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BARGAINING: Guild presses AP over wellness program problems

The News Media Guild on Thursday questioned The Associated Press over its wellness program, saying some employees faced several roadblocks in trying to satisfy the plan’s requirements to avoid paying a $600 penalty.

The Guild said several employees received bills for blood tests, even though staffers are not supposed to have any out-of-pocket costs for the wellness program. The AP responded that the company’s health insurance provider, United, enacted a policy change in December that put in an age restriction for cholesterol screenings. That resulted in some younger employees being billed for the cholesterol tests.

The AP said it has notified United to lift the age restriction and that claims are being reprocessed. AP says anyone who is affected should call United.

The Guild also questioned AP on whether an employee has to wait a full 12 months in between wellness exams. For example, an employee who had his wellness visit on March 28, 2018, asked if he must wait until March 28, 2019, to fulfill next year’s requirement.

The AP said an employee has to wait at least 11 months in between appointments.

Guild negotiators also asked AP about the problems some employees encountered in getting their health results faxed from their doctor to the wellness plan administrator. The AP said that if an employee’s doctor’s office can show a fax transmittal page proving that the form was sent before the deadline that will satisfy the requirement. Those forms can also be sent by the doctor’s office as a pdf attachment to an email.

Also Thursday, the Guild also questioned AP’s need to eliminate the only job-shares left in the company, which are all in Washington. Three longtime employees were told they had to return to full-time work or leave AP employment. The company told the union that the job-share arrangement was never intended to be long-term, and was designed to help employees caring for young children or other reasons. The Guild disagrees, and discussions with AP are continuing.

Representing the Guild were Jill Bleed of Little Rock, Vin Cherwoo of New York Sports, technician Ed Morsett of Denver, and Guild administrator Kevin Keane.

Representing the AP were: Sue Gilkey, global director of employee benefits; Jessica Bruce, senior vice president for human resources and corporate communications; Steve Macri, AP’s attorney; and Brian Carovillano, managing editor.

Bargaining will resume May 2.