Ensuring Affordable and Accessible Health Care

The labor movement has always fought for affordable healthcare for workers and their families, both through collective bargaining and legislatively.

But even with our ability to bargain, union members far too often must relinquish raises to sustain decent health insurance.

In fact, in a membership survey earlier this year, USW members and retirees rated “affordable healthcare and prescription drugs” as their top issue.

We know from bargaining outcomes that copays and deductibles are too high; prescription drugs cost too much; and some members, like too many Americans, avoid going to the doctor because they can’t afford it – even with insurance coverage.

We Are Fighting for Health Care During the Pandemic

In the wake of the coronavirus crisis, the U.S. has seen over 22 million people file for unemployment insurance - tens of thousands of Steelworkers and their family members included.

With health insurance tied to the employment of 55 percent of the American workforce, many newly unemployed and furloughed workers are being offered COBRA insurance coverage by their employers. However, the prohibitively high cost to maintain COBRA benefits is a significant financial burden for workers trying to preserve their vital healthcare coverage.

The Worker Health Coverage Protection Act (H.R. 6514),a piece of legislation the USW is actively supporting, would provide 100 percent federal financing to cover the full cost of COBRA premiums owed by workers who have lost their jobs, who are furloughed, or who have had their hours reduced as a result of the coronavirus crisis.

Advocacy on Healthcare Over the Last Few Years Has Focused on Affordability

Repealing the Cadillac Tax

The legislation, which passed with bipartisan support, repeals a 40 percent excise tax on certain employer-sponsored health insurance plans. Many employers were using this tax as a reason to push higher costs onto employees.

Our union fought for years to have the tax repealed.

Protecting Families from Surprise Medical Bills

These are charges that occur when a patient receives care from an out-of-network provider in a situation where they are unable to choose other providers, such as emergency care or urgent medical transport.

Recent studies show that these surprise bills are common; many families experience substantial debt and even bankruptcy as a result of unreasonable charges for medical services. Our union has been advocating strongly for a legislative fix to this issue.

Working to Keep Prescription Drugs Affordable

The PRICED Act addresses healthcare costs and prescription drug prices by eliminating price gouging opportunities for “Big Pharma”.

This legislation helps control the number one issue impacting our bargaining success – rising healthcare costs. Controlling the period of time that a pharmaceutical company can exclusively market new drugs, this will also save Medicare and the taxpayers $7 billion over 10 years.

Keeping Healthcare Affordable for Retirees

The Health Coverage Tax Credit (HCTC) is a 72.5 percent credit for qualified displaced workers in the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program and those receiving benefits through the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation (PBGC).

The most expensive time for health benefits is between ages 55-64 before those close to retirement or in retirement qualify for Medicare.

The credit almost expired last year but through advocacy by the USW Rapid Response and the USW Legislative & Policy department, we successfully maintained this benefit for another year.

Protecting the Affordable Healthcare Act (ACA)

The enactment of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2010 marked a key moment in expanding health care in America.

While we’ve worked to perfect the bill in that time, others have repeatedly tried to repeal it in its entirety, gutting protections for USW members and retirees, and wreaking havoc on the healthcare of millions of American families.

The Administration is currently arguing for the law to be overturned at the Supreme Court. This case will be heard shortly after the election.

This would mean:

Whether it’s being able to keep our college aged children on our coverage, not having a lifetime cap on coverage, or worrying about how a pre-existing condition could affect coverage and affordability in the future –we know that there is much at stake should the ACA is overturned by the Supreme Court in November.

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