Union calls Bush’s health care plan a lousy prescription


As President Bush visited Minnesota Thursday to promote health savings accounts, a major health care union said his initiative further escalates America’s health care crisis by shifting the burden of increasing costs onto hard-working families.

“The reality doesn’t live up to the rhetoric,” said Julie Schnell, president of SEIU Local 113, which unites more than 14,000 health care workers in Minnesota. “Health savings accounts are only escalating this crisis by shifting the cost onto working families – making it more difficult to access medical care and more difficult to provide for our families.”

During the president’s State of the Union address he pledged to “strengthen health savings accounts — making sure individuals and small business employees can buy insurance with the same advantages that people working for big businesses now get.”

But Local 113 says health savings accounts are hazardous for Minnesota’s working families because they do little to bring down the cost of health care, shift that cost onto working families, and benefit bankers and Wall Street brokers more than they do Minnesotans.

“HSAs are not a solution to the health care crisis,” said Schnell. “These accounts will leave working Minnesotans with more of the cost, more debt, and faced with the choice between accessing health care and providing for their families.”

Meanwhile, Congress passed federal budget legislation Wednesday that will cut $4.7 billion over five years from Medicaid, a program that provides health care for Minnesota children, seniors and people with disabilities.

According to the Coalition on Human Needs, the budget legislation will permit Minnesota to reduce benefits for nearly all of its 343,000 children who receive Medicaid. Minnesota’s 70,000 elderly Medicaid recipients will be at risk for losing eligibility for long-term care services.

“These cuts to Medicaid are a step backwards on the road to ensuring that every Minnesotan has access to quality, affordable health care,” stated Schnell. “Promising to make health care more affordable, while simultaneously cutting Medicaid for our most vulnerable citizens, is not a Minnesota value.”

“We need real solutions and real leadership to ensure that every Minnesotan and every American has access to quality, affordable health care,” commented Schnell. “Everyday that we continue to spout rhetoric with no real action is another day that working Americans delay medical care, seek more expensive care later on, and increase the cost of health care for all Minnesotans.”