“If you already have health insurance through your job — and because many of you are members of unions, you do — nothing in this plan will require you or your employer to change your coverage or your doctor. Let me repeat: Nothing in this plan will require you to change your coverage or your doctor.” Those were the words spoken by President Obama at the AFL-CIO Convention in Pittsburgh on Sept. 15, 2009.
That one simple statement from President Obama is at the heart of this year’s contract dispute. Unfortunately, it has become increasingly clear, with each passing day, that the President’s statement to labor in 2009 is not a reality for millions of workers.
For decades, UFCW Local 1500 has negotiated high quality, affordable health insurance through our nonprofit Taft-Hartley plan. Our health and welfare benefits are mutually agreed upon between your union Trustees and your employer Trustees and provides benefits to thousands of Local 1500 members.
In addition to being a long-standing and successful plan, our plan has been a model of efficiency, achieving better cost savings than for-profit insurance carriers with medical loss ratios often exceeding 90 percent. That means 90 cents out of every dollar goes to patient care.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) defines a full-time employee as someone working over 30 hours per week. As a result, many employers are either reducing hours below 30 or attempting to discontinue part-time health coverage altogether. This is a cut in pay and benefits workers simply cannot afford. For example, a worker making $10 an hour that has his or her schedule cut by six hours a week would lose $3,120 a year in income. With millions of workers impacted, this will have a devastating effect on our economy.
The ACA also offers a subsidy to lower-income individuals and families so they can afford to purchase this insurance. As many of our members fall into this category, we believe the subsidy can and should apply to nonprofit plans. All we want is equality — where our plans are treated the same as for-profit insurers.
We were all hoping for a legislative fix, but ultimately this is the administration’s responsibility. It’s their signature law. Unfortunately this has not happened and time for a fix is running out as we continue to try to reach an agreement on new collective bargaining agreements. . The increased cost to our healthcare fund, due to these unnecessary mandates, unfair regulations and removing the CAPS, leaves us scrambling to find ways to continue to fund our welfare plans and provide fair wage increases.
We don’t want a handout from Washington D.C. We simply wanted to keep the healthcare we have. We just wanted to be treated fairly.
Regardless of the eventual resolution, be confident that your Local 1500 leadership is working around the clock and fighting on multiple fronts to ensure that you continue to receive the benefits and wages you have earned over the years. We understand that the only thing between you and excessive employer greed is your Union fighting for YOU.