Health Insurers Looking for Big Rate Hikes in 2017

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Workers Independent News is heard Monday through Friday at 8:45 and 11:45 a.m. and 5:45 p.m.

Health insurance companies are proposing large premium increases next year in several states for insurance sold through exchanges under the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare.

The premium increases average 16 percent. The highest is from Humana in Georgia, averaging hikes of more than 65 percent. State regulators will still need to approve the proposed increases.  Amidst upcoming federal elections, the Obama Administration is playing down the double-digit hike, noting that many consumers will be shielded from all or of these increases by federal subsidies. Robert Kraig, executive director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin, says that while the Affordable Care Act was a major step forward, these rate increase requests show the American health system is still in dramatic need of reform:

“Conservatives are going to try to say that it’s being caused by Obamacare, by the Affordable Care Act, even though, quite frankly, inflation has been less since it was passed…and certainly taking no responsibility for the fact that they’re not allowing us to go to the next stage of reform.  Because we’re stuck in this endless debate where conservatives want to simply repeal the Affordable Care Act—that’s their whole health plan—rather than moving forward and building on it and trying to deal with the next big issue we have, which is cost. At this point, the special interests are winning way too much, and the debate’s far too much of an inside debate, which means the public loses,” said Kraig.

Standing Together, Kroger Workers Win Better Offer

After 1,100 members of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 400 voted to authorize a strike at 41 Kroger Grocery Stores in Virginia, West Virginia and Tennessee, the union has reached a tentative contract deal with the company.

The union says it’s a much better deal than the company’s previous “last best and final offer,” where the highest raise that anyone at these stores would ever see would be 25 cents.

“The same week that we had this offer, the company gave its millionaire CEO a 17 percent raise,” said  Local 400 Communications Manager Jonathan Williams “The company made $2.5 billion dollars last year alone, but our associates, who actually keep the stores running, who actually make the company a billion-dollar success, they get a quarter. And that was enough to upset a huge number of our members. They unanimously voted to authorize a strike after unanimously voting to reject the 25 cent raise. They were entirely unified against it. It sent a very loud and clear message to Kroger that this company can more than afford it, and we’re willing to stand up and fight for it. Shortly after…I mean very shortly after this vote was taken, we were getting calls from the company to re-open negotiations,” he added.