Union Community Alliance Working to Ensure Access to Health Care
By Bradley Cleveland, San Mateo County Union Community Alliance
Four years after the passage of the Affordable Care Act, health care reform remains a contentious issue. For all its flaws, “ObamaCare” has extended affordable health coverage to millions of people who previously had few, if any, options.
While most union members and their families receive health insurance through work—as do the majority of Americans—there are notable gaps in coverage for both organized and unorganized workers.
While teachers work full time, schools employ many part-timers, from food service workers to classroom aides. Often, these employees cannot afford the health insurance offered at work, or it may only cover the employee, leaving the family uninsured. Part-time workers might qualify for financial assistance through www.CoveredCa.com.
It is not just fast food joints that use “at-will” employees, who have irregular schedules and no set hours. Even the public sector is adding contingent workers to provide short-term or seasonal staffing. While these public employees might receive a union wage, they lack the security of health benefits. The open enrollment period for Covered California’s health plans is November 15 to February 15, 2015, however, seasonal workers, and workers facing other changes in their employment situation and other “special circumstances,” can apply for health insurance outside of the open enrollment period.
San Mateo is an urban county, but it retains a large agricultural sector on coastside. Farm workers and their families face barriers to health coverage. Undocumented immigrants are not eligible for Medi-Cal or Covered California, but they might be eligible for the county’s health program, Access to Care for Everyone, or ACE . Their adult children who’ve applied for legal status under the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program might be eligible for Medi-Cal.
Students at San Mateo’s community colleges do not receive health insurance while in school. ObamaCare not only created state-run health plan marketplaces where individuals and small businesses can compare and purchase affordable insurance, but it changed many of the rules governing private insurance. Most critically, children can remain on their parent’s health plans until the age of 26.
Other health reforms include:
• Health plans cannot deny insurance to an applicant based on a pre-existing medical condition;
• Plans must spend most of our premium dollars on health care, not corporate profits or advertising;
• All plans must offer a package of essential health care services—doctor visits and hospitalization; mental health and substance abuse services; rehabilitation care and prescription drugs; preventive care and chronic disease management; maternity and pediatric care.
The San Mateo Central Labor Council and its non-profit affiliate, the Union Community Alliance, are working with the County to ensure that all workers and their families have access to health care. We are working with local unions to fill gaps in health coverage facing their members. We also want to reach out to unorganized workers—whether they work for a small, local business or a national fast food chain—to help us reach the goal of health care for all
We started our campaign at a job fair organized by Representative Speier’s office. We spoke to over a hundred people at the event, and another half dozen non-profits. We also presented to two dozen students at the TIPP program and about 50 people at the Central Labor Council’s Food Bank. We are reaching out to Latino groups in South County, and are continuing our efforts to reach out to labor unions.
Learn about our campaign, Covered San Mateo—invite us to speak to your union, church, or neighborhood group; and let us help a friend or family member wade through their health care options—by contacting us at: CoveredSanMateo@gmail.com or 650 260 3151.