Our country is split down the middle when it comes to Medicaid. Literally.
25 states and the District of Columbia have elected to expand Medicaid through the Affordable Care Act. That includes states with both Democrats and Republicans in control.
Unfortunately, politicians in 25 states have actively refused to expand Medicaid, even though the federal government would pay for 100 percent of costs through 2016, and never less than 90 percent after that.
The stubbornness of these politicians is leaving 5 million Americans without access to affordable health insurance.
Luckily, the White House and wide variety of activist groups are pursuing the issue in 2014. In Florida, Virginia, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Maine, there are signs that next year’s legislative sessions could offer a path to expanding the program in those states.
In addition, enough voters are waking up to the needless cruelty of blocking Medicaid expansion to make it a viable campaign issue. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, was elected governor in purple Virginia in part by promising to make expansion a priority. 200,000 Virginians would be helped by such an action.
Rep. Mike Michaud, the leading Democratic gubernatorial candidate in Maine, has made an issue out of Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s outright refusal to expand Medicaid. “It’s not just good economics; it’s the morally right thing to do,” Michaud writes on his campaign website.
However, the big win would be in Texas, which has the most uninsured of any state in the country. Nearly 2 million Texans would benefit from expansion, but Gov. Rick Perry refuses to take any action on the issue.
More than 16,000 Texans have signed our petition to Gov. Perry to expand Medicaid. Join them.
Tags: Florida, Health Care, Maine, Medicaid, Mike Michaud, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Paul LePage, Rick Perry, Terry McAuliffe, Virginia
Unionized women workers continue to have “a substantial boost in pay and benefits” compared to their nonunion counterparts, according to a new issue brief.
The brief by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), Women Workers and Unions, finds that:
Unionized women workers, on average, make 12.9 percent more than their nonunion counterparts, are 36.8% more likely to have employer-provided health insurance and 53.4% more likely to have participated in an employer-sponsored retirement plan.
The study also finds that:
- Being in or represented by a union compares with completing college in terms of wages, especially when tuition costs are factored in. All else equal, being in a union raises a woman’s pay as much as a full year of college does;
- For a women worker with a high school degree, being in or represented by a union raises her likelihood of having health insurance or a retirement plan by more than earning a four-year college degree would;
- Women will be a majority of the union workforce in 2023 if current trends continue.
Nicole Woo, co-author of the study, says:
Considering the great boost to pay and benefits that unions bring, it’s important that anyone who cares about the well-being of women workers also care about unions.
The CEPR report comes 50 years after the release of American Women: Report of the President’s Commission on the Status of Women.” On Tuesday, AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Elizabeth Shuler will take part in a Labor Department symposium, 50 Years Later: Women, Work and the Work Ahead, commemorating the anniversary.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: aflcio, Health Care, paycheck fairness, unions, women
We have a lot to be thankful for this year, including (in no particular order):
- Union members who have volunteered their services to strengthen their communities (read more here).
- All the activists—including those in Congress—working for a road map to citizenship for 11 million aspiring Americans.
- Connecticut and the four localities (Portland, Ore.; New York City; Jersey City, N.J.; and SeaTac, Wash.) that now require paid sick days.
- The five states and two localities that have raised the minimum wage this year (California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Montgomery County, Md., [measure passed yesterday, county executive confirms he will sign into law], Prince George’s County, Md., [pending county executive signature] and SeaTac, Wash. [where there may be a recount]).
- The 10 states that have expanded access to the ballot (California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, Virginia and West Virginia).
- The domestic workers, home care providers, carwasheros and taxi workers who have defied the odds to come together to win rights and a voice on the job.
- Walmart, fast food and retail workers who are standing together for living wages.
- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for “going nuclear” on the filibuster.
- Sen. Elizabeth Warren…for being Sen. Elizabeth Warren (and, of course, for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau she pushed to create).
- The U.S. senators who passed ENDA and the Supreme Court justices who overturned the Defense of Marriage Act.
- House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats for their Economic Agenda for Women and Families (now let’s pass it!).
- Social Security, for keeping more than 22 million people a year out of poverty.
- The organizations and media outlets that have exposed dark money and state legislative attacks on workers flowing from ALEC and the Koch brothers.
- Companies that have signed the Bangladesh Fire Safety Accord (missing from the list are the big U.S. retailers like Walmart).
- Companies like Costco that buck the trends, pay a living wage and support workers’ rights.
- Building trades unions’ apprenticeship programs for preparing workers for solid, middle-class careers (read more here).
- Nurses and teachers, who fight every day for patient safety and great schools for all our kids.
- Manufacturing workers, who are creating reasons to bring jobs back to America.
- Writers and dancers, who are bringing justice on the job to their professions.
- Young workers and students, who are demanding a break from crushing student debt and an economy that will work for their generation.
- Collective bargaining agreements and all the benefits of being a union member.
- All the working people, unemployed workers and their families who are the reason for and center of our movement for social and economic justice.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: aflcio, Elizabeth Warren, Harry Reid, Health Care, Jobs, minimum wage, organizing, Rights At Work, Walmart
At your Thanksgiving dinner this year, the new health care law is bound to come up in conversation. You’ll hear a lot of myths about the Affordable Care Act, and Working America wants you to be prepared with the facts.
“Obamacare will make my premiums go up.”
The vast majority of people are expected to pay lower health insurance premiums under the Affordable Care Act, and many will also be eligible for financial assistance. In fact, premiums in some states are higher because of politicians blocking parts of the new law.
Remember before health reform? Even if you had insurance, you were paying a ton out of pocket for services your plan didn’t cover, sometimes even simple services like blood tests. But now that there are rules about what plans have to cover, we’ll all save money in the long run by paying less out of pocket, even if premiums for some folks are higher.
Under Obamacare, overall costs are rising slower than they have in previous years: more people are getting coverage, which means more people are accessing preventive care instead of expensive emergency care, which lowers costs for everyone.
In fact, premiums are higher in some states because of politicians who refuse to implement parts of the law. For example, the average Wisconsinite is paying $1,800 more annually for health care than the average Minnesotan, partly because Minnesota expanded Medicaid and does a better job reviewing their rates. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and other Republican governors have refused to expand Medicaid
“Obama lied about me being able to keep my health care plan under Obamacare.”
The rollout of the Affordable Care Act hasn’t been perfect, but President Obama didn’t lie. Health insurance companies, not any elected official, are responsible for plans being canceled.
Before Obamacare, there were few rules about what health plans had to cover. Millions of Americans had plans that were so shoddy, they ended up paying out of pocket for a lot of their medical costs. Too often, having insurance was a lot like not having insurance.
Under the Affordable Care Act, health insurance plans must cover at least 60% of the total cost of medical services for a standard population. Plans must also cover at least ten essential services, including lab services and hospitalization. Just like how there are rules about selling lead toys, bad meat, and moldy produce, the new law established rules about the quality of health insurance plans. These rules kick in on January 1, 2014.
The problem is that even after the law was passed, insurance companies kept pushing plans that didn’t meet these minimum standards. The insurance companies knew these plans would have to be canceled when the new law kicked in, but they kept selling them anyway.
Given the lack of warning from their insurance company, many customers were shocked to discover that their plans would soon be canceled. What’s worse, many companies are taking advantage of this situation by trying to push those customers onto more expensive plans.
If your plan was canceled, there are solutions. You can purchase insurance on the Health Insurance Marketplace, where you’ll have more options. Depending on your income and the size of your family, you may be eligible for financial assistance that will make coverage even more affordable.
“Obamacare steals from Medicare.”
The Affordable Care Act actually helps Medicare by eliminating waste and inefficiency. Medicare benefits are not affected by the health reform law — but they would be affected if we turned it into a voucher system.
You may have heard someone say “Obamacare takes $716 billion from Medicare.” That’s a lie. That statement has been proven false by Politifact and almost every news organization that has covered the issue.
But where does that number come from? The Affordable Care Act seeks to reduce future Medicare spending, and the savings are estimated at $716 billion over 10 years. The savings come from reducing subsidies to private Medicare Advantage plans (saving taxpayer money!) and from taxes on drug companies, device makers, and insurers. Luckily, those companies will be able to afford those new fees because of all the new customers they’ll get as a result of the law.
So, Medicare benefits will not be affected by Obamacare — but they would be affected by the budgets proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan and passed by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, which replaces Medicare with “vouchers” to use on the private market.
“Obamacare is forcing me to buy health care.”
Let’s face it: everyone will need health care at some point in their lives. Under the new law, you can either purchase health insurance or pay a small fee. Regardless, prices are lower for everyone.
Before Obamacare, many people who could not afford insurance got their medical care from the emergency room. Emergency care is more expensive than preventive care and free of charge for those who use it but cannot afford to pay for services, so when more people wait until an emergency to access care (because they couldn’t see a doctor beforehand) that increases overall health care costs and leads to higher premiums for everyone.
Essentially, Americans were already paying for “universal health care” through the emergency room, which made health care more expensive, less efficient, and more dangerous for patients.
The Affordable Care Act takes that burden off our shoulders by asking every individual to buy insurance — the “individual mandate.” Every American has to have some sort of health insurance or pay a fee; because of subsidies and other assistance having coverage is almost always the easier choice.
“Obamacare isn’t working because the federal government can’t do anything right.”
A bumpy start for a massive and complex law doesn’t mean Obamacare “isn’t’t working.” And Medicaid expansion, which is a program of the federal government, is already helping millions of people under the new law.
Yes, there have been some problems with the federal health exchange, especially the website. By comparison, the expansion of the public Medicaid program — insurance for low-income and disabled Americans — has been going very well. Oregon, for instance, has cut its number of uninsured citizens nearly in half thanks to Medicaid expansion.
Plus, millions of Americans have already been helped by Obamacare’s provisions: allowing kids to stay on their parents’ insurance until 26, scrapping lifetime caps, rebates from insurance companies, and ending to the shameful practice of denying insurance because of preexisting conditions.
Unfortunately, governors and legislators in 24 states are refusing to accept Medicaid expansion, even though it would cost their states almost nothing until 2020. About 5 million Americans who would be eligible for Medicaid can’t access it because of these politicians. The more uninsured, the more people using the emergency room for care, which drives up costs for everyone.
It’s been about 8 weeks since the website was launched, and glitches are being fixed every day. Remember: Social Security and Medicare took several years to get up and running. That doesn’t mean they are failures.
“Obamacare is a government takeover of health care. I don’t want socialized medicine!”
Every plan offered through the Health Insurance Marketplace is offered by a private company. Far from “socialized medicine,” the Affordable Care Act is based on free market ideas.
The government is not in the business of selling insurance. Every plan available on the health exchange is offered by a private company, co-op, or other health related organization.
Obamacare is in fact based on free market principles: that competition between private insurance companies will bring down prices. Some of the central ideas behind Obamacare come from the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, and were first proposed by Republicans in Congress during the 1990’s.
This is very different from a single-payer system like in Canada, where the government pays for all health care costs. It’s also different from the National Health Service in Great Britain, where all doctors are employees of the state.
“We can’t afford Obamacare.”
The Affordable Care Act pays for itself and cuts the federal deficit at the same time.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates the Affordable Care Act will cut the federal budget deficit by a whopping $210 billion dollars by 2021.
How? A combination of fees on insurers and device-makers, ending subsidies to expensive Medicare Advantage plans, and reducing Medicare payments to hospitals and insurers by eliminating waste and fraud.
And you know what else? Like we’ve said, when more people have health insurance and fewer people are using the emergency room for care, that saves money for all of us.
Want to learn more? Sign up for health care tips and info at Working America Health Care.
Tags: Affordable Care Act, Health Care, Medicaid, Medicare, obamacare, Turkey Talk, Working America Health Care
Thanks to a new union contract, dancers in Justin Timberlake’s 20/20 Experience World Tour will be covered by a SAG-AFTRA Touring Agreement where performer earnings count toward pension and health benefits eligibility. The deal also provides touring companies with improved budget flexibility through direct negotiations with performers.
SAG-AFTRA President Ken Howard applauded Timberlake and the SAG-AFTRA dancers who worked to unionize the 20/20 Experience tour.
“This is a wonderful result for SAG-AFTRA members and Justin Timberlake. Justin was very open to signing the agreement and personally making sure the deal got done,” Howard said. “As a leading recording artist and actor, Justin’s support for his fellow SAG-AFTRA members in unionizing his tour was a key element in concluding this agreement. I thank him for taking the lead.”
This is the first time that member performers have successfully organized dancers employed on a specific tour under the SAG-AFTRA Touring Agreement. The agreement was previously utilized to cover touring back-up singers for James Taylor, Reba McEntire, Martina McBride, Blues Traveler, Josh Groban and Jefferson Starship.
Dana Wilson, a dancer for Timberlake, tweeted about the history-making agreement:
Lindsay Richardson, another dancer with Timberlake, posted her thoughts on Instagram:
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: aflcio, dancers, Health Care, pension, Retirement Security, SAG-AFTRA, secure retirement
The health insurance industry is reacting badly to President Obama’s announced health care “fix” — which would allow customers to keep health plans that may not meet minimum standards.
“This decision continues different rules for different policies and threatens to undermine the new market, and may lead to higher premiums and market disruptions in 2014 and beyond,” said Jim Donelon, president of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.
That response lead cartoonist Mark Fiore to ask: when doesn’t the health insurance industry react to an event by raising premiums?
Remember during the health insurance Wild West before health care reform, when premiums were skyrocketing, not to mention loads of people getting dropped from their plans? Remember leading up to the passage of the Affordable Care Act, when premiums rose? That suddenly seems like so long ago. Remember the insurance companies complaining about rising premiums before? Me neither.
Mark Fiore’s cartoon above, “A message from the Health Insurers of America,” is a good reminder that private insurance companies are responsible for high premiums, and that they will take the opportunity to pad their profits more often than not.
Since I am a self-employed cartoonist, I’ve been living in the health insurance wilderness for quite a while. My family’s plan was canceled, like all those other people you’ve heard about lately.
Fiore’s solution? Kicking his old insurance company to the curb and getting a better deal from his state’s new health exchange, California Covered — even more affordable with subsidies.
Since I’m not holding my breath that my insurance provider will “un-cancel” me, let alone offer my previous plan at the same price, off to California Covered I go! Once I’m there, thanks to generous subsidies, my premium will be lower than before. Ah, America!
Do insurance companies deserve all the blame? No sir. You can also lay the burden at the feet of Republican governors and legislators who have refused to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, leaving more than 5 million Americans without access to affordable coverage. That means more people using the emergency room, which means higher overall health care costs, which means — you guessed it — higher premiums for everyone.
If you don’t believe the effect that stubborn governors can have on health care costs, just compare average premiums in Minnesota (Medicaid expanded) and Wisconsin (Gov. Scott Walker refuses Medicaid expansion). Due to the difference in Medicaid eligibility and a better review of rates in Minnesota, the average Wisconsinite is paying $1,800 more than the average Minnesotan.
Tags: Affordable Care Act, Health Care, Medicaid, Minnesota, obamacare, Scott Walker, Wisconsin
At 9:40 am, Monday, November 25th, Working America members and activists will gather at a press conference to urge Ohio State Rep. Rick Perales (R-Beaver Creek) to support a permanent expansion of Medicaid in Ohio. While the Ohio controlling board extended Medicaid through July 2015, legislative action will be needed to make the expansion permanent.
The Medicaid expansion is critical to Ohio’s economic health. It is projected to create approximately 25,000 jobs in Ohio, and would cover approximately 300,000 Ohioans by 2016 if it is extended. Because of the federal money that the expansion draws into the state, it will also save Ohio taxpayers over $1.8 billion.
“Expanding Medicaid is the only policy that makes sense,” said Emma Godsey, a community organizer with Working America. “It will help cover uninsured Ohioans, create jobs and save the state money. Failing to make the expansion permanent is a grave mistake, and it would hurt all of us.”
“My family will be directly affected by Medicaid expansion, and we need to know that we can count on it,” said Shonda Sneed, a Working America member. “Medicaid expansion will help keep my family balanced, and will help us balance the state budget, too.”
WHAT: Press conference urging extension of Medicaid expansion
WHO: Working America organizers, members and allies
WHERE: Beaver Creek City Hall Council Chambers, 1368 Research Drive, Beaver Creek, OH
WHEN: 9:40 am November 25th
Contact: Emma Godsey: 614-376-9272
Tags: Affordable Care Act, Health Care, John Kasich, Medicaid, Ohio, Rick Perales
The photo above comes from the Walmart on Atlantic Boulevard in Canton, Ohio.
The bins aren’t to collect cans for a food pantry somewhere else in the city. They are meant to collect food for Walmart associates themselves.
Here’s some context. The average Walmart sale associate makes $8.81 per hour, according to the independent market research group IBISWorld. That translates into $15,576 a year if the associate works a full-time schedule of 34 hours a week. But that’s actually pegging it quite high, as many associates have highly erratic or meager work schedules that don’t allow them anywhere close to full-time status.
For a three-person household (two parents and a child, for instance), the 2013 federal poverty level is $19,530.
When their paychecks don’t cut it, many associates turn to public assistance to make up the difference. Walmart’s low wages and insufficient scheduling are behind the enormous costs to the taxpayer incurred by each store. One Walmart Supercenter costs taxpayers $900,000 in Medicaid, SNAP, housing assistance, and other forms of public assistance.
But beyond the numbers are the associates themselves, juggling unpredictable schedules and light paychecks, who see the food bins as a sign that the company sees their struggle as the rule, not the exception:
An employee at the Canton store wasn’t feeling that Walmart was looking out for her when she went to her locker more than two weeks ago and discovered the food drive containers. To her, the gesture was proof the company acknowledged many of its employees were struggling, but also proof it was not willing to substantively address their plight.
The employee said she didn’t want to use her name for fear of being fired. In a dozen years working at the company, she had never seen a food drive for employees, which she described as “demoralizing” and “kind of depressing”.
An analysis by Fortune shows that Walmart can afford to give its employees a 50 percent raise without hurting its bottom line. But low wages are only one part of the widespread culture of disrespect, retaliation, and indifference Walmart shows its employees.
More than ever before, associates are standing up to this culture, and we’re standing with them. On November 29, 2013, protests are planned at Walmart stores across the country, and all are welcome to stand in solidarity with associates.
Walmart is the nation’s largest private employer. They have set the standard for an entire generation of business practices. Whether or not we shop there, what they do at their company affects all of us.
Visit BlackFridayProtests.org to find an event near you.
Tags: black friday, Health Care, Medicaid, minimum wage, Ohio, retail, Rights At Work, Walmart
My employer doesn’t offer any health coverage. Is there anything I can do to get the company to start doing so?
— Hoping for Health Insurance, Maryland
Going without health insurance is nerve-wracking, whether or not you have an existing health problem. If you have a job, it’s reasonable to think that means you would have a chance to get a health plan as one benefit. Too many of us, though, are on our own.
Fortunately, the new health care law is going to make it easier to get covered, whether or not your job provides insurance:
- If your employer doesn’t offer health insurance, you’re likely eligible to purchase coverage in the Health Insurance Marketplace. Depending on your family size and household income, you may be eligible to receive financial assistance to help pay for the cost of monthly premiums, as well as copays and deductibles.
- Working America, in partnership with Union Plus, is helping workers connect with quality health insurance coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace, and we’re offering additional exclusive health-related member benefits to workers who enroll through our recommended channels—at no cost to them. To find out more, please visit www.workingamericahealthcare.org.
- Beginning Jan. 1, 2015, an employer mandate goes into effect. This means that large employers who refuse to offer affordable coverage to their employees will be required to pay an annual per-employee penalty. That makes it more likely that companies will offer insurance. In addition, the law gives financial assistance to small businesses to help them provide coverage.
- Of course, it’s important to note that the classic remedy—organizing for better wages and benefits—remains available. You can always try to talk to your co-workers about the need for good health insurance as a benefit, and then, as a group, bring that demand to your boss.
Tags: Affordable Care Act, Dear David, Health Care, maryland, Union Plus, Working America Health Care, workplace
Today, Nov. 12, at 3 p.m. EST, the AFL-CIO invites you to participate in a tweetchat on creating momentum around economic policy for women. Join AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Elizabeth Shuler, National Organization of Women’s (NOW’s) Terry O’Neill, Black Youth Project 100’s (BYP 100’s) Charlene Carruthers and Upworthy’s Laura Willard for a discussion on paid sick days, the minimum wage and other issues important to women in the workplace.
Follow the hashtag #1uwomen to join the conversation and see the list of the participants’ Twitter handles here.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: Health Care, Jobs, Liz Shuler, women