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No Cost Health Care Coverage at SFO Eliminated Under the Law

Date: October 14, 2021

As we reported in E-lines in January of this year, the Healthy Airport Ordinance expanded subsidized Medical Coverage at SFO

As we approach Open Enrollment for 2022, we want to proactively remind you of changes we told you about when we learned about further changes to the plan that resulted when the ordinance was amended earlier this year.

On November 10, 2020, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors amended the HCAO to include specific requirements for SFO employers.  The Healthy Airport Ordinance (HAO) went into effect on March 21, 2021 which included amendments proposed on March 2, 2021.

When all was said and done, reviewed by AFA Legal and the United Master Executive Council (MEC) Officers, when enacted in March 2021, there were two definitive changes that occurred:

  • Medical Coverage was extended to families (rather than only to individuals) and defined coverage requirements were established, and
  • The amendment clarified the definition of who was covered making it clear, under the law, that Flight Crew Members were not covered under the ordinance.

When these changes occurred, your SFO Local Council leadership identified their concerns to the MEC Benefits Committee expressing proactive concern about how these changes would impact Flight Attendants.  In consultation with the MEC Officers, an effort was immediately undertaken to advocate for the company to continue the program as had been offered over the years for the benefit of the Flight Attendant work group.

AFA Council 11 - San Francisco and the United MEC Benefits Committee participated in discussions with the Department of Public Health and the Office of Labor Standards Enforcement to discuss the impact of these changes.

Through the course of the Union’s ongoing advocacy and following discussions with management, the company and AFA came to the understanding that if the company were to do this, the cost of this coverage would become part of the Medical Rate Setting methodology (LOA #21).  As a result, the cost of continuing this coverage would result in the subsidy coming from other Flight Attendants as the cost would be passed on to other Flight Attendants. 

Discussions with the company made it clear that if the company could continue this program without harming other Flight Attendants, they would do so.  However, the costs of the plan would have to be passed along (since United is self-insured).  As a result, other Flight Attendants would end up subsidizing this “free” benefit when these costs were included in the total medical costs for the year and setting the medical rates for the next year. 

Given that the law defines who is covered and the HAO amendment clarified that Flight Crews are not covered, continued coverage without cost, as had been provided in the past, would not be a viable alternative.  As much as the Union would like to see this benefit continued, what it boils down to is equity for all employees.

Offering this “free” benefit to one group of employees who are not eligible for the benefit under either the law or the contract while passing those costs, the subsidy, on to other employees in the same work group was simply not supported by the Contract nor could the Union justify passing along these costs to other Flight Attendants.

For 2022, Benefits will continue to be offered consistent with the terms of our Contract.  We want to be sure you’re aware of these upcoming changes and are prepared to review the plans that will be offered this year in order to make the best decisions on the coverage that is right for you and your family.  


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