High Deductibles Force Many to delay treatment, endangering health
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Workers at Cummins’ Rocky Mount Engine Plant in Whitakers, North Carolina, wore “Cummins Workers Want Fairness” stickers last week to protest the company’s high-deductible health plan, as the diesel engine manufacturer held its annual shareholders meeting in Indianapolis on Tuesday, May 8.
Cummins management forced its employees into unaffordable high-deductible health insurance plans in 2010. Most families have a $6,000 annual deductible they must pay out of pocket before they can access their full insurance plan.
Since the company moved workers into high-deductible health insurance:
- The top 5 executives at Cummins were paid $247 million in total compensation;1
- Shareholders have received $3.7 billion2 in dividend payments;3 and
- Cummins has piled up $11.5 billion in net profits, out of $142 billion in revenues.
Employees and families covered under high-deductible health plans face thousands of dollars upfront in medical costs before they can access full insurance. Increasing evidence shows that high-deductible plans are unsafe because their high costs act as barriers to life-saving care.
For example, the New York Times just reported that women with breast cancer delay care when dealing with high deductibles. Cummins employees report that they are forced to skip medications and doctor’s visits because they can’t afford them. Some also end up with huge bills and debt because of the inadequate insurance – and others even put off having children because of the out-of-pocket expense.
Meanwhile, 2017 was another profitable year for the company. And Cummins shareholders and managers stand to benefit handsomely from the massive corporate tax cuts passed by Congress.
Jim Wrenn, President of CAAMWU-UE Local 150, whose members work at the Rocky Mount plant and are affiliated with the United Electrical Workers Union, said, “We want to see Cummins immediately extend to every employee the $1,000 one-time Health Savings Account bonus it gave to those employees earning under $19.23/hour, following the federal tax breaks this past February.
“The employees under $19.23/hr already received an increase in company contribution to their HSA and rightly so. This $1000 bonus to the HSA should go to all Cummins employees. The workers who earn more than $19.23/hr are generally older workers who have more health issues and costs. Cummins’ Health Span deductibles are too high. All Cummins workers need more company contribution into our HSA.
“That is but a first small down-payment towards dealing with the several thousands of dollars we have to pay out-of-pocket before full insurance kicks in at Cummins. It’s time to share the wealth and restore affordable health care for Cummins workers. With its 2017 profits and 2018 tax cuts, Cummins can certainly afford it,” Wrenn added.
More than 3,000 Cummins employees and community members have signed an online petition, joining UE workers at Cummins Rocky Mount Engine Plant and Teamster Union members at Cummins Distribution shops in Fairmont, West Va.; Charleston, West Va.; Nashville, Tenn. and Miami in demanding that Cummins:
(1) increase company contributions to the Health Savings Account to fully cover deductibles;
(2) reduce deductibles and out-of-pocket costs; and
(3) extend to every U.S. Cummins employee the same services and prices made available through the primary care “LiveWell” center, a reduced price primary care and wellness clinic currently only available near the company headquarters.
For the online petition, see: www.coworker.org/p/cumminshealthcare
Cummins Workers & Community Alliance brings together current employees and retirees, their family members and communities to stand up for affordable healthcare and better working conditions at Cummins. It is a collaboration of non-union and union workers belonging to Teamsters, Machinists and the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers.