Legislative Update April 2010

Health Care Reform

With all the media hype in recent weeks, I’m guessing everyone knows by now the health care reform initiative passed in the House on March 21 by a 219-212 vote, and was signed into law by President Obama on March 23. The $940 billion plan is projected to extend health insurance to roughly 32 million additional Americans. I’m still as confused as the next person about exactly what is in this bill and what it means for us as BLET members and our families. The following was put out by the Communication Workers of America on March 25, 2010:

What Does Health Care Reform Do For Me? And When?

1. Children can continue to be covered by their parents’ health insurance until their 26th birthday, instead of being forced off the plan by age 19. When? IN SIX MONTHS.

2. Insurance companies cannot exclude children under age 19 from health care coverage because of pre-existing conditions. When? IN SIX MONTHS.

3. Insurance companies cannot charge higher rates for women, whether they’re covered by an employer’s plan or have individual coverage. When? IN SIX MONTHS.

4. Adults who can’t get insurance because of a preexisting condition can buy into a national pool until the exchanges start operating in 2014. When? IN 90 DAYS.

5. Insurance companies can’t cancel your policy because you get sick. When? IN SIX MONTHS.

6. Insurance companies can’t put a lifetime limit on your medical coverage. When? IN SIX MONTHS.

7. Retired workers who have hit the Medicare “donut hole,” the gap in benefits that hurts millions of seniors, will receive a $250 rebate. When? THIS YEAR.

8. “Donut hole” completely gone in 2016.

Republicans and social conservatives are vowing to try to repeal the law or have it declared unconstitutional and senior republicans in Congress have warned that voters will judge Democrats harshly in the mid-term elections in November. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) stated that the Democratic-passed bill has killed any chance of bipartisan support on legislation for the rest of the year.

To find out more about what the bill means for you, go to the White House website, Putting Americans in Control of  Their Health Care at http://www.whitehouse.gov/healthreform.

Personality Tests for Amtrak Employees in California?

 

Fallout from the 2008 Chatsworth crash continues. Following the recent decision by Connex Railroad LLC (Metrolink’s current operator) to not seek an extension of its contract, Metrolink and Amtrak announced last week that they had implemented a final contract for Amtrak to operate Metrolink trains on all seven lines of the commuter rail agency beginning June 26.  Under the current plans of that contract, existing Metrolink conductors and engineers will be considered new hires to Amtrak and will be required to take the Applicant Personality Inventory and Hogan Personality Inventory. According to Amtrak, the test is designed to determine candidate attitudes toward theft, drug use, and treatment of customers under a variety of work-based conditions. California State Legislative Board Chairman Tim Smith stated that he believes these tests can be used to entrap anybody into saying something the carrier may construe as the wrong answer. He believes that this is a “witch hunt, and an opportunity for the carrier to weed out certain individuals.”

Railroad Retirement

August 29, 2010, marks the 75th Anniversary of the Railroad Retirement Act of 1935.  In commemoration of this milestone, the Railroad Retirement Board issued a history of the Act, including its subsequent amendments.  To see the full publication, click here.  It’s actually quite interesting to see how the Act has evolved over the years, and so far is still going strong.

High Speed Rail

From the looks of it, China, rather than the United States, will benefit the most from the development and building of high speed rail in America, and in particular the San Francisco to Los Angeles high speed corridor. The New York Times published an article on April 7, 2010, China Again Hopes to Drive U.S. Rail Construction, by Keith Bradsher.  In response, David Cameron, Assistant to the Director the Teamsters Rail Conference, stated, “China will be bidding for work that should remain the dominion of our country and could help revive our manufacturing base. Investing in high-speed rail is very expensive, but unlike tax cuts – which often go to the purchase of imported goods – the money spent on high-speed rail would go directly into reviving American industry and improving the country’s trade balance. Not just creating hundreds of thousands of jobs to build dedicated tracks or new rail stations, but to revive our faltering manufacturing base.”

Mr. Cameron makes a very good point in his statement, “We have an opportunity to return this kind of production capability to this country, which could be undertaken by our ailing auto and aircraft companies, strategic industries to our National security.  Additionally, we could increase our steel production capabilities in this country, long ago ceded to other countries, for the manufacturing of the rails for the high speed train system.”