|Dear Health Advocates,|
Swedish-Providence strike begins Tuesday. 8,000 members of SEIU Healthcare 1199NW plan to start a 3-day strike at Swedish-Providence at 7 AM on Tuesday, January 28, since management has refused to meet their core proposals concerning safe staffing and patient safety. Swedish workers are demanding a real voice in maintaining high standards of care for their patients, as well as the pay, benefits, and conditions in the workplace that will recruit and retain caregivers. Community support for the workers is critically important. We all have a stake in their success.
Why a strike? Caregivers at Swedish tell us they have seen drastic changes at Swedish-Providence, which prioritize executive pay, profits, and expansion above the needs of patients. Providence pays its top 15 executives over $41 million, with routine raises and generous benefits. Yet, frontline workers cannot keep up with the rising cost of living.
This historic struggle playing out across the state is the result of our fractured healthcare system. It is symptomatic of why we are fighting for a universal health care system that puts people over profits.
➤ Learn More. Read this report on the attempt by Swedish to intimidate its workers and the $11 million it is spending to hire strike-breakers.
➤ Strike Updates. Things could change quickly. Strike news will be posted and updated at these sites: SEIU Healthcare 1199NW Updates: Webpage, United for Safety at Swedish Campaign, FacebookThe Stand — Monday-Friday newsletter of the WA State Labor Council➤ Support the striking workers. The union has sent this message to allies: Please support the workers by joining the picket lines January 28-30, marching with us on January 29 at 3:30 pm, and donating to the solidarity fund. We have a user-friendly social media kit if you’re able to share on FB, Twitter, etc.
For details on upcoming actions, see this pdf shown below.
Health Care is a Human Right – WA
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The House passed a landmark bill last week, that if passed by the Senate and signed into law by the President, would lower skyrocketing drug prices in this country by authorizing Medicare to negotiate prices on some medications.
“I’m so proud of the work progressive members, backed by grassroots advocates and organizations, did to ensure the Lower Drug Costs Now Act will live up to its name—and provide real relief to American families. Our effort to strengthen this bill is a huge win for the American people, and it shows what progressives can do when we stick together.”Representative Pramila Jayapal WA-7
Here’s a summary of the bill from the Alliance for Retired Americans‘ Press Release shared with us by our HCHR-WA Sponsoring Organization, WA Alliance for Retired Americans:
Bill Requires Medicare to Negotiate Lower Prices and Caps Annual Out of Pocket Spending for Medicare Beneficiaries
Members of the Alliance for Retired Americans are cheering the passage of the landmark “Lower Drug Costs Now Act” in the House of Representatives today. The bill, H.R. 3, will lower skyrocketing drug prices by:
- Requiring Medicare to negotiate drug prices on the 250 highest priced drugs, including insulin
- Making the lower negotiated drug prices available to ALL insured Americans, not just seniors
- Capping annual out of pocket expenses for Medicare beneficiaries at $2,000
- Using the savings to expand Medicare coverage to include hearing, dental and vision
“Americans pay the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs and seniors are bearing the brunt of this burden,” said Richard Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance. “Today 230 members of the House of Representatives stood up to pharmaceutical corporations and said ‘enough is enough.’”
This is a very big deal and there is a lot of great analysis about HR 3:
- Watch: The House Approved H.R. 3, The Pelosi Drug Bill. What Does That Mean?, PBS-Kaiser Health News
- Vox. com political analysis chronicling how Progressives played a major role in shaping the final version of the legislation.
- Learn about Rep. Pramila Jayapal (WA-7) and the Progressive Caucus’ fight to expand the scope of the bill and the concessions they won.
And finally — Well done, Mike Andrews and Robby Stern of PSARA! In its November newsletter, HCHR Sponsoring organization Puget Sound Advocate for Retirement Action published this article on Big Pharma’s campaign to defeat HR 3 in their November newsletter, scooping the story published December 3 by the New York Times about participation by some labor unions in Pharma’s campaign, despite very broad labor support for HR 3.
Whackamole is No Longer Working to Keep Healthcare Affordable
Thank you to all who traveled to Olympia to testify!
Thank you to the HCHR-WA members serving on the Work Group: Dennis Delwo, Lisa Humes-Schulz, Sybill Hyppoilite, Rich Kovar, Bevin McLeod, Kelly Powers, Ronnie Shur, Aren Sparck, Lynette Vehrs, and Sherry Weinberg.
The theme of this second meeting was Problem Identification and Root Causes. The meeting kicked off with remarks from Sue Birch, the Director of Health Care Authority who urged us to weave in coverage, access, eligibility as well as transparency, true costs and potential innovations into our proposals.
I was asked to share my health care story, which you can watch at the 10:37 mark. I spoke to the fact that 40% of Americans cannot afford a $400 emergency1— they don’t have the cash, the savings, nor the credit. With high premiums, deductibles and co-pays — up to $2500 for an individual, and $7500 per year for a family of four on the Exchange– it is a crisis for many Washingtonians.
Whackamole — keeping premiums down only to have co-pays go up over there — is not working any more. My family’s premiums have more than doubled since 2012, the inception of the ACA and the Exchange. My family will be paying over $2300 per month including the cost of our daughter who is attending college out of state. This year, many Exchange plans had minuscule premium increases, but are offering 30% co-pays— even at the Gold and Silver level. So that would mean, roughly, that if it costs about $30,000 to deliver a baby — a family will will have to pay $10,000.
I wish I had used the example of breast cancer. Treatment costs an average of $100,0002 — so that’s $33,000 a patient would be responsible for under these plans. Clearly, this is unsustainable and unaffordable for most Washingtonians whether they have employer insurance or are on the Exchange.
I shared the story of a mom who asked “How can we use money for health insurance that we literally cannot afford to use?
The facilitators presented an ambitious Work Plan for meeting the expectations of the budget proviso by November 2020. The fiscal analysts told us that they plan to analyze two approaches recommended by the Work Group, plus a variation of one of the recommendations.
After reviewing the work plan, we broke into breakout groups to work on defining the health care crisis and its root causes. We were given the following Draft Problem Statement to respond to:
“Universal health care means all Washington residents can access effective and appropriate preventative, curative, rehabilitative, and palliative health services. Currently, not all Washington residents have access to necessary health services. Health outcomes for many Washingtonians are worse, on average than comparative high-income countries, especially for people of color, people with incomes below the poverty level, and those living in certain zip codes. Rising health care costs adversely impact families, small business, and taxpayers.”
Each group was asked to refine the definition. My group suggested editing the problem statement to be: “Universal health care means all Washington residents can access effective, affordable, appropriate ….service delivered in a culturally appropriate manner.
Our group barely scratched the surface of our task. It would have been more efficient to have had time to ponder the statement prior to the meeting. We have asked to meet before the next meeting so that we can keep pace with the schedule.
As a result of the interruption, the online public comment period will be extended until 5 pm on Monday, December 30th.
- From the Executive Summary of the May 2019 Federal Reserve Report:
• Four in 10 adults, if faced with an unexpected expense of $400, would either not be able to cover it….
• Over one-fourth of adults skipped necessary medical care in 2017 due to being unable to afford the cost.
- Comparison of Treatment Costs for Breast Cancer, by Tumor Stage and Type of Service Helen Blumen, MD, MBA, Kathryn Fitch, RN, MEd, and Vincent Polkus, MSEM, MBA
Last week, Rep. Khanna brought together the authors of the three most high-profile Medicare for All cost estimates, as well as a Medicare for All policy expert, for a candid and thoughtful discussion on estimated costs and savings under Medicare for All.
The panel was live streamed on Facebook — the camera is a little rough at first, and be sure to turn up the volume on Facebook and your device.
With historic levels of support in both chambers of Congress, Medicare for All is closer to becoming a reality than ever before. Economists and health policy experts across the political spectrum have made efforts to ascertain exactly what the landscape will look like under a single-payer system with varying results. A constant prediction is hundreds of billions of dollars in administrative savings will occur across the board under a unified system.-
This panel took a look at the assumptions and predictions underlying these estimates, and how subtle differences in implementation can have outsize effects on overall costs.
— Rep. Ro Khanna’s event announcement
Donald Berwick, former head of CMS under President Obama and lead author of the cost estimate underlying Sen. Warren’s Medicare for all plan
Linda Blumberg, economist and Institute Fellow in the Urban Institute’s Health Policy Center and lead author of a recent Medicare for All cost estimate
Robert Pollin, professor of economics and co-director of the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI), UMass Amherst and lead author of a Medicare for All cost estimate
Amirah Sequeira, Lead Legislative Advocate for National Nurses United
The Work Group needs to hear from us! The theme of this second meeting is The Problem and Root Causes. There will also be a very important discussion about the Work Plan for meeting the expectations of the budget proviso by November 2020. Please come to Olympia and speak during the public comment period at the meeting =- or -= watch it on TVW live or recorded (except for the breakout sessions). There will be an online comment period until at least Friday, December 13th. For the agenda and other meeting info, go here.
Mon, Dec. 9 – Universal Health Care Work Group Meeting #2 – Olympia
1-5 PM, Capitol Campus, Legislative Building, Columbia Room 119
416 Sid Snyder Avenue SW
Also available for streaming on TVW, except during the breakout sessions
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Plus news from Enumclaw, Spokane and Tri-Cities
1) For Workers & Patient Safety at Swedish/Providence
We’re asking you to support the nurses and healthcare workers of SEIU Healthcare 1199NW at Swedish Medical Center, who are calling on Swedish to raise standards for patients, workers, and our community. Learn more and sign the petition. Caregivers at Swedish tell us they have seen drastic changes at Swedish-Providence, which prioritize executive pay, profits, and expansion above the needs of patients. Providence pays its top 15 executives over $41 million, with routine raises and generous benefits. Yet, frontline workers have their benefits cut and cannot keep up with the rising cost of living.
UPDATE: And in a a truly historic development, 15,000 unionized health care workers in SEIU Healthcare 1199NW, the WA State Nurses Association and UFCW Local 21 recently voted to authorize strikes at Providence hospitals across the state if they do not reach fair contract agreements.
2) For Neighborcare Health Workers
Hundreds of Neighborcare Health workers, including its medical staff, joined with SEIU Healthcare1199NW a year ago and are now negotiating their first contract. For 50 years, Neighborcare Health has provided primary medical and dental care to low-income, uninsured, and underserved people in Seattle. It is the city’s largest network of community and school-based health centers, serving over 75,000 patients last year. The workers are asking for community support for their efforts to achieve a more collaborative relationship with management in support of Neighborcare’s mission. Learn more and sign the petition. #MovingNeighborcareForward
WSLC’s The Stand also brings us news of other health care labor struggles in Washington state:
St. Elizabeth nurses in Enumclaw to picket, rally Wednesday
Originally Published in the December 2019 issue of The Retiree Advocate, a newsletter of the Puget Sound Advocates for Retirement Action Education Fund.
Click here for a summary of HR 5010 and a FAQ Sheet.
On November 8, Bay Area Rep. Ro Khanna (CA-17) introduced the State Based Universal Health Care Act of 2019 (SBUHC or HR 5010) with 15 original co-sponsors, including our own Pramila Jayapal and Adam Smith. This represents an important step in building the movement for a universal national health plan and Medicare for All.
The SBUHC proposal was first introduced by Congressman Jim McDermott
in 2015, and then by Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal in 2018 – both leading advocates of a universal, publicly funded national health plan. Indeed, Jayapal is now prime sponsor of HR 1384, Medicare for All, and Co-Founder of the Medicare for All Congressional Caucus.
The idea behind SBUHC as a pathway to a national plan starts with the reality that several states (including California and New York) are getting close politically to creating universal health care systems, thanks to years of grass-roots campaigns. But to succeed, states would need control of the federal health care dollars flowing to their states (Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP, TRICARE and Affordable Care Act) as well as the regulatory authority to require participation from large, self-insured employers.
The second basis of the SBUHC initiative is the recognition that while
public and Congressional support for universal health care and Medicare for All are at an all-time high and growing, the health care industry and its Republican and Democratic allies will mount an increasingly aggressive campaign to defeat the idea in Congress. Even with Democrats in control of the White House and both houses of Congress in 2021, it may take more than one election cycle to overcome the opposition to a universal, public national health plan. Passage of SBUHC might well be an easier political lift in DC. But starting at the state level has its own advantages.
Indeed, many of our important national policies first started at the state
level. Think marriage equality, abortion rights, Social Security and much more.
This year the WA State Legislature created a Universal Health Care Work
Group to study how our state could achieve universal and affordable health
care. The Work Group includes representatives of consumers, labor, business, health care providers, community health advocates and legislators. It is to report its recommendations to the Legislature right after the 2020 elections. Now it will have SBUHC to consider as
one pathway to the goal.
Advocates for SBUHC in the health justice movement and in Congress are clear that SBUHC and Medicare for All are parts of a two-track, state-federal strategy. It is time for us to win more co-sponsors from our WA Congressional Delegation for both SBUHC and Medicare for All (HR 1384 and S. 1129), and to persuade our state legislators to support a universal and affordable plan for all Washingtonians. If we make this a winning issue in the 2020 elections, we can make real progress in 2021.