During negotiations Monday, the Guild and the Times Union management discussed the proposed switch to the MVP plan.
The union had proposed last week that employees’ contribution to the deductible be capped at $750. George Hearst had said last week that if the Company tried to raise the deductible substantially, it would render the plan not “comparable” to the current plan.
(Under our contract, the Company can offer the current Blue Shield plan or a comparable one. The Guild continues to maintain that MVP’s high-deductible plan is not comparable to the more traditional insurance we now enjoy, so the Company cannot switch out of it without members’ consent.)
On Monday, Hearst said the Times Union would not raise the employees’ share of the deductible in 2009 and 2010. He argued that no one could predict what would happen with health insurance in subsequent years.
The Guild’s bargainers have said that the Company’s paying most of the deductible is what makes this plan a cost savings for most employees. Without a guarantee that the deductible share won’t increase, the plan could become expensive in future years.
“It is our intention to hold the $750 through 2010. You have our word that would be the case,” Hearst said.
The Company did agree it would pay for one annual eye exam for every employee and each of their dependents, even if MVP did not offer that coverage as a rider to the policy.
Hearst also balked at the Guild’s proposal to limit the employee’s percentage share to the current 16 percent next year. He said the percentage discussion should be part of ongoing contract negotiations.
He also clarified another issue members have asked about: what happens if an employee is hit with a substantial medical bill early in the year, before being able to set money aside in a health savings account. The Company had said it would provide the money upfront if employees experienced a “hardship.”
Guild leaders questioned employees having to provide evidence of financial trouble in order to get an advance payment on medical bills. Hearst said that would not be necessary, and the Company would assist employees who asked. The employees, in turn, would have to sign a repayment agreement.
The parties also continued off-the-record discussions on the entire contract. Negotiations resume at 10 a.m. Tuesday. A bargaining session is also set for this Thursday.