Telling Hartford HealthCare Union Members Are Not "Pawns"

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HHC's executives on October 1 announced that its acute care hospitals and behavioral health facilities were no longer part of Anthem's Blue Cross and Blue Shield insurance network. The news followed a breakdown in contract negotiations between the two sides, and meant that thousands of consumers in Connecticut would face higher out-of-pocket costs for medical treatment.
In a letter signed by SEBAC's chief negotiator, union leaders urged HHC Chief Executive Officer Elliot Joseph to stop using their patients as "pawns" in a power grab. They noted that the unusual step of taking sides in this matter was driven by the health network's apparent attempt to gain market share at the expense of the more than 40,000 state employees they represent.
"We cannot allow this network's callous disregard for its patients and their families to stand," said AFT Connecticut President Jan Hochadel, who sits on the SEBAC steering committee. "Not only do we represent thousands of hard-working state employees, but we're also stewards for the healthcare of their families and tens of thousands of retirees, too. They all deserve better," added Hochadel, herself a state employee who previously taught physics at Kaynor Technical High School in Waterbury.
Hochadel and her SEBAC colleagues specifically questioned HHC's refusal of Anthem's offer to pay reimbursements under their previously agreed upon rates, with a commitment to retroactively compensate any increases. Such an agreement could have prevented the escalating disruption of care and spiraling of out-of-pocket costs that the impasse is causing.
Click here for press reporting on the coalition's advocacy to end the standoff.
In addition to our affiliated public employee union members, thousands more across all six of our federation's constituencies have faced higher costs for medical treatment. Across Connecticut, approximately 60,000 Anthem consumers who depend on HHC’s services and facilities have for five weeks been forced to delay their care, endure higher costs, or seek treatment elsewhere.
"This stalemate illustrates why for years we've resisted consolidation in the health industry," said Lisa D'Abrosca, RN, a medical/surgical hospice unit nurse at L+M Hospital in New London. "Concentrating power into fewer networks like Hartford HealthCare or fewer insurers like Anthem puts the squeeze on working people. Until that changes, more disputes like this are inevitable," added D'Abrosca, the president of our affiliated L&M Registered Nurses union and an AFT Connecticut vice president.
D'Abrosca's comments refer to our federation's record of advocating for greater patient and consumer protections in Connecticut's rapidly changing healthcare landscape. Union members have in recent years joined with community organizations and elected leaders to oppose hospital and health network take-overs that threatened reduced access and increased costs.
"This is the kind of stand that makes me 'union proud,'" said Michael Barry, a juvenile probation officer (JPO) at the Rockville Superior Court. "Calling out a major institution like Hartford HealthCare for failing to live up to their moral responsibility demonstrates our shared values. It also shows the wider community that our movement is about more than negotiating fair wages and decent benefits. It shows that we're about fighting for social justice for all," added Barry, AFT Connecticut's vice president for public employees and our Judicial Professional Employees (JPE) union's secretary.
Click here for initial press reporting on the HHC-Anthem dispute.