The Union Difference

By Diane Scott, RN

Diane Scott
Diane Scott, RN
MNA Member

MNA Member

We all know the stories. A mom couldn’t get her son to the right specialist because it was out of the hospital’s “network.” Another mom couldn’t get occupational or physical therapy for her daughter without having to fight like hell to get it. How many times have MNA nurses cried at work and heard the stories of their long fights with their employer because their children could not get the healthcare they deserve? What about the non-contract employees and patients who can’t fight?

On October 24, 2017, MNA decided to fight back. We filed a second step class action grievance on behalf of all Registered Nurses working at Sanford Health of Northern Minnesota Bemidji. The healthcare costs as a Sanford employee are out of control.

Nurses, work on their feet every day, but several nurses at Bemidji’s hospital have paid $5000 each for total knee surgery. Hundreds of other employees are paying $600 for yearly routine preventative lab draws. How much do those lab draws cost Sanford, and how much money are they making off their employees? The costs are so bad and so well-known that nurses have all learned to tell the secretary to get a “direct lab” so that it will be a fraction of the cost. Is Bemidji a “Company Town” with an overpriced “Company Store?”

Ok, nurses who make a good income can typically afford a spendy medical bill occasionally, but some employees such as nurse aides, housekeeping and kitchen staff cannot! For example, one woman I know has needed a knee replacement for years. She works on her “bone on bone knee” every day. She has years until retirement, but let’s hope she’s not waiting for Medicaid to kick in to be able to afford her procedure.

These high deductible health plans are everywhere, but they’re not for the sick. They’re for the well who will never get sick or those who will only get sick once in a decade. Patients with lupus, diabetes, another chronic illness, or a child who has developmental problems are out of luck.

Some patients with these high deductible plans decide not to seek care because it is too expensive. Another example is a woman in Bemidji who must decide whether to have foot surgery. Her doctor recommends surgery, even though it’s not cancerous. If she goes through with it, she will not be able to work for two months. Patients shouldn’t be making healthcare decisions based on cost. As always, preventative care costs less than the last cure.

It is time Sanford and all other employers to value their employees. Sanford offers many, many health insurance plans but only gives employees the choice of two high deductible plans. Many employees are using this as a reason to leave. Instead, let’s make “nonprofit” corporations like Sanford accountable to the community that they claim to serve. Our community doesn’t benefit when Sanford employees are sent to the company’s for-profit collections agency because an affordable payment plan is out of the question. Other community members are paying the “max out of pocket” for care every year, and they can’t afford it.

We have to be the solution. Don’t ask what MNA can do, instead ask “WHAT WILL WE, AS MNA, DO?” Please share your stories with MNA, your local legislator, or the Minnesota Attorney General’s office.

It is time for us all to take a stand and say this is wrong! We are asking all unions at Sanford facilities to take a stand. Healthcare is a human right!

In Solidarity,

A Union Steward


1 Comment

  1. Several years ago, Sanford decided to stop paying pain management surgeons. The one in Bemidji quit and started working for the anesthesia group. The one in Fargo quit and opened his own practice, now becoming an out of network provider. The amount of paper work and hard stops quadrupled to get my wife authorized for a baclofen pump to manage her CP. I had a close MD-RN relationship with her primary doc, and I could go to his office and speak to the issues curtailing my wife’s care. He and I wrote a letter to insurance citing that there was no longer an in network pain management surgeon within 500 miles, and could the MD that was seeing us at Sanford continue? It took months, and I had inside help holding my hand.

    I am no longer working at Sanford, I have moved to a MAGNET hospital out of state. They really give me the impression of caring about their employees. The benefits package is actually a benefit and not a version of Reagan trickle down economics.

    My only regret is not having left Sanford sooner.

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