Over the past year, members stood in solidarity with the union bargaining committee and took action at work sites. As a result, SEIU 509 state workers won a new contract that offers more pay, more job security and better working conditions.
Some highlights include:
SEIU 509 will continue to watch and speak out to ensure that the GIC doesn’t try to take these benefits away again.
BOSTON – SEIU Local 509 President Peter MacKinnon today issued the following statement on the GIC’s announcement that they will abandon plans to take away health care plans from 200,000 people:
“We’re relieved that the GIC is preparing to undo their incredibly misguided decision, and we thank Governor Baker for stepping in to fix this disaster. We also thank Attorney General Healey, Speaker DeLeo, and Senate President Chandler for their leadership in opposing a move that was throwing tens of thousands of Massachusetts families into crisis.
“The GIC’s move would have forced working people and their families to find new doctors and other medical providers, go to the back of waiting lists for their children’s treatment, and spend valuable time trying to preserve the quality of their healthcare. In the last week, hundreds of SEIU Local 509 members called the Governor, spoke to their legislators, and attended the GIC’s hearings to protest this decision. We’re glad their voices were heard.”
Steve Crawford, Crawford Strategies
SEIU Local 509 represents nearly 20,000 human service workers and educators throughout Massachusetts. We provide a variety of social services to elders, at-risk children and people with mental illnesses or developmental disabilities — as well as educational services in both public and private sector settings. From mental health clinicians and social workers to early childhood educators and university lecturers, Local 509 members are united in our mission to raise living standards for working families while improving the quality and affordability of the services we provide. SEIU Local 509 is part of the 2.1 million member Service Employees International Union, the fastest-growing labor union in the United States. Focused on uniting workers in four sectors –- public services, long term care, property services, and hospital systems — SEIU is the nation’s largest health care union, the largest property services union, and the second-largest public employee union.
In response to the Group Insurance Commission’s (GIC) vote to drastically reduce the number of health insurance choices for state workers, Peter MacKinnon, President of SEIU Local 509 released the following statement:
“Working people throughout Massachusetts are grappling with the rising cost of medical coverage, including state workers who go to work everyday to serve the people of the Commonwealth. Yet time and again, the Group Insurance Commission has voted to make workers bear the brunt of out of control health care costs, instead of tackling the crisis with providers.
“State employees have earned the basic freedom to choose the doctors and networks that are best for their families, yet today, the GIC voted to drastically cut the number of plans available to them. Though we will take the coming days and weeks to closely review the changes, it is evident that the GIC has taken a bad situation and made it far worse with this anti-consumer vote. The union’s top priority is to help fight back against these drastic changes to our members’ healthcare and help keep the continuity of care that they and their families deserve.
“When you work on the front lines serving the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable, the work is extraordinarily difficult and the choices are never easy. The Group Insurance Commission routinely takes the easy way out by scapegoating workers for rising health care costs, instead of meaningfully addressing it with the providers who are spiralling costs out of control.”
In response to the report released today by State Auditor Suzanne Bump, Peter MacKinnon, social worker and President of SEIU Local 509, released the following statement:
“Frontline workers at the Department of Children and Families come to work every day to protect the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable children. In recent years, these workers, through their union, have pushed for — and secured — many necessary reforms to ensure that the agency does everything in its power to fulfill its sacred mission.
“We agree with Auditor Bump that DCF must be constantly and rigorously evaluated to ensure the safety of the children in its care, and the safety of the workers that provide that care. However, it is concerning that this report did not take into account the experience and viewpoint of child protective workers, including those involved in cases or examples discussed in the report.
“As the union for DCF social workers, we will continue to work with the agency to implement necessary reforms and extend the important progress that has been made to improve DCF, including in the years after the timeframe of this report. Frontline social workers have the first-hand knowledge critical to capturing a complete picture of the agency, and we remain willing, as always, to participate in future reports or audits.”
Senate unanimously adopts Sen. Rodrigues’ amendment to limit insurance company clawbacks for mental health treatment
BOSTON, MA – Today, private mental health clinicians organized through SEIU Local 509’s CliniciansUNITED campaign lauded the Senate’s unanimous passage of amendment 143, which would limit retroactive claims denials by insurance companies. The passage of Senator Rodrigues’ amendment comes after hundreds of clinicians lobbied and contacted their senators to demand action on this unfair billing practice.
Currently, insurance companies can recoup their payments to a clinician months, or even years, after a therapy session takes place and is paid for, even though therapists secure prior approval from health insurance companies before treating their patients, and then adhere to billing deadlines (usually 60 or 90 days after each session takes place). No similar deadline exists for insurance companies. As a result, companies have demanded that private mental health clinicians pay back thousands of dollars for services rendered years ago in good faith.
The financial burden and uncertainty created by unlimited clawbacks has a chilling effect on therapists and is a limiting factor on their ability to treat patients. More and more clinicians are choosing to leave insurance panels because they find the requirements, the reimbursement rates, and retroactive claims denials too difficult to accept. If there are fewer therapists accepting insurance, people seeking mental health and substance abuse services have a harder time finding qualified therapists to work with at fees they can afford.
“As a clinician with a growing small business, I take pride in our practice’s commitment to accepting insurance for mental health treatment,” said Jen Erbe Leggett, LICSW, who runs a private practice in Roslindale. “Clawbacks and other insurance company practices can make it extraordinarily difficult for providers to accept insurance and families to get the care they need. Today, the Senate took an important step toward ensuring access to quality, affordable mental health care in Massachusetts.”
SEIU Local 509 formed CliniciansUNITED to influence public and private policies that directly impact the vital services clinicians provide in communities statewide, from Medicaid rates to insurance panels. CliniciansUNITED has empowered clinicians in private practice across the state to come together to address the crisis in affordable mental health care. Earlier this year, clinicians testified before the Joint Committee on Financial Services about the need to address insurance clawbacks.
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CliniciansUNITED is a multidisciplinary group of behavioral health clinicians who are associate members of the Massachusetts Human Service Workers Union, SEIU Local 509. Together, we are fighting to ensure each and every Bay State resident has access to quality, affordable mental health services — and to bring about the fair reimbursement policies and practices needed to make universal access possible.
South Shore agency is one of the only for-profit companies receiving state funding to serve individuals with disabilities
WEYMOUTH — SEIU Local 509 members at Human Service Options (HSO) will be on strike this Friday through Tuesday morning of next week, following stalemated contract negotiations with HSO. Members of the union at HSO overwhelmingly voted to approve the strike and delivered management two weeks ago with the legally required notice of their intent to strike. Workers, community leaders, activists, and local elected officials will be on the picket line during the four-day strike.
The strike comes as nearly 200 direct care workers at the agency have been fighting to improve the quality of care at one of the only for-profit agencies of its kind in the state. HSO, which is primarily funded through the state Department of Disability Services, has been profitable in recent years and company executives are paid an above average salary. Yet the agency’s workforce is one of the lowest-paid in the state, with many of its workers receiving poverty wages to do important, difficult work caring for individuals with disabilities.
WHERE: 536 Broad Street, Weymouth
WHEN: 9-6pm, Friday 11/3 – Monday, 11/7
COMMUNITY RALLY: 12PM Friday, November 3
“HSO is putting profits over people — clients and workers alike — and we are ready to go on strike to improve the quality of care the agency offers the people we serve,” said Louise Ricciardi, who has worked at HSO for over twenty years.
For more information about the strike and the fight to ensure a living wage for private sector human services workers, or to speak to a leader of the campaign at HSO call (413) 374-6370.