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Speaking out for health care reform

Mobilization announced to protest employer cuts in benefits

Press Release May 5, 2003

Boston, MA – A diverse group of union and health advocacy groups spoke out at a Boston kick off event to publicize a statewide Health Care Action Day set for June 5. The event was held in front of Boston Medical Center. Similar events were held in Brockton, Framingham, Hyannis, Lynn, New Bedford, Quincy, and Springfield.

With health care costs spiraling out of control, many employers are demanding that employees pay for some or all of the increases. Employers are also trying to raise co-pays and deductibles to cover the increases and discourage workers from using their health plans.

“If profitable corporations like GE and Verizon can get away with passing costs on to their employees, they have no incentive to begin working for meaningful reforms in the way that health care is paid for and provided,” said Celia Wcislo, president of SEIU Local 285, who chaired the Jobs With Justice event. “Workers who stand up to management on this issue are taking a courageous stand for everyone.”

“Raising our costs won’t solve the problem of huge increases in premiums,” said Joe Montagna, who represents employees at WGBH TV. “Employers need to step up and work with us for real reforms that would allow employers like WGBH to focus on its mission, not gouging us for insurance costs.”

“On June 5, our members are going to wear stickers to put employers and politicians on notice,” said Dick Monks, an organizer in the Longwood Medical Area with the Area Trades Council. “Working people are fed up with paying more – in taxes, fees, co-pays and premiums – while getting less care and fewer services.”

At the same time as employers are trying to cut benefits, massive cuts in both public and private services are affecting the quality of care, especially for those that need it most.

“Give us a break,” said Jerry Hurley, chair of the Massachusetts UAW retirees’ chapter and Mass Senior Action Council board member. “It’s really disturbing to see the Governor of Massachusetts following Congress’s lead. Privatizing prescription health care coverage for seniors will give huge profits to insurance companies and cost tax payers more money.”

“Cuts in health care are hurting both workers and our economy,” Mika Cheng of Health Care for All. “The state legislature must make health care and particularly the Mass Health program a priority. We support finding new revenue to pay for health care for all.”

The participating groups are organizing their members to wear stickers showing support for a political solution to the health care crisis.

“Everybody is so tired of hearing bad news about the economy and government finances,” said Peg O’Malley, the chair of Mass Care and an officer of the Mass Nurses Association. “But we have some good news: with a publicly financed health care plan, we can reduce bureaucratic waste and inefficiency and have enough money to cover everyone.”

“Our current system is hurting many people unnecessarily because they are uninsured,” added long time reform activist Ann Eldridge-Malone, representing the Coalition for Healthy Communities. “We need fair taxes and real democracy to make health care for all a reality.”

“More than ten years ago many of us looked into the problem of how to provide affordable health care for all,” said Vic Bloomberg, of the Boston Democratic Socialists of America. “The answer is simple enough, save money by financing insurance through one agency. The savings would allow us to cover everyone. They do it in Canada; it’s called a “single payer” plan.

More than 40 organizations with a combined membership of over 100,000 have pledged to participate in Health Care Action Day. As the June 5 date nears, even more organizations are expected to join in.

Copies of a background paper about how cuts in employee health benefits and services are fueling a movement for reform are available from Rand Wilson at phone: (617) 989-8039, [email protected]


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