by Ali Fuhrman
Local 2822 fought to the end to keep our healthcare costs low. We won a lot for our members thanks to your help with our union actions. On September 19, Hennepin County Commissioners voted to increase premiums by 27%. They also added a $300 deductible for singles and a $600 deductible for families.
We won huge gains even though we’ll pay more in premiums. Here’s what your union won for you:
- The county will pay a greater percentage of our premiums than in the past. While our costs went up, the county’s costs went up much more than ours.
- The county gave up on their plan to make us pay $13 million through higher deductibles and copays.
- We won’t have to pay copays for office visits and prescriptions until we’ve paid the full $300 or $600 deductible.
- There will be no copays for workers who earn 3000 wellness points.
- The county agreed to give us 1000 points toward the wellness incentive.
- The county will give money to workers formerly on the HCMC/NorthPoint plan. Singles will get $300 and families will get $500 on an FSA card.
We sent a letter to county commissioners on September 7, calling on them to pledge to vote no on any measure to increase healthcare costs to workers in 2024. Commissioner Jeffrey Lunde was the only one to side with workers and vote no. Commissioner Marion Greene was absent and did not vote. All the other commissioners voted yes.
We commend Commissioner Lunde for listening to workers and standing with us on this important vote. We were at the commissioner meeting. There was no public comment at this meeting but we stood outside the glass chambers chanting:
“What do we want? No healthcare increases! When do we want it? Now!”
“Hennepin County, what do you say? You’ve got the money! You should pay!”
“Hey-hey, ho-ho, UMR has got to go!”
Right after the vote, County Administrator David Hough started the county’s spin campaign. He sent an email minimizing the increase. He blamed nationwide healthcare trends.
In the email he states premiums will go up $3 to $40 per paycheck. David Hough makes well over $200,000 a year. A $40 increase per paycheck and a $600 deductible won’t mean much to someone like him. But if we look at the premium increases approved by the commissioners, Hough’s numbers are wrong. The increases are actually $4 per paycheck for singles and $57 for families. Over a year that’s a $1482 increase for families in premiums alone! Add in the $600 deductible and it’s an increase of over $2000 a year. That’s half a month’s income! Health insurance will now cost a family roughly $5000 per year. That’s 10% or more of their annual income!
Anyone who has dependents on their plan will have all their 2.5% cost-of-living increase for 2024 eaten up by healthcare increases. It’s getting more and more expensive to work for Hennepin County!
Healthcare costs may be increasing across the country but so are county coffers. Hennepin County has $1.2 billion in reserves. In their meeting commissioners also voted to increase property taxes up to 6% in 2024. To justify the “max tax levy,” they cited employee wages and increasing insurance costs. If that were true, why wouldn’t they use the $1.2 billion they already have instead of charging us and Hennepin County residents more? Why is the county taking so much money away from taxpayers and employees?
The fight isn’t over. We have a lot to be proud of. Besides our big gains for our members, our class-action grievance will be heard in October. And the Public Employee Relations Board is reviewing our unfair labor practice (ULP) complaint over the county’s contract with UMR.
Our weekly actions at the commissioner meetings, testimony during public comment, and the thousands of calls, emails, and Teams messages to commissioners forced them to make concessions. We won a lot thanks to your help.
Next year we need to fight in contract negotiations to have all healthcare costs explicitly written in the contract. Right now we only have the percentage of the premium that workers will pay in the contract. It’s in article 22 of our contract. The actual dollar amount, deductibles, out-of-pocket maximums, and copays are not in the contract. They can be changed every year.
We’ll need a credible strike threat to change the insurance language in our contract.
We can do it! We gotta make waves to make change!