Wednesday, October 26, 2022

UFT Health Care--Time to Abandon the Hamster Wheel

A few days ago, I had a column in the NY Daily News expressing support for the NY Health Act. I suggested this as a way to deal with rising health costs not only for the UFT, but for the entire state. New York State is as large as England, and if England can provide health care for all, so can we. Since I wrote that, Emblem/ GHI has raised copays

The UFT's line in the sand has been premium-free health care. I assume that line is shared by our fellow unions, or at least a bunch of them in MLC. While MLC ostensibly represents all city unions, some seem less affected than others. I know NYPD did not love the idea of $50 co-pays at Urgent Care, and was exempted from them. I also know if you choose Pro-Health Urgent Care, it will cost you a hundred bucks these days.

Premium-free is important, because once you get into that, you can never get out. Some municipalities offer raises, but then offer premium raises that render pay raises into nothing. Sometimes the premium raises are more than the pay raises and people end up making less. That said, there are other ways to attack your pocketbook, and increased copays are certainly one of them. 

We are in a mess, and we need more than hopeful words from our leadership. MLC committed to health savings, and these health savings have proved much more elusive than it seems to have imagined. While I was not overly preoccupied with having Emblem/ GHI manage an Advantage program, they're out of the picture, and I don't trust anyone else. In fact, I now have no confidence in MLC's planning ability, and given they couldn't even be bothered recruiting doctors before announcing this program, I don't think they could do it adequately with any company.

In fact, the sponsors of NY Health Act said that they would meet the same health coverage we have. The issues, despite what UFT leadership says, seem to be petty at best and disingenuous at worst:

Labor leaders say that they're hesitant to give up collectively bargained health benefits, even if single payer's architects vow that their healthcare coverage would be just as good under the new law; and they also fear that healthcare for all could reduce the appeal of union membership, since comprehensive health coverage has long been one of the sweetest perks of a union job.

This is absolutely not what we've been hearing from leadership. Furthermore, it's a poor talking point. Those who drop out of union still get health benefits from the city. It behooves us to drop this nonsense and figure out how to get off this hamster wheel. The fees go up, the "premium-free" health care costs more and more, and we desperately seek more and more extreme ways of sidestepping the premium while paying some other way. 

A whole lot of us barely even know what union is anymore. At its core, union is something to better the lives of citizens. We join together so as not to be exploited. We take stands. We don't sit and wait and hope. Every UFT member should read Beaten Down, Worked Up by Steven Greenhouse. Those of us working in schools haven't begun to even contemplate what our union could be and do. Fixing health care for us (and for our brothers and sisters in NY State) would be a monumental accomplishment, and we're not even trying.

As to our immediate issue, there is a whole lot of talk about hospitals raising prices. If the state were to take over, prices would be much simpler. And personally, I wouldn't feel bad at all about losing those parasitic insurance companies. There would certainly be savings by cutting corporate profits to zero. There would be savings for medical offices that didn't need to maneuver between 500 different insurance companies. 

And hey, if you feel like going to some doctor that charges top dollar and doesn't accept NY Health Care, there's always New Jersey. 

You're welcome to it.

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