Information About Your Union
Business Manager's Report
Kim Rickard, Bus. Manager
I recently had the opportunity to attend a conference that focused on the Patient Protection Affordable Care Act better known as "Obama Care". The Laborers International Union of North America sponsored the conference and it was well attended by many Union and Management Trustees, as well as Plan Administrators from many of the Laborersí Health and Welfare funds from around the United States.
The Patient Protection Affordable Care Act (PPACA) was built on the concept to provide all with affordable and accessible health care. This is great, isnít it? Who doesnít want affordable accessible health care? Well as it turns out PPACA is an extremely complicated, cumbersome, law that hardly anyone, experts included, can understand and interpret.
Experts spoke on various portions of the law such as Health Care Exchanges and their date of implementation, essential health benefits, levels of coverage, individual mandate, how multi-employer plans (our plan) meets the individual mandate, and mandated costs imposed to our plans that will help to fund the Health Care Exchanges and medical research programs. Workshops were also conducted daily that encouraged and generated much dialogue from the participants at the conference. Much of the information that we received reflected that there are several unknowns associated with the interpretation of the law when it comes to Multi Employer (Union) health and welfare funds, Presenters agreed that when the act was developed it lacked any consideration to our type of plans.
Laborersí AGC Health and Welfare Trust is in compliance with many requirements of the act such as minimum essential benefits. These benefits have been provided to our participants long before the mandate. An example of this coverage is; ambulatory patient services, emergency services, hospitalization, maternity and newborn care, mental health and substance use disorder services, prescription drugs, rehabilitative services and devices, laboratory services, preventive and wellness services/chronic disease management services, and pediatric services, including oral and vision care. PPACA also requires a minimum coverage of a 60/40 plan which means that 60% of your health claims are paid by the insurance company and 40% of the costs are paid out of pocket. Our plans level of coverage is 80-20 which means that 80% of the reasonable and customary charges of your claims cost is covered by the plan and 20% of the costs are paid out of pocket. Our plan exceeds the level of coverage required by the act and has for several years.
In the 2011 Montana Legislature, a bill to allow the State of Montana to create our own health care exchange was not passed by our representatives. However a bill was passed that prohibited Montana from creating a health care exchange. Due to this Montana is now going to have the federal government run our health care exchange. The Laborersí AGC Health and Welfare Fund along with all other multi-employer (Union ) funds will now be required to pay a fee on behalf of each of our participants to the government to help fund the federal government run exchanges. This is forecasted to have approximately a $180,000 cost to our H&W Trust in 2014. Looks like the plans that have been doing the right thing all along by providing affordable, accessible, above average coverage to our memberships are going to pay again.
Beginning Oct. 1, 2013, individuals in every state will be able to shop for health insurance and compare plans through the Marketplace. Effective date of coverage is set for January 1, 2014 under the health care exchange.
Many questions arose from the conference attendees on how the waiting period for insurance eligibility or lapse of coverage when a memberís hour bank expires effects our members. We learned that this part of the act is subject to further guidance by the feds. Further clarification is needed because multi-employer plans that are maintained through a Collective Bargaining Agreement (Union contract) have unique operating structures and eligibility requirements based on the industry and occupation of the participants. Further comments are being taken by the agencies that oversee this part of the act for review and hopefully this will result in a clear interpretation of this part of the law and how it applies to our members who have hour banks expire.
At the end of the conference a consensus was reached by the attendees that there are far too many unknowns in PPACA. Each of the Local Unions and Trusts need to continually educate our memberships and ourselves on the complexities of the act as it pertains to the members of our local unions and participants in our health and welfare funds.
You can expect to receive information in the upcoming months from the Federal Government, State of Montana, and employers as the implementation date of the mandatory coverage closes in. You will also be receiving information from Laborersí Local #1686 and the Laborers AGC Health and Welfare fund that will be more specific to our plan. So be prepared to be inundated with information. But most importantly take the time to read the information carefully and donít be afraid to ask questions. You can contact me or the Laborersí AGC Health and Welfare Fund with specific questions. I will be expecting your call.
Yours in Solidarity!
God bless you and your families.
1686 Members Join Others in Complaint Against Congressman Rehberg's Stand Against Unemployment Extension
Members of Laborersí Local #1686 and other Labor Representatives visited Congressman Rehbergís office Feb 9th in Helena, Montana. Word has it that Congressman Rehberg IS NOT going to vote for the Unemployment Insurance Benefit Extension. This would affect 10,000 Montanans (many of which are members of Laborersí #1686), and thousands more nationwide. Business Manager Kim Rickard stated that it is a travesty that Rehberg is not listening to his Montana constituents.
Laborers' Local 1686's Business Manager, Kim Rickard (center), joins her members and others outside of Congressman Rehberg's office in Montana recently to protest his position on unemployment benefits.