Their out-of-pocket medical expenses are too high? In 2015 my health insurance cost $380/month. This year it went up to $550/month. Next year it will cost me $702/month and my deductible is going up from $6,800 to $8,550 (and I pay everything out-of-pocket because my plan covers nothing until I meet my deductible). Welcome to my world!
From Seattle Times: Olivia Moore sees the same kids every day on the yellow school bus she drives to and from Seattle’s Montlake Elementary and Washington Middle schools. She and her riders are close. One girl is mercilessly bullied, and eagerly tells Moore if she’s had a good day or not when she steps on the bus. When Moore was diagnosed with basal- cell carcinoma, another young girl gave her a card.
Moore, 26, doesn’t qualify for the health-care plan offered by First Student, the bus contractor for Seattle Public Schools, because she can’t get enough hours. So instead, she makes appointments at community health centers.
She cited her health as one reason she joined the picketing Wednesday for the one-day strike called by Teamsters Local 174, the union that represents 400 Seattle school-bus drivers. The Teamsters announced the strike Tuesday after contract talks with First Student stalled.
“I want to get this (cancer) taken care of so I can be there for my kids, whom I love to death, and I want to make sure they get to school safely and they have someone they can approach if they ever have any issues,” said Moore.
First Student “supports and cares deeply about employees,” a First Student representative said in a prepared statement sent Wednesday afternoon. He added that the company offers competitive pay and benefits.
But on the picket line outside a bus lot in South Park, bus drivers told stories of having to declare bankruptcy, pay for expensive medication out of pocket or live paycheck to paycheck.
They say First Student promised last year to negotiate health care and retirement plans, but has not. The two sides appear far from an agreement.
Meanwhile, families of about 12,000 Seattle students scrambled to get their children to school without their usual yellow-bus service.
First Student is in the first year of a three-year contract with the school district, which is worth at least $27 million a year. Bus drivers are paid between $18 and $25 an hour, and drivers who work 30 hours a week or more are eligible for health- care benefits.
Moore said she works just under 30 hours a week. Hours are based on seniority, and she’s only driven for two school years, so she’s low on the list. Her annual income is too high for her to qualify for Obamacare.
Some drivers who do qualify for the health-care plan said they still can’t afford it, and those who can said it doesn’t provide much beyond a doctor’s office visit.
Dana Bland, 63, has driven buses in the Seattle area for 30 years. First Student, he said, has had the worst medical plan of the several contractors he’s worked for — but he wants to work in Seattle, and that means working for First Student.
But his health-care costs have gone way up. In the early 1990s, he said, he paid only $250 for a weekslong hospital stay when he worked for Laidlaw Education Services. (Seattle contracted with Laidlaw for 30 years, until 2002, when it went with First Student and Durham to save money; both were nonunion operators at the time.)
In 2013, while working for First Student, Bland had to file for bankruptcy because he couldn’t afford his medical bills after a four-day hospital stay.
Earl Johnson, 65, qualifies for the First Student medical plan but said the deductible is more than $6,000, so he pays out of pocket instead.
Read the rest of the story here.