The nursing home chain’s proposal in negotiation would force all workers to join the plan, claiming it is “cheaper” – but cheaper for who?
Easton, PA: Nursing home workers on the unfair labor practice strike held a press conference on the picket line Wednesday, speaking out about the health insurance plan owner Priority is proposing for all striking workers in its latest contract offer.
Workers at Gardens at Easton were moved onto Priority’s plan a few years ago and are speaking out about the lack of local participating providers that leaves them with huge bills and no affordable access to their own doctors.
Workers at the other Priority homes on strike and currently on Highmark insurance. The union members are pushing back against Priority’s proposal to move all workers to the insufficient plan, and it has become one of the sticking points in negotiations.
“A couple years ago, I had a head injury and was out of work for a year. I had the insurance that Priority gave us, and the insurance didn’t cover anything. I owed a hundred thousand dollars!” said Charles Thomas, a CNA at Gardens of Easton. “I had to learn to speak, walk, and eat, and was also having panic attacks because of the bills and calls from collections agencies.”
“I need to speak out because Priority is trying to get all its workers at other nursing homes onto this insurance, claiming it’s cheaper,” Thomas continued. “It may be cheaper for Priority, but it’s costing workers everything.”
“In the beginning of the pandemic, I got COVID from work and had to stay home for 3 months because I was sick. I was able to get care, but my insurance from Priority didn’t cover the costs,” said Niim Lassiter, activities aide at Gardens of Easton. “This insurance isn’t taken in most places. Whenever I go to the doctors and give my insurance, they look at me like I got four heads.”
Union members have asked Priority for an Impact Report to outline how workers would be affected if forced off of Highmark insurance and into Priority’s plan that members at Easton are on, but Priority has not provided that information.
“My concern is that the insurance will not cover all my medicines or doctor visits, or it will make it difficult to get care in my hometown of Lancaster. I shouldn’t have to travel hours away just to see a doctor and get my prescriptions and insulin,” said Nereida Ferrer, a dietary worker at Rose City Health and Rehab in Lancaster who currently has Highmark insurance through Priority and doesn’t want to move into the plan “I am diabetic and have high blood pressure. I need good health insurance to stay healthy in order to take care of my residents.”
Workers at 14 nursing homes across the state have been on strike since Friday – 9 of those facilities are owned by Priority, and two more homes (The Meadows at Gettysburg and the Meadows at West Shore) are set to join the strike on September 9th. No new negotiations have been scheduled.
“I suffer from asthma and COPD. I almost died in the building from two attacks,” said Richard Brown, a longtime CNA at Gardens of Blue Ridge in Harrisburg, “If I have to die from COPD, I’ll do it here on the picket line fighting rather than because of the insufficient health insurance Priority wants to give us.”
For more information contact Karen Gownley: email@example.com or 717-805-6070
SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania is the state’s largest and fastest-growing union of nurses and healthcare workers, uniting tens of thousands of professional and technical employees, direct care workers, and service employees in hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, home- and community-based services, and state facilities across the Commonwealth. SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania members are committed to improving the lives of healthcare workers and ensuring quality care and healthy communities for all Pennsylvanians.