Hospital refuses employees' insurance

July 8, 2008 8:47:03 PM PDT
A hospital in Cornwall is refusing to accept its own employees' health insurance.St. Luke's Cornwall Hospital will no longer take SEIU 1199's National Benefit Fund insurance, despite union officials' claims that a change to that carrier had been negotiated into the 2004 contract. The roughly 800 service and tech workers switched over earlier this year.

"It's insulting to work at a hospital you can't get sick in," environmental services associate Brandon Weygant told the Times Herald-Record.

Union members say many of the workers are now forced to find new doctors that are not associated with St. Luke's, since they would not be able to be treated in the hospital where they work.

Hospital spokesperson Judi Stokes tells the Times Herald-Record that the hospital stopped accepting the plan because payments are chronically late and service is poor.

But insurance reps say those claims are not true.

"We have been regularly paying our claims in 30 days or under, which is standard industry practice," the fund's chief benefits officer, Fred Hagen, told the newspaper. "Furthermore, our claims process is far from complicated. We accept electronic claims through a variety of vendors who are standard within the industry."

State Assemblywoman Nancy Calhoun, who met with hospital officials and union members, finds the hospital's decision odd.

"I think it's extremely ironic that they would be paying for the very plan that they refuse to accept," she told the newspaper. "They were paying for the other plan, and apparently this plan is virtually the same. Good employee relations would indicate that if I pay for the service and I run a facility that can provide the service, I don't know why they would want their employees to go to another facility."

The union, which is currently negotiating a new contract, believe the insurance issue is being used as a bargaining chip.