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AFL-CIO Oregon 2013 Convention Resolutions: RESOLUTION NO. 31

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Submitted by AFSCME Council 75, Southern Oregon CLC, Marion-Polk-Yamhill CLC, and  Northwest Oregon Labor Council 

Referred to Worker Rights Committee 

SUPPORT HEALTH CARE FOR ALL OREGON (HCAO) 

WHEREAS, the standard of comprehensive, affordable health care coverage tied to the work that organized labor has built over five decades is being eroded by rapidly rising health care costs, causing many of our members to go without decent raises in order to pay for health care insurance premiums; and 

WHEREAS, on average, the United States spends more than twice as much as all other industrialized nations on health care, both per person and as a percentage of its gross domestic product. Additionally, the rate of health care inflation significantly outpaces other industrial nations; and 

WHEREAS, despite this high spending, United States health care outcomes consistently rank at the bottom of all industrial nations, and the United States Institute of Medicine has declared an epidemic of substandard health care throughout the nation; and 

WHEREAS, as the cost of health insurance continues to rise more than twice as fast as workers’ income, (http://pnhp.org/blog/2013/08/21/, “State Trends in Premiums and Deductibles,” Commonwealth Fund December 2012) they have been increasingly shifted to working Oregonians in the form of a continual decline in employer-offered coverage, dramatic increases in premiums, copayments, and deductibles, declining clinical quality, overall reductions in benefits, and inappropriate utilization review procedures that deny patients access to needed care; and 

WHEREAS, as a result, sixty percent of all bankruptcies in the United States now relate to medical costs, though seventy-five percent of bankrupted families had health coverage at the time of sustaining the injury or illness; and

WHEREAS, the inclusion of health insurance in employer overhead makes Oregon industry decreasingly competitive with industry in foreign countries where the cost of health care is not added to the cost of production; and 

WHEREAS, private insurance markets are inherently ineffective, inequitable, excessively bureaucratic and wasteful as means to assure universal access to health care; and 

WHEREAS, while the Affordable Care Act extends health care access to millions of previously uninsured Americans and attempts to curb some of the worst abuses of the insurance industry, it also contains incentives for employers to attack the living standards of their employees, cutting their hours and undermining existing health benefit plans; and 

WHEREAS, in order to avoid the employer mandate provisions of the ACA, many large employers, particularly those in low-wage industries, are reducing full-time employees to part-time status and forcing them into tax-payer funded Medicaid or onto the health care exchanges rather than provide them with medical benefits, the so-called “WalMart loophole”; and 

WHEREAS, the Affordable Care Act particularly undermines the ability of union-supported, multi-employer plans, Taft-Hartley Trusts, - long recognized as providing the ideal model for healthcare delivery for America’s workers – to compete with non-union employers and to continue to provide decent benefits to low wage, part time and seasonal workers; and 

WHEREAS, the Affordable Care Act presents issues for Taft-Hartley, multi-state, multi-employer plans such as leaving no controls over Employers with less than 50 employees which constitute 80% of our employers, nor does the ACA control employers with employees with less than 30 hours work per week, nor has the Administration listened to our concerns of the ACA; and 

WHEREAS, the Affordable Care Act still leaves many Oregonians without coverage is dependent on health insurance companies to act as brokers for health care to workers and their families, and provides few if any effective barriers to rising health insurance costs; and 

WHEREAS, health care for every human being should be considered a right supported by the society at large and should never be considered a privilege based on what a person can afford; and 

WHEREAS, health care coverage should be treated as public good, provided equitably in a universal risk pool, comparable to public schools, public safety and public utilities; and 

WHEREAS, Health Care for All-Oregon offers a viable mechanism to create a comprehensive, equitable, publicly funded, high quality, universal health care system serving everyone in Oregon and the United States, based on the principles of Universality, Equity, Accountability, Transparency, Participation, Public Good (see mission statement here); and 

WHEREAS, beginning in 2017, the Affordable Health Care Act (ACA) will allow states to develop and implement their own health delivery systems, including the replacement of the private insurance model so long as the benchmarks of the ACA are met or exceeded, which a universal health care system does (The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Public Law 111-148, Section 1332 (March 23, 2010), http://1.usa.gov/gaf3kD); and 

WHEREAS, obtaining the waiver to participate in the ACA would not result in the loss or reduction of Federal funding for health care in Oregon (The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Public Law 111-148, Section 1332 (March 23, 2010), http://1.usa.gov/gaf3kD); and 

WHEREAS, over two dozen labor organizations have already become member-affiliates of the Health Care for All Oregon (HCAO) coalition as well as over fifty business, community, health professional and educational organizations (see list of all member-affiliates); and 

WHEREAS, at the 2009 AFL-CIO National Convention, before the Affordable Care Act was signed into law and while the national debate over health care and health insurance delivery was occurring, the AFL-CIO’s longstanding support for the social insurance model for health care reform was re-affirmed in Resolution #34. It was resolved that, “[w]hatever the outcome of the current debate over health care reform in the 111th Congress, the task of establishing health care as a human right, not a privilege, will stay lay before us. We continue to believe the social insurance model should be our goal, and we will continue to fight for reforms that take us in that direction;” and

 WHEREAS, growing political support for a universal, publicly funded health care system in Oregon is evidenced by the majority of the House Democratic caucus having signed on to HB 2922, the Affordable Health Care for All Oregon Act; by the adoption of resolution 2009-41 by the Democratic Party of Oregon (DPO); and by the DPO’s adopting as its seventh highest priority in its 2012 legislative agenda the call to “Declare that health care is a fundamental human right as provided in the US and Oregon Constitutions and adopt a comprehensive single payer health care system that provides all Oregonians with basic health care that include medical, dental, vision, mental health care, addiction treatment and preventive care by licensed providers”. An alliance between labor organizations and the DPO could produce tremendous electoral capacity in this effort; and 

WHEREAS, HCAO already reserves a seat on its board for an Organized Labor representative along with representatives from Health Care practitioners, Small business, Education, Communities of Faith, Communities of Color, and Communities with significant barriers to health care (HCAO by-laws pg. 6); and now therefore be it 

RESOLVED the Oregon AFL-CIO will become a member of the HCAO coalition, and will support the HCAO mission of creating a comprehensive, equitable, publicly funded, high-quality, universal health care system serving everyone in Oregon and nationally; and now be it further 

RESOLVED the Oregon AFL- CIO ask its affiliates to make HCAO a priority in its legislative programs in Oregon, and will strongly encourage their respective national unions to make a universal health care system a priority in its legislative programs as well as a priority in their legislative programs in other states; and now be it finally 

RESOLVED the Oregon AFL-CIO will make HCAO a priority in its member-education programs, and will strongly encourage their members to participate in HCAO regional chapters throughout Oregon and nationally. 

AFSCMECncl75/SOCLC/MPYCLC/NOLC:sh opeiu#11 afl-cio Sept 2013