New GM Contract Pushes Health Care Reform Research
The tentative contract between United Auto Workers and General Motors that would establish a voluntary employees' beneficiary association also would create a health care reform research institute, the New York Times reports.
According to contract language regarding the VEBA -- under which UAW would assume retiree health care liabilities from the automaker -- the health care institute would be financed by GM through $15 million paid over five years in increments of $3 million annually. UAW likely will push for additional funds for the initiative from Ford Motor and Chrysler Group, which both are still in the process of contract negotiations.
The National Institute for Health Care Reform would be "dedicated to understanding, evaluating and developing thoughtful and innovative reform measures" in health care, according to the agreement. It is uncertain who would manage the institute, and it is not clear whether it would have "more influence than the numerous organizations already focused on the health care issue," according to the Times.
GM spokesperson Michelle Bunker said the automaker has not called for a government-run single-payer health care plan specifically. She added that GM "believes that all Americans should have access to insurance, and we are working with key players to make sure that everyone has high-quality care at low cost."
UAW Local 602 President Doug Rademacher said, "We did the VEBA, we handled what the crisis was in GM's eyes, so I'm glad they've committed" to researching and advocating health care reform (Maynard/Chapman, New York Times, 10/6). GM's UAW members likely will ratify the tentative contract, with at least 23 local branches approving the deal and three rejecting it by Monday's end, the Detroit Free Press reports. Voting is expected to finish on Wednesday (Merx, Detroit Free Press, 10/9).
The VEBA deal between UAW and GM is a "sensible compromise," but "it will also add GM to the growing list of companies that are reducing employer-sponsored health coverage and transferring more risks and costs to their workers," according to a New York Times editorial. The Times continues that the "deal does nothing to restrain the underlying escalation of medical costs driving the problem" but "simply shifts responsibility." The editorial says that the UAW-GM deal is a "further sign of why there has to be a government-led effort to solve the country's health care problems," concluding that the "problems require lasting national solutions" (New York Times, 10/7).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.