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  Public Employee Press

PEP May 2006
Table of Contents
  La Voz

Public Employee Press

The World of Work

Union backing for universal health care grows

Union support for universal health care is picking up while the Bush administration is peddling a bogus plan that won’t control rising medical costs or help the 45 million people without coverage significantly, if at all.

Bush’s proposed health savings accounts would likely cost consumers more and provide less health care. The private accounts would let employers stop providing health insurance, make individuals manage their own coverage, and act as tax shelters for the wealthy.

It’s a virtual certainty that the Republican-dominated House and Senate in Washington won’t be sending President Bush legislation for universal single-payer health insurance any time soon. But advocates of universal health care refuse to back down as they lay the political groundwork for universal coverage in the future.

DC 37 is among more than 100 unions that have endorsed HR 676, the Universal Single Payer Health Care Act, which would expand Medicare to cover all U.S. residents.

And outside the Beltway, the campaign for universal health care is being played out in statehouses throughout the country.

“Until we have a new administration and a new Congress that gives a damn about the people of this country, we’re taking the fight for affordable health care to the states,” said AFL-CIO President John J. Sweeny.

In January, the AFL-CIO launched its “Fair Share Health Care Campaign” in 33 states. The drive is pressing for legislation to require highly profitable employers like Wal-Mart — whose workers often rely on Medicaid because they can’t afford company plans — to spend a certain percentage of their payroll on health care for employees. Alternatively, companies could pay into a state “Fair Share Health Care Fund.”

The campaign is drawing attention to wealthy companies like Wal-Mart, where under half the workers have health insurance, leaving taxpayers to cover their health costs.

In April, Massachusetts adopted a law calling for near-universal health care. The law requires uninsured workers to sign up for a health policy or face higher taxes. But Republican Gov. Mitt Romney vetoed a provision that would have fined businesses for not offering insurance to their employees.

Later this year, DC 37 Executive Director Lillian Roberts expects to lead a bus trip to Washington with members, who will present Congress with a union petition demanding universal health care.



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