The Olympian: Union delivers strike notice to Providence St. Peter Hospital

From The Olympian Business Blog:

Union delivers strike notice to Providence St. Peter Hospital

By Rolf Boone
The Business Blog
Feb. 28, 2013

The union that represents several hundred workers at Providence St. Peter Hospital put the hospital on notice Thursday afternoon, telling the hospital the union is set to go on strike in 10 days if the two sides can’t come to agreement about a new health care plan for hospital employees.

The new health care plan took effect Jan. 1.

The Service Employees International Union 1199NW, which represents about 530 workers at the hospital, including dietary, housekeeping, health unit coordinators and other workers, is set to go on strike for five days, beginning March 11 until March 16. The strike notice was delivered to the hospital about 2 p.m. Thursday, union spokeswoman Julie Popper said.

“If Providence still won’t make a commitment to affordable care, the strike will grow with 150 RNs, social workers, licensed practical nurses, and support staff from SoundHomeCare and Hospice joining the strike for 3 days starting March 13,” the SEIU said in a news release.

Providence offered three health plans that members could choose from: a health savings account, a health reimbursement account and a more traditional health care plan offered through Group Health.

Union members are frustrated because the two account-based plans — the HSA and the HRA — replace a more traditional health care plan. And members used to have a choice of two Group Health plans that have been merged.

If employees select one of the account-based plans, which typically have higher deductible and out-of-pocket expenses, they receive funding from Providence to the tune of $700 — or $1,400 for a family — that can be used for medical expenses. The money also can be rolled over year-to-year for the employee and family to use.

To receive the seed money, employees must participate in wellness screenings, such as for high cholesterol, high blood pressure or diabetes. The screenings are free and the results are confidential. Employees also must identify a primary care provider as part of the process, although that’s as simple as stating who one’s doctor is, Providence spokeswoman Deborah Shawver told The Olympian in December.

“We believe this is a strong plan design that not only protects employees from catastrophic costs but also gives employees choice with their medical plans and allows them to be involved in their own care,” Providence has said in a statement to employees.