Pressure mounts in Allina strike with nurses set to lose health coverage Oct. 1

Striking Allina Health nurses could lose health insurance coverage if the open-ended walkout at the Minneapolis-based health system's Twin Cities hospitals continues through Oct. 1, reports Pioneer Press.

The workers, who are represented by the Minnesota Nurses Association, began their second strike of the summer on Labor Day. As workers began the strike, Allina brought in 1,500 replacement nurses. Nearly three weeks later, the strike is at a standstill with no future talks scheduled.

A key sticking point in the dispute between Allina and its 4,800 nurses has been the nurses' health insurance.

Allina wanted to eliminate the nurses' union-backed health plans, which include high premiums but low or no deductibles, and move the nurses to its corporate plans, reports the Star Tribune. Allina has estimated that eliminating the nurses' union-backed health plans would save the health system $10 million per year.

Allina's September contribution to the union-backed plans ends Oct. 1, according to the Pioneer Press. When that contribution ends, striking Allina nurses wanting to stay on their current plans must sign up for COBRA and foot the entire cost of their healthcare until they go back to work, the publication states.

Nurses on the most popular union-only plan going on COBRA would pay $1,060 a month for coverage, while families would pay $2,545, according to Pioneer Press, which cites union spreadsheets. That compares to the usual monthly premiums on these plans, which are $144 for an individual and $456 for a family.

With Allina's most popular plan, the monthly premium is $86 for a single employee and $434 for a family. According to the Pioneer Press, nurses would pay that amount if they were on the corporate plan and not on strike.

Alternative options for the striking Allina nurses include joining a spouse's insurance plan or purchasing temporary insurance through Minnesota's Affordable Care Act healthcare exchange or a broker, according to Minnesota Nurses Association spokesman Rick Fuentes.

Mr. Fuentes told Pioneer Press it is unclear how many nurses would opt to go back to work due to the higher cost, but "[coverage] is a concern, and the nurses are talking about it."

Allina spokesman David Kanihan said the health system expects many nurses to return to work at or by Oct. 1, though not specifically due to healthcare or economic necessity, according to the report.

"The number [of returning nurses] has grown pretty steadily since the strike began, really, and I think what that indicates is that a growing number of nurses do not support this strike as a way to settle our differences," Mr. Kanihan said.

He noted in the article that now-striking nurses must work at least one shift before Oct. 1 if they want Allina to continue covering their share of the nurses' healthcare costs.

 

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