe shift in the Congressional balance of power has the potential to change the dynamic on issues related to the workforce. Most significantly, the President’s health care program—long a political lightning rod—stands to be a crucible for the potential for a more results-oriented Washington.

Though most Republicans have campaigned on a platform of repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA)—Obamacare—even the new Republican majorities are insufficient to override a veto of such repeal. So, the real potential for change over the next two years will be in areas where the law could be modified or improved.

Two key areas seem ripe for consideration for a bipartisan deal to improve the law. First, ending the medical device tax has substantial support in both parties. The tax was only included as a revenue source to fund the law’s coverage subsidies, and the tax has had a significant effect on a key growth sector of the economy. Second, the coverage mandate on employers creates significant administrative burdens and uncertainties for employers while doing very little to increase the availability of insurance to workers. Changing or eliminating these two provisions—and potentially others—could give Republicans and businesses a big victory short of outright repeal.

On the legislative front, two issues have taken up most of the labor-related debate recently, immigration and an increase in the minimum wage. The election results don’t appear to make action on either of these issues more likely, though they are unlikely to go away as part of the conversation.

There are a number of key issues that NSBA has been working on that are coming out of the agencies and where a change in Congress will not have a direct effect. These include:

  • Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) rules on criminal background screening for employment
  • National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) rules on labor elections, advice rules, union rights, and joint employer standards
  • Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) rules on union role in inspections

While these and other agency actions are independent of Congress, the election results seem likely to guard against “regulatory overreach.” If the agencies are seen as being over-bearing or unreasonable, the Congress could step in to override a rule or alter the underlying statue being interpreted.

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