Atomic Council Seeks to Harmonize Health Care Benefits Across Department of Energy Complex

Ensuring consistent access to needed health care resources is a top priority for USW members at DOE cleanup sites, including Hanford and the former gaseous diffusion plants in Paducah, Ky., and Portsmouth, Ohio.

Now, in order to streamline this process and ensure top-quality care for all USW atomic members, USW’s Atomic Energy Workers Council (AEWC) is pursuing a standardized health care plan for all the union’s nuclear cleanup workers across the Department of Energy (DOE) complex.

Pictured: (standing) Jim Key, AEWC president, addresses a health care question to (blue jacket, back to camera) William “Ike” White, acting assistant secretary for Environmental Management, DOE.

Contractors conduct regional health care surveys to determine coverage, comparing the work of nuclear workers to workers in other industries. However, given their exposure to radiation and other toxic substances, atomic workers oftentimes require specialized care after years of exposure.

In order for each local to have the most comprehensive health care plan possible for all USW DOE workers, the Atomic Energy Workers Council began exploring the possibility of a single plan for all DOE sites.

“Harmonizing our health care plans is difficult, but is worth the effort,” said USW International Vice President Roxanne Brown, who oversees the atomic sector. “DOE can be resistant to change, so we will need a long-term game plan.”

Diane Pickle, director of the Steelworkers health and welfare fund, presented one such multi-employer plan at the May 22-23 AEWC meeting in Washington, D.C. She said utilizing the fund could help stabilize health care costs and give the council access to health care data and control over the type of plan desired.

The first step, she said, would be for the locals to share an overview of their current health care plans, including a summary, employer/employee contributions to health spending accounts, description of employee contributions, any surcharges applied to the benefit plan and wellness program awards.

This will allow Pickle to compare the plans and share what she found with the council or a council committee to enable them to map out one health care plan.

Local 689 President Herman Potter asked William (Ike) White, DOE acting assistant secretary for environmental management, about the possibility of having standardized health care for all the USW-represented sites. White said he is generally open to such a plan, and would be happy to have a DOE staffer sit down with the council to discuss it.

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