Investigative Editor Frank Scandale gives an overview on The Journal News report on the state of unions affecting workers in the region.
This story is part of a series, “State of the Unions,” that looks at the concerns of union members in the Lower Hudson Valley as we approach Labor Day.
When it comes to powerful unions, health care’s diverse mix of labor groups consistently tops the list.
On Labor Day 2017, those representing nurses, hospitals and other healthcare workers in New York will build on the recent displays of their respective political muscle.
Nurses, hospital leaders and politicians marched together to oppose Trump administration bids to overhaul Medicaid, the government healthcare program for many poor and disabled Americans.
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Meanwhile, millions of dollars were paid to lobbyists targeting care issues. And high-profile advertising campaigns were aimed at influencing New Yorkers on everything from health insurance and charity to death and taxes.
In terms of issues, health and mental hygiene topped New York’s lobbying spending in 2016, at nearly $40 million, state data show. By contrast, education-related lobbying totaled about $16 million. Budding medical marijuana companies, many of which have unionized workers, even joined the fray in recent years, spending $2 million on lobbying from 2013 to 2016.
Occasionally divided due to conflicting interests, many healthcare unions forged alliances this year that proved key in defeating Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare. And the continuation of this newly unified labor front seems key to upcoming political battles over American health care and crucial 2018 national elections.
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What to watch for
Unable to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the Trump administration has threatened to undermine it, or as the president says, ‘Let Obamacare fail.’ The first test involves payments to health insurers that subsidize out-of-pocket costs like deductibles for lower-income customers.
Trump agreed to pay the subsidies for August, but they remain month-to-month. Cutting the subsidies would increase federal deficits by $194 billion over 10 years, the Congressional Budget Office said, and increase ACA premiums up to 25 percent.
These political wars over the cost-sharing subsidies, Obamacare’s future and drug prices are expected to continue into next year and beyond.
Whom to watch
New York State Nurses Association, the union representing 40,000 nurses, including Cyndi Sexton, who works at Vassar Brothers Medical Center in Poughkeepsie.
“I have been a nurse for almost 10 years, many of those years in the intensive care unit,” Sexton said. “It is so important that we are there for the people who need us the most. That’s why my colleagues and I are fighting the (ACA) repeal.”
The nurses union ranked third-highest last year in New York lobbying, spending nearly $2.4 million. Another health care group, Greater NY Hospital Association, representing dozens of hospitals, came in No. 2, spending nearly $2.9 million.
Why you should care
Health care is vital to everyone’s well-being, both physical and financial. In addition to treating patients, millions of jobs and trillions of dollars connected to America’s health care system represent nearly one-fifth of the U.S. gross domestic product, meaning the politically charged issues unfolding now will shape generations to come.
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