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News :: Labor : Social Welfare
Hundreds of telephone workers demonstrate against shifting burden of health care costs to employees
25 May 2008
Telephone employees across Massachusetts spearheaded a day of action on May 22 to protest efforts by Verizon and many other employers to force workers to pay more for their health insurance premiums or increase co-pays and deductibles. Earlier this year, Verizon proposed raising premium costs and out-of pocket medical expenses for employees.

[IBEW and CWA unions, Jobs with Justice join with reform organizations in call for health care for all!]
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"Shifting premium costs and raising co-pays and deductibles for employees is not a solution," said Russ Davis, director of Jobs with Justice. "It won't hold down skyrocketing health care costs or improve the quality of care. It only lets employers avoid their responsibility to work for real solutions."

Workers rallied for meaningful reforms so that working families have secure, affordable health care coverage, even if they get laid-off, change jobs or work part time.

"We need a 'Medicare for All' reform that would improve and expand our national Medicare program to cover everyone and control costs more effectively," said John Horgan, a 26-year Verizon technician and shop steward with IBEW Local 2222. "Medicare's administrative costs are less than 5 percent, while overhead for private, employer-based insurance eats up about 30 percent of health care spending."

Events were held in Boston, Woburn, Braintree, Weymouth, Dedham, Dorchester, Watertown, Andover, Methuen, Lawrence, Lynn, Lowell, Brockton, Taunton, Marlboro, Boylston and Springfield.

The events featured presentations about how best to solve the problem of rising health care costs. Workers held signs and passed out educational leaflets. Throughout the day union members wore stickers on the job calling for "No Cuts in Our Benefits. Let's Fight for Health Care for All!"

In addition to shop stewards and union leaders, speakers from health care reform groups included: Dr. Pat Berger and Ben Day from MassCare; former gubernatorial candidate Grace Ross; Jeff Crosby, North Shore Labor Council; and doctors Cheryl Hamlin and David Himmelstein, both members of Physicians for a National Health Plan.

Fewer workers are covered by employer-sponsored health insurance plans while premium costs and out-of-pocket medical expenses for workers are skyrocketing. The percentage of employers offering health benefits has fallen by 10 percent since 2000. Worker contributions for premiums and out-of-pocket expenses for co-payments, deductibles and co-insurance have more than doubled, rising from an average of $1,320 per year in 2001 to $3,597 in 2008.

Verizon workers in Massachusetts are united in the IBEW and CWA. Jobs with Justice is a workers' rights coalition. Its health care campaign links workers' struggles against insurance cost shifting and cuts in health care services to help build a larger movement for comprehensive reforms. Learn more at www.massjwj.net
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