Diane Sosne, RN, MN leads the 26,000 member union SEIU Healthcare 1199NW for nurses, healthcare, and mental health workers in Washington State. She advocates for safe staffing and lifting for nurses, workforce training funds for healthcare workers to advance into nursing, and social justice issues for working families. Diane is a founding member of SEIU Healthcare 1199NW, and was previously a psychiatric nurse at Group Health Cooperative in Seattle. She currently sits on the International Executive Board for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).
This op-ed from President Diane Sosne, RN, MN, appears in the May 3 Seattle Times:
Those of us in relatively secure jobs with good employer-provided health care are spectators to the current Supreme Court deliberations about the Affordable Care Act. For people who are uninsured or underinsured, their physical and emotional health and well-being hang on the outcome.
As a nurse, I’m worried that we’re losing sight of a much more essential issue: health-care coverage saves lives.
People who have access to health insurance are healthier, live fuller lives and don’t have to worry that an unplanned illness or accident could mean financial ruin.
The long-term benefits of health insurance have been proved by economic and medical research. For example, in 2011 the National Bureau of Economic Research published a major study on the experiences of two groups of low-income people in Oregon. One group had health insurance. The other did not.
People with insurance reported better mental and physical health. They were far more likely to get access to crucial procedures like mammograms. And they were less likely to be burdened with medical debt.
Because of the Affordable Care Act, we are on the verge of improving the lives of 30 million Americans by extending access to affordable health insurance.
If the court decides to block this law from moving forward, we should all be well aware that its opponents have no workable alternative that matches up to the challenge of helping the millions of people who don’t have insurance gain access.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, the proposal that House Republicans offered in response to President Obama’s plan would have covered only 3 million Americans.
The Affordable Care Act was designed to make changes slowly and gradually. For some, it’s moving too slowly. But the reality is that real, tangible improvements are already happening.
Children with asthma or cancer can no longer be denied care because they have a “pre-existing condition.”
Young adults — a group hit particularly hard by our job crises and student-loan debt — have been able to keep coverage by remaining on their parents’ plans until age 26.
Senior citizens have been able to keep more than $3 billion in their pockets because of new prescription discounts.
More than 54 million people no longer need to worry about a co-pay for preventive procedures like mammograms and immunizations.
Patients are no longer denied care because they’ve hit limits of benefits.
These reforms are under fierce attack. Corporate special interests are spending millions to try to undo them. After opponents failed to kill reform in Congress, a group of Republican state attorneys general, including our own Rob McKenna, took the fight to the Supreme Court.
We are making measurable steps toward improving patient safety and quality of care. This is not the time to dismantle or repeal this law.
I chose to become a nurse because I believe in health-care justice for all. I hope that nine Supreme Court justices do not abandon the 50 million children, working people and senior citizens overall who deserve health-care justice.
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See the op-ed in the Seattle Times: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/opinion/2018127063_guest03sosne.html
When we formed our union nearly 30 years ago at Group Health, we voted ‘healthcare for all’ as part of our bylaws. We worked tirelessly to reform our system to serve the needs of patients, not the profits of insurance companies.As we celebrate the two year anniversary of healthcare reform, we’re seeing improvements in care for families, seniors, women, young adults, and communities of color.
Insurance companies used to charge women more than men for insurance, and count domestic violence and c-sections as pre-existing conditions. Being a woman isn’t a ‘condition’ to fix, and now insurance companies have to end these discriminatory practices. We’re providing young adults with a better start as they transition out of high school and college, ensuring they can receive care while they go to school or look for a job. Our seniors can now afford their prescriptions instead of falling into the ‘doughnut hole’, and our community health centers will nearly double the number of patients they see with $11 billion in new funding.
We can’t turn back the clock on this progress and the improved care it’s brought to our patients and families. We’re on the frontlines and at the bedside each day to make sure that each patient receives the best care, and that includes protecting the improvements we’ve seen under healthcare reform.
As nurses and healthcare workers, we are the leading voice for our patients, and that’s why we need to continue to educate our communities about the Affordable Care Act. It’s up to us to continue to stand up to corporate interests and politicians who believe in a broken system that only works for their profits, not for us.
Diane Sosne, RN, MN, President of SEIU Healthcare 1199NW
Diane Sosne, Guest columnist Published March 31, 2011 – The Olympian Bill just wanted a home with a warm bed. Too bad he’s not a chicken, because under Washington state law he’d be getting better treatment. Bill, a south Puget Sound-area resident, suffers from mental illness and chemical dependency. In his mid-20s, he’s been working on getting treatment and rebuilding his life. Last year he got into a clean and sober house. He was able to pay the $300 monthly room-share rent thanks to Disability Lifeline, a state program that provides modest cash grants to help disabled adults purchase basic necessities such as rent. The home gave Bill stability and a chance to get the help he needs. Then last fall the state cut monthly Disability Lifeline payments from $339 to $258. Bill could no longer afford to rent his apartment, and began sleeping on the street. Without the support he needed, he relapsed, found himself in jail, then ended up in an intensive inpatient treatment facility. Now about those chickens: Ten years ago, the state Legislature passed a special tax break to benefit a few dozen factory farms that raise chickens. There’s a tax break on bedding – wood shavings, sawdust, straw, shredded paper – and another tax break for natural gas to heat the barns so the birds can stay warm. All told, these tax breaks cost Washington $4.5 million over the last four years. With the state facing a $5 billion deficit, it’s time for the corporate chicken farms to pay their fair share. After all, what’s more important – a roof over the head of a fellow human being, or corporate tax breaks to underwrite soft bedding for next week’s casserole? Faced with that basic question of values and priorities, the state Legislature acted decisively: When they convened in January, they slashed Disability Lifeline benefits again, to a paltry $193 per month. As for the poultry bedding and heating tax breaks, the Legislature left them untouched. They also left untouched tax breaks for private jet owners; for people who get elective cosmetic surgery; for stockbrokers and mortgage brokers; for big out-of-state banks; for corporations that laid off hundreds of workers. All told, the Legislature left more than 567 tax breaks untouched. Instead, lawmakers cut health care for the elderly and for pregnant women. They cut funding for kids in day care. They cut home care services for seniors. They cut food and housing for people who need it most. And they cut Bill. Sadly, and ironically, taxpayers will carry a far heavier burden paying Bill’s incarceration (about $300 a day) and hospitalization (more than $500 a day) than the $339 a month for Disability Lifeline, which helped Bill get back on his feet. Cutting Bill’s Disability Lifeline cost a fellow human being his stability. And it cost all of us taxpayers thousands of dollars. It was a foolish budget choice. State leaders need to stop making budget choices that cost taxpayers more in the long run. The Legislature should close tax loopholes to preserve basic services, because in these tough times, corporations should pay their fair share. I’m confident the chickens will understand. Diane Sosne, is president of Service Employees International Union Healthcare 1199NW, representing more than 22,000 nurses and other health care workers in Washington state.
Reflections from SEIU Healthcare 1199NW President Diane Sosne, RN on Her Grandmother
SEIU Healthcare 1199NW President Diane Sosne, RN was one of thousands of workers and community members who gathered in New York last Friday to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire.
It was a special moment for Sosne because her maternal grandmother was working on the 8th floor of the factory the day the fire broke out on March 25, 1911. Miraculously, Sosne’s grandmother, Rose Bernstein, was able to make it down the stairs and survived the tragic fire.
The fire took the lives of 146 workers–mostly women–who were locked in the burning building and galvanized New York City and the nation to fight for workplace protections, spurred on union organizing, and inspired far-reaching reforms for workplace safety and workers’ rights.
Rose Bernstein left Poland with her sister when she as just 16 years old and immigrated to America through Ellis Island in New York. She had started at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory as a machine operator just a year before the fire and it was one of her first jobs in America.
One hundred years later, Sosne says that workers face a lot of the same conditions. “We have to keep fighting because there’s nobody looking out for us and our safety,” she said.
A former psychiatric nurse at Group Health Cooperative in Seattle, Sosne says that healthcare is one of the most dangerous professions today and that healthcare workers continue to fight for safe staffing levels, health and safety training, protection from hazardous materials, and other dangers.