Health Insurance While On Strike

Catholic Health has announced that they are cutting off our health insurance.

But don’t worry! As a reminder, the CWA Member Relief Fund - which has over $400 million in it - covers our necessary healthcare during the strike as well as strike pay checks. CWA has pledged that no striking member or family member will go without medically necessary health care during the strike. CWA will pay for all necessary medical/hospital expenses. 

The term “necessary” does not include any treatment not normally covered under the Catholic Health Medical Plan, nor does it cover any elective procedures or dental work that can be postponed until after the strike. PLEASE CANCEL AND PLAN TO RESCHEDULE ANY ROUTINE DOCTOR VISITS AND DENTAL CLEANING/EXAMS THAT ARE SCHEDULED AFTER NOVEMBER 1, 2021. If you are unsure whether a procedure or visit counts as “routine” or “necessary,” please come to the union hall to speak with the Member Relief Fund Committee.

Going forward, here’s what you need to know:

  • Ask doctors offices to bill you. If they will not give you a bill, ask them to bill your insurance, and then when you get a bill later, bring that bill to the union hall.

  • If you have an ongoing medical condition, e.g. kidney problems, high cost prescriptions, pregnancy or cancer, come to the hall to discuss, confidentially, whether the Members’ Relief Fund will cover COBRA for you to maintain necessary treatment. In general, members who do have ongoing conditions will be able to get COBRA to continue receiving necessary treatment. Members should request a “CWA Request for COBRA Payment” form. Make sure that when you fill out the form you include any supporting medical documentation. There is a 60 day election period for COBRA. If you or a family member becomes seriously or chronically ill during the 60 day election period, you should speak to someone from the Member Relief Fund Committee at the local. 

  • For other non-routine issues that come up, keep your bills and submit them to the union. The union will determine at this point if you would qualify for COBRA or if unavoidable bills will be paid on an individual basis. CWA members would not accrue debts for anything medically necessary.

  • Emergency dental care will be covered by the Members’ Relief Fund as well. 

  • Pharmacies will not bill you. If you are able to pay for your prescription upfront please bring your receipt to the local for reimbursement. Check with GoodRX for cheaper prescription prices. If you are unable to pay upfront please contact someone from the Member Relief Fund Committee and they will contact the pharmacy to coordinate payment.

Any kind of routine treatment (for example, an annual physical) that can be postponed until after the strike should be postponed. If you’re unsure whether something counts as “necessary” or “routine,” please call or come to the union hall to speak with the MRF Committee. Your best source for discussing any concerns and getting answers to questions is the union hall - not Facebook. 

If you have any questions or concerns, please call (828-1133) or come to the union hall (821 Elk St) Monday through Friday 8am-4pm and ask to speak with the Members’ Relief FundCommittee.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. I am on strike. What protections do I have so that I will not go without needed health  care?  

A. A law called COBRA requires group health plans to offer striking workers and their covered  dependents the opportunity to continue health coverage for up to 18 months when they go on strike by paying for it out of their own pockets. This applies to medical, dental and vision  benefits. Strikers do not have to continue any coverage, they can choose to pay for only the  core medical benefits, or they can choose to pay for only themselves or only their dependents.  CWA has made a commitment to assist striking workers in paying for their health care needs out of the Members Relief Fund during their participation in the strike. Working with Local Union’s Members Relief Fund Committee, members can make decisions about the best way to cover their needs, and the Union will determine whether to pay for monthly premiums or to assist in paying for health care services on an “as needed” basis.  

 

Q. How much time do I have to make a decision?  

A. Strikers have 60 days to elect COBRA coverage. The 60-day period begins on the date the notice was sent by the employer describing COBRA rights. However, coverage does not begin until the premium is paid. If necessary,  your premium can be paid retroactively. Working with the Local Union’s Members Relief Fund Committee, you can determine whether you should apply for continuation coverage immediately.  

 

Q. What is the limit on how long a striking worker can continue coverage?  

A. COBRA limits continuation coverage during a strike situation to no longer than 18 months after the strike begins. Coverage is also discontinued if premiums are not paid during the time, if the employer discontinues the group health plan, if you qualify for Medicare benefits or if you become covered under another plan. CWA has made a commitment to help striking workers  with their health care needs as long as the strike continues. 

 

Q: How are people on disability impacted? 

A: Update as of 11/3: The hospital has confirmed with us that they are continuing coverage for workers on disability, but they were sent the same info as everyone so the hospital needs to send them a letter notifying them that it was an error.

 

Q: Will orthodontics visits be covered, such as appointments for braces adjustments?

A: No, only emergency dental care will be covered. 

 

Q: Will baby well visits and vaccine appointments be covered?

A: Yes, both are considered necessary treatment.

 

Q: Will we have to cover the bill and then be reimbursed? Many offices won’t see you if you don’t pay your copay. What’s the process if we don’t have enough money to begin with at the time of service? 

A: Ask doctors offices to bill you. If they will not give you a bill, ask them to bill your insurance, and then when you get a bill later, bring that bill to the union hall. If there is still an issue, call the union hall (828-1133) to speak with the Member Relief Fund Committee to coordinate payment.  

 

Q: Where did health insurance payments they took out last check go?

A: We’re contacting the hospital about parking and health insurance that’s being taken out of people’s paychecks. 

 

Q: To fill out paperwork for COBRA, what kind of medical documentation is needed?

A: No official documentation is required, but it is extremely helpful to bring a list of medications, upcoming appointments, and expected medical needs over the next month.