Delores Huerta, the venerable labor leader and human rights activist, rallied and picketed with striking union Raley’s employees at the Marconi and Watt Ave. store on Friday afternoon. The diminutive Delores marched and chanted in solidarity with United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 8 members. While many of the employees on strike weren’t even born when Ms. Huerta organized the National Farm Workers Association, there was a noticeable reverence for a woman who has blazed so many trails on behalf of workers, women and children.
Retiree health insurance at stake
A major issue in the negotiations between Raley’s and the UFCW Local 8 is retirement health benefits. Medicare is great health insurance for people over 65 or with certain disabilities, but it doesn’t work quite the same as traditional individual or group insurance plans. What many folks don’t realize is that there is no maximum out-of-pocket dollar amount with Medicare like there is with traditional plans.
Medicare, not like traditional health insurance
Medicare Part A, hospital insurance, has an initial $1,156 deductible for each benefit period. A benefit period, beginning when the beneficiary is admitted to the hospital, can reoccur several times a year and be subject to a new deductible each time. Medicare Part B has a modest deductible of $140 per year after which 20% coinsurance applies to most services such as office visits, labs, tests, imaging and out-patient surgery. Similar to Part A, Part B has no maximum dollar amount beyond which the individual is not responsible.
Private, government failure
Many people over 65 years old refuse Medicare and stay in their company sponsored plan in order to get coverage for a spouse or dependent that may not be eligible for health insurance. There is hope that when the Affordable Care Act is fully implemented in 2014 some of these thorny issues will disappear. Regardless, workers striking over health insurance benefits are a testament to the failure of the private insurance market, lack of government regulations and escalating health care costs that prevents an affordable solution from being found at the bargaining table.