Vol XIII, Issue 24 TNG/CWA Local 31041 Sept. 26, 2002

Results of Limited Talks:

Guild Members to Vote Wednesday on Health Plan Changes

Membership Meeting
-- Noon --
October 2, 2002

Details below

The Journal has proposed changes in its health insurance offerings for next year, and Guild members will have a chance to vote on the proposal at next Wednesday's quarterly membership meeting.

The company's proposal makes no changes in the health plan used by the vast majority of Guild members, the United Healthcare HMO. But it does increase co-pays in the other two plans and adds a fourth plan. Additionally, the company will now extend health-care coverage to domestic partners, either same sex or opposite sex.

The company has not discussed how much the premiums will increase; however the employee's share will remain 15 percent. The vote on Wednesday will pertain to the plans' structure, not the cost of the premiums.

Perhaps the most significant aspect of the proposal is the fact that the company engaged the Guild in limited negotiations over it, a change from its previous practice of dictating working conditions. These are the positive developments:

• Instead of imposing new health plans without negotiating, as the company did three years ago, this time the company approached the Guild to discuss the changes.

• The company is offering domestic-partner coverage, a benefit the Guild has sought for many years.

The Guild proposed that in exchange for Guild's accepting these plans, the company adopt a new health-care option that the two parties had tentatively agreed to in previous bargaining. The company agreed.

The new option is medical savings accounts, an added benefit through which employees can set aside a certain amount of their wages tax-free each year to use for medical costs not covered by their insurance, such as eyeglasses and doctor's-visit co-pays. These accounts are optional supplements to health insurance that many workers find economical.

The company has agreed that the Guild's approval of the health plans for next year in no way prejudices our case before the National Labor Relations Board concerning the company's imposition of our current benefits.

An administrative law judge ruled this month that the Journal violated the law in January 2000 when it eliminated Blue Cross coverage without offering an equivalent plan, and when it changed UnitedHealthcare coverage and dental coverage without negotiating. The judge ordered the Journal to compensate workers for their losses as a result of these changes, and Wednesday's vote will not affect the ruling nor relieve the company of that obligation.

If members approve the new plans, the company will hold an open enrollment period starting October 7.

If members reject the plans, the company could leave the plans unchanged or negotiate more. If it imposes the plans without further negotiation, it would face the likelihood of another unfair-labor-practice charge.

The Executive Committee recommends approval.

The meeting will be held at noon on Wednesday, Oct. 2, in the Guild office, 270 Westminster St, in Providence.

Here are the details.

UnitedHealthcare HMO. The plan's structure and co-pays will remain unchanged. Premium costs have not been revealed. The vast majority of Guild members with company insurance - 281 - are in this plan.

UnitedHealthcare PPO and Cigna POS. Co-pays for doctor's visits will increase from $15 to $20 ($35 for specialists). Co-pays for drugs will increase from $5 to $7 for generics, from $15 to $20 for preferred nongeneric drugs, and from $25 to $35 for nongeneric drugs that are not on the insurance company's preferred-drug list. Three Guild members are in Cigna and 31 in the UnitedHealthcare PPO.

Drugs by mail. Participants in the mail-order drug option through Merck-Medco will also see co-pay increases: from $10 to $14 for generics, from $30 to $40 for preferred nongeneric drugs, and from $50 to $70 for nongeneric drugs that are not on the preferred-drug list.

The new, fourth plan. Belo is offering a new plan that it is billing as "consumer-driven health care." The plan involves cash payments for routine health care, with high-deductible catastrophic insurance coverage as backup. People who use more than a little health care would face significant out-of-pocket costs in this plan, but those who are confident they won't get sick may find it cheaper than health insurance. It's a gamble, with the employee bearing much of the risk

It works like this: Each year, the company will pay in cash for health care expenses up to a certain amount. For an individual, that will limit will be $900. For an employee plus spouse or employee plus children, the limit will be $1,400. For a family, it will be $1,900. If your medical expenses turn out to be below this limit, you can roll over a portion of the credit into the next year.

But if you have medical expenses beyond what company will pay, you start paying out of pocket. After you have spent a certain amount, your insurance finally kicks in. To be eligible for insurance, individuals must spend $600 of their own money, on top of what the company has paid. Employees with just a spouse or just children will have to spend $900, and those with family coverage have to spent $1,200.

After you've spent your limit, you're covered by insurance, but your costs won't be over. Your insurance will cover 80 percent of the cost of services from providers in its network and 50 percent for providers outside the network.

There are dollar limits on how much you'll have to pay out of pocket in any year. For an individual, it will be $1,400. For an employee with just a spouse or just children, it's $2,100. For families, it's $2,800.

Membership Meeting -- Noon -- Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2002

The Providence Newspaper Guild will hold its quarterly membership meeting Wednesday, October 2, 2002, at Noon at the Guild Office, 270 Westminster St., in Providence. We will attempt to keep the meeting to an hour in length.

Review and Vote on Administrator's Contract: The Executive Committee has moved to retain Timothy Schick when his current contract with PNG expires December 31. In accordance with that decision, the Executive Committee has negotiated a new five-year contract with Schick. Under PNG's bylaws, the Executive Committee's decision must be ratified at a membership meeting and a mail ballot referendum. The Executive Committee has unanimously recommended a "YES" vote.

Vote on Medical Plan Changes: Changes in the Medical plan for 2003 will be voted on. The Executive Committee has recommended a "YES" vote.

The Guild's bylaws require members to have paid dues in full within the past 30 days to attend and vote at membership meetings or vote in union elections. You can pay your dues at the door.

Copyright © 2002 The Providence Newspaper Guild
TNG/CWA Local 31041
270 Westmister St., Providence, Rhode Island 02903
401-421-9466 | Fax: 401-421-9495