At a national meeting of single payer activists in Chicago on October 30th, United Steelworkers (USW) International Vice President Tom Conway highlighted the problems confronting unions under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
Conway termed the current healthcare system in the U.S. “dysfunctional” and said, “This country can’t sustain this kind of … system much longer.”
Saying “the ACA for us has not been helpful at all,” Conway drew attention to two ongoing lockouts of USW members which he said are “all about healthcare.” In Texas 450 USW members have been locked out for more than a year at Sherwin Alumina in Gregory. The company no longer wants to pay for a Medicare supplement plan for retirees and wants the new hires to accept a consumer-driven health plan.
At Allegheny Technologies Inc. 2,300 steelworkers in six states have been locked out for several months. ATI wants 300% increases in health care premiums and no retiree coverage. “It’s just a brutal place out there in the health care world,” he said. Earlier on the same day, Conway spoke at a boisterous rally of over 300 people outside the headquarters of Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Illinois. He termed the more than 20 cents of each premium dollar that private insurance companies pocket for profit and other non-medical care items “blood money.”
The rally was energized by the more than 100 medical students in Chicago to participate in the annual meeting of Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP).