In early January, Dalton Bocknick’s wife was pregnant and in her second trimester when her baby’s health began to deteriorate. The couple made an appointment for an ultrasound and as they were leaving the hospital staff called and said their insurance was not active.
He soon learned that his employer, General Electric, had removed his wife and young daughter-in-law from health insurance. After weeks of complications, including internal bleeding, Bocknick’s wife delivered the baby, named Isabella, at early 23 weeks. The newborn died an hour later. “One second you sign a birth certificate and then the doctors take that paper away from you and give you a death certificate,” Bocknick said. “It’s unimaginable.”
Adding to that pain, Bocknick says, are the $13,000 in medical bills his family racked up while fighting GE to have their health coverage reinstated.
“I felt like I had no one to lean on, and when you’re employed by a big company like that, you hope they’ll take care of you, but it just wasn’t the case,” Bocknick told The Daily Beast in an interview.
Bocknick, a machinist at GE Aviation’s historic River Works plant in Lynn, Mass., isn’t the only employee whose dependents have lost their health insurance this year.
The union representing workers at select GE plants across the country said it learned that last month GE terminated coverage for at least 106 dependents of 71 employees at plants in Kansas, New York, from Kentucky and beyond.
The cuts followed a company-wide audit of dependents of employee health plans. While GE says the workers did not participate in the audit and thus lost coverage for their spouses and children, the employees say they were unaware of any such review. In previous years, coverage for dependents was automatically renewed.
These workers say they only found out about cuts in health coverage for dependents at the doctor’s office or after receiving hefty bills.
Dalton Thavisay, a GE employee in Kansas, says he discovered his dependent’s insurance had been cut off when he went to pay for his 13-year-old son’s braces. Bill Broomhall, a New York employee, learned his family plan had been canceled when he rushed his son to the emergency room for something that caught his eye. Jesús Beltran, also in New York, says he was stunned to learn that his 8-year-old daughter had been kicked out of her insurance when he went to a pharmacy to pick up her medicine.
The Communications Workers of America Industrial Division (IUE-CWA) demanded that families regain their health care and that GE cover employee medical costs incurred as a result of the cuts.
So far, according to the EUI-CWA, GE has refused to do so.
But a GE Aviation spokesperson recently told the Daily articlea Lynn diary, that “no employee lost their coverage as a result of this audit”.
“$13,000 is like a quarter of what I make a year.”
According to GE, the loss of dependent coverage is the result of an independent audit that took place during 2021 to ensure participants were eligible for company health plans. The Fortune 500 conglomerate says it repeatedly informed employees that an audit of dependents was underway.
A GE spokesperson told The Daily Beast: “Our deepest condolences go out to Mr. Bocknick and his family for their tragic loss. We provide healthcare benefits to approximately 110,000 GE employees and their dependents across the country and have spent an entire year helping employees verify their dependents, sending multiple emails or letters, arranging meetings and carrying out additional awareness-raising actions. According to our records, no employee who submitted the required documents had dependents who were denied coverage.
GE says it twice extended the audit deadline and communicated “thoroughly and transparently” with employees about the request to participate in the process.
The spokesperson added that “sixty percent of dependents who were removed had no documentation provided to verify their attendance.”
Still, the union filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board over the health care cuts, arguing that GE failed to negotiate with the union before proceeding with the audit. Robert Holt, a lawyer for the EUI-CWA, said that “it is clear from the number of people affected that [GE’s] the notice was not effective.
“We don’t doubt they made an effort, but what’s clear to us is that people fell through the cracks,” Holt said. “The question is, what will we do to help these people maintain their health coverage?
“As far as I know, they didn’t want to restore health coverage,” Holt added.
Bocknick, a member of EUI-CWA Local 201 and who works on F414 fighter jet engines at GE, is adamant that he never received any letters regarding the audit.
For weeks he had been filing claims in GE’s insurance system, trying to reinstate coverage for his wife and daughter-in-law due to a “life-altering event”. In this case, the imminent birth of his daughter. “This thing was on my mind,” Bocknick said, adding that his wife suffered from internal bleeding and nearly lost her life during the pregnancy. “And with everything going on with me and my wife, I couldn’t afford not to know, do we have health insurance, do we, because I didn’t want to be denied care.”
In late February, shortly after the baby’s death, he learned that his claims had been denied.
Bocknick says after the union pressured GE to help him, the company said it was willing to put its dependents back on the plan, as long as he paid the $13,000 first. of invoices. He refused. “I was telling GE that $13,000 is like a quarter of what I make a year,” he said. “I only have one income right now.”
“He learned his family plan was shattered when he rushed his son to the ER for something that fell in his eye.”
“It’s just about saving as much money as possible,” Bocknick added. “And basically trying to pull a quick one on me.”
Despite the health care imbroglio, Bocknick says he’s proud to be an employee of GE, which was founded by Thomas Edison and received billions in military contracts. “I love knowing that the military can know they’re safe because of me, and so many others take pride in working on the parts,” he said. “It’s good to do a job that’s bigger than yourself.”
The healthcare battle comes as employees battle GE’s plan to outsource 80 jobs at the Lynn plant. The union’s ‘Bring It Home GE’ campaign, backed by groups including Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, the AFL-CIO and veterans group Common Defence, is calling on GE to stop outsourcing jobs and invest heavily in domestic manufacturing jobs in green energy. Infrastructure.
On Valentine’s Day, workers demonstrated outside GE’s Boston headquarters against the company’s $2 billion plan to split into three separate entities and cut those jobs.
Meanwhile, a union organizer in Lynn told The Daily Beast that co-workers were ‘livid’ that co-workers’ families were being kicked out of their health plans while GE CEO Larry Culp was among the highest-paid executives public companies.
As the the wall street journal reported last month, shareholder protests led Culp to agree to cut his compensation by about $10 million this year.
From a union leader’s perspective, the health insurance audit was done to save GE money on the backs of workers. The company has worked to reduce billions in debt.
He said that at the start of the audit, the union was told in a letter that “the review is not intended to remove coverage for eligible dependents, but rather to ensure that those on ‘a blanket are entitled to it’.
“They just thought nobody was going to say anything and they were going to save money,” he said. “And I think that’s why GE has this whole narrative of personal responsibility on its so-called campaign because that was the plan all along, we’ll force people to give up health insurance and then we’ll do it. personal responsibility when they refuse to send a certified letter. [to employees] or have a boss tell someone directly to do it.
“It’s clearly about saving money.”