|The News Line: Feature
Thursday, 9 March 2017
Republican plan to cut health benefits for millions warns AFL-CIO!
REPUBLICAN leaders in Congress are working on plans to cut health benefits for tens of millions of people, warned the AFL-CIO trade union federation.
It said on Tuesday: ‘The harms from these cuts are likely to have the biggest impact on women, both for their own health benefits and as they try to manage health care for their families. Every major source of health coverage is now at risk under the Republican health plans
‘This includes individual coverage bought through the Affordable Care Act (ACA), workplace health plans, Medicaid benefits for people struggling to make ends meet, and Medicare for seniors and people with disabilities.
‘The ACA included important changes in the law requiring women to be treated fairly. Repealing the ACA outright, as Republican leaders say they want to do, could mean going back to the days when insurance companies could legally discriminate against women by charging them higher monthly premiums for individual coverage than men.
‘Repeal also could mean getting rid of protections requiring individual policies to cover pregnancy and pay for preventive services, like women’s well visits and birth control. Republican leaders also are intent on slashing Medicaid by more than a half trillion dollars over ten years, which will take health coverage away from millions of people and cut benefits for many others.
‘This government health programme for people struggling to make ends meet pays for one-half of all childbirths in the United States. It also covers the bill for more than three-in-five nursing home residents – a group made up disproportionately of older women who otherwise might have nowhere to go.
‘The fallout for women does not stop there. Women already are much more likely than men to be the ones navigating our complicated health care system for their families and dealing directly with its high costs. Women make about 80% of their family health care decisions, like deciding on the right care and how to pay for it. They also are far more likely than men to be care-givers, including for older adults, such as parents or spouses.
‘When the Republican health care cuts come, women are likely to have to deal with the consequences in their daily lives. When they can no longer afford a private insurance policy or they get dropped from Medicaid, women likely will be the ones struggling to figure out how to get and pay for the care needed by a small child with an ear infection.
‘When Medicaid support is cut for seniors who need help so they can stay in their homes or who need to go to a nursing home, women are likely to be the family members who are figuring out how to care for an elderly parent with dementia. When family paychecks are smaller or health benefits are cut back because Republicans have taxed workplace health plans, women are likely to be the ones at the doctor’s office figuring out how to pay the family health care bill. Yes, women will be hit harder by the Republican health care cuts.’
• Resolve was strong and voices were loud Monday as unionised nurses and medical technicians manned the picket line outside Delaware County Memorial Hospital (DCMH), Philadelphia, for a second and final day. They are continuing to man picket lines through to Friday as they are locked out until then.
‘What do we want? Safe staffing. What does it do? Saves lives,’ was one of the chants that could be heard along Lansdowne Avenue, between Keystone and Huey avenues in Drexel Hill, drawing beeps and waves from passing motorists.
The strike by members of the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses & Allied Professionals union began at 6:45am on Sunday after being unable to reach an agreement with the hospital’s owner, California-based Prospect Medical Holdings Inc.
The union represents 370 registered nurses and technical employees at the Upper Darby facility.
Protesters like Winsome Josephs, RN, BSN, an East Lansdowne resident employed at DCMH for the last 12 years, also carried signs with messages that read, ‘Patients before Profits,’ ‘Respect Nurses’, and ‘Stop Abusive Scheduling Practices.’
Formerly employed in banking and telemarketing, Winsome, 52, graduated from Delaware County Community College School of Nursing in 2004, a path inspired by her father’s illness. She later received a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Immaculata University.
She said: ‘I became a nurse because I am a caring person. It’s my last career. I do love it. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t.’ Winsome said that the strike was about upholding commitments to safety standards, and efficiency.
It’s a concern when she’s only one of two nurses on a surgical oncology unit caring for as many as 14 patients in a shift, she said. By her standards, 14 patients require a minimum of three nurses. She pointed out: ‘Prior to Prospect, that was the norm.’ Though there have been shifts when she’s one of three starting out a shift, ‘We know we are getting more patients.’
Union leaders said Prospect walked away from the bargaining table over staffing levels.
Negotiations for a first contract between Prospect and PASNAP have been ongoing for a year, with over 22 meetings, according to the hospital.
Prospect is a property of Leonard Green & Partners, a multi-billion-dollar private equity hedge fund that owns and operates 18 hospitals and more than 40 clinics and outpatient centres in California, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Texas and Pennsylvania.
The for-profit Prospect acquired the not-for-profit Crozer-Keystone Health System – DCMH is one of its five facilities – in July 2016. ‘This is not in our nature to be standing on a picket line,’ said Colleen Spaventa, RN, BSN, of Haverford. A nurse for 32 years who started at Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital. She’s been at DCMH for 13 years. She is also certified in obstetrics. ‘It’s in the DNA,’ she said, referring to a long line of nurses in the family including her mother and sister.
The strike was called for two days, but nurses will be out of the building for five. The remaining three days are because Crozer-Keystone officials say the agencies they use to hire temporary replacements require five days of work. A similar scenario played out at Crozer-Chester Medical Centre in 2015. Talks being coordinated through a federal mediator are expected to resume on March 14.
Earlier in the day, chief negotiator and PASNAP Executive Director Bill Cruice said a session previously scheduled for Thursday morning was cancelled by the hospital. He said: ‘It reflects their overall stubbornness to these negotiations. Cruice added that he expected that discussions would resume ‘soon’ after nurses returned to work on Friday.
As replacements continue to perform union work through Thursday, Cruice said union members will continue to picket during the lockout. He said that the staffing issue at DCMH is a scenario that’s been played out at every hospital in the country acquired by Prospect. Promises made by Prospect to invest were broken, and all the union has seen are staffing changes that put patient care at risk, he added.
He cited two specific scenarios at DCMH: One nurse to seven patients on a cancer floor, where there used to five patients; and a charge nurse in cardiac intensive care whose traditional lone role was to serve as coordinator for patients, nurses and physicians with no patient load, but who now cares for patients.
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