A Public Meeting on “Dual-eligibles” and the Future of Health Care

A local group called Disability Advocates Advancing our Healthcare Rights (DAAHR) is holding a public meeting tomorrow from 1-3pm at The Paulist Center at 5 Park St. in Boston. Everyone with an interest in shaping health care delivery methods is encouraged to attend, but this meeting should be of particular interest to so-called “dual-eligibles.”

What’s a “dual-eligible?” In plain English, a dual-eligible is any person who qualifies for both Medicare and MassHealth. If this is a new term for you, that’s because it’s a fairly new term for all of us. Part of President Obama’s health care reforms called for a tighter and more efficient coordination between Medicare (which is administered by the federal government) and Medicaid (which is administered by the states). According to federal estimates, dual-eligible people make up 15% of Medicaid enrollment but account for nearly 40% of Medicaid costs. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act—better-known as Obamacare—awarded $1 million each to Massachusetts and 14 other states to implement pilot programs to deliver care in a seamless, cost-effective way for dual-eligible people.

On the national scale, this is Obamacare in action: a federally funded drive to let states create the health care models that will save us all money in the 21st century. On a local scale, this is a fantastic opportunity to make your voice heard and to help create a program that could become a model for the rest of the country.

If you are dual-eligible or know someone who is, I encourage you to attend tomorrow’s meeting. To request accommodations or for more information, please contact Allegra Stout (astout@bostoncil.org; 617-338-6665) or Florette Willis (willisflorette@yahoo.com; 617-297-2030).

Halloween Fun at Somerville’s Monster MashedUp Event

The Great Pumpkin Returns!

Somerville’s Monster MashedUp promises fun for all ages. Photo credit Somerville Journal.

Halloween falls on a Wednesday this year, so the City of Somerville is getting a head start on the festivities with Monster MashedUp, sponsored by Somerstreets in coordination with Union Square Main Streets, Shape Up Somerville, and the Somerville Arts Council. The event will take place this Sunday all along Somerville Ave., from Washington St. to Beacon St., rain or shine, beginning at 12 noon and ending at 4pm.

Monster MashedUp features family-friendly activities such as costume contests, a haunted house, a hayride, live music, entertainment on two stages, and delicious seasonal food from local vendors. The highlight of the event might be the pumpkin carving contest, featuring five enormous pumpkins and carvers wielding chainsaws. Anyone looking for frightful fun can join the Ghosts of Milk Row Cemetery tours for a suggested donation of just $5. And for adults who prefer Bavarian beer to ghastly ghouls, there’s an Oktoberfest co-sponsored by Sally O’Brien’s and Bull McCabe’s from 1-6pm near Union Square, stretching from Washington St. to Bow St.

Somerville Ave. will be closed to traffic for the event (to learn more about changes to traffic patterns, call the city’s 3-1-1 customer service hotline), and—fingers crossed for good weather—this will be a great opportunity to get out and enjoy what’s been a lovely fall in our community. Whether you’ve been planning your costume since last Halloween or you’re scrambling to find one now, Somerstreets’ Monster MashedUp promises to be a fun and active way to celebrate the harvest season.

Charles River Skatepark Designs Unveiled

Artist's rendering of new Charles River Skatepark

An artist’s rendering of the new Charles River Skatepark. When completed, the park will be the largest in New England. Photo courtesy of ASD/Santec and Charles River Conservancy.

As reported by the Beacon Hill Times, the latest plans for the largest skatepark in New England were recently unveiled. The new, 40,000-square-foot Charles River Skatepark  represents a group effort by the Charles River Conservancy, the Department of Conservation and Recreation, and Action Sports Design/Santec, a California-based company that specializes in the construction of skateparks.

This project has been a longtime coming, and it’s part of our plan to reclaim and beautify the Charles River and connect the Cambridge waterfront with Charlestown. I’m thrilled that yet another milestone has been passed.

Have you been to the new North Point Park yet? If not, get out and enjoy this amazing fall weather!

Cambridge and Somerville Arts Council Grant Applications Due Soon

Cambridge-based artists, this opportunity only rolls around once a year! Guidelines for artist grant applications can be found here, and remember that your application must be presented in person.

These grants may also be used as subsidies for schoolchildren and youth programs to attend professional art productions, so teachers should consider applying.

Somerville artists and art teachers should also be aware that Somerville’s artist grant program is operating on a similar timetable, so get those applications in as soon as possible.

After Threatening Strike, Janitors Reach Tentative Contract Deal

I was very happy to learn this morning that the 14,000 janitors of SEIU Local 615 have reached a tentative agreement that the union is calling “good for workers, good for industry and good for New England.” For the past several weeks, these janitors have been negotiating with national cleaning contractors for a contract that delivers more livable wages and more full-time work. Last week, janitors in Massachusetts and Rhode Island voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike against their employers, but it now appears that these workers have achieved victory without the need to strike.

At its core, this fight has been about justice. These men and women clean and maintain the halls and offices of some of the wealthiest businesses and most prestigious universities in New England, yet time and again they find themselves fighting because their wages do not pay enough to make ends meet. In order to cut costs, their employers have engaged in practices that have kept two thirds of these 14,000 men and women from full-time time employment and the health insurance benefits that go along with it. These practices are unfair to workers, their families, and the communities they live in, and the janitors have been right to push back against their employers and demand a full week’s work for a fair wage.

I am proud to say that I stood along with the janitors in this fight, and I am committed to supporting these workers in the future whenever they may need to stand up again and demand fair and just working conditions. The health and prosperity of our communities depend on the availability of good jobs that pay fair wages. Throughout my career in public service, I have fought for collective bargaining and organizing rights because I believe that labor unions play a vital role in the fight for a strong middle class. My sincere congratulations to the janitors on this hard-fought victory!

Update:

SEIU Local 615 has announced the details of the agreement.

“The tentative agreement includes hard-fought gains in:

  • Full-time work to increase 200 percent over last contract: Cleaning contractors agreed to convert a minimum of 680 jobs to full-time positions over four years—with a goal to convert even more jobs to full-time as additional hours become available. We have agreed that all newly constructed buildings of more than 450,000 square feet in the metro Boston area and Cambridge will be staffed full-time.
  • Wages:  For janitors who work in the metro Boston area, wages will increase to $17.85 by 2016, an 11.9 percent increase. Raises for workers in other markets range from 12.4 percent to 13 percent over the life of the contract.
  • Workload: For the first time, janitors—many of whom are required to clean hundreds of offices in an evening—have a process to resolve issues over excessive workloads.
  • Minimum Hours: The contract creates a new minimum shift of four hours for all janitors working in commercial office buildings of more than 100,000 square feet to be achieved through attrition.
  • Healthcare: Contractors agreed to preserve healthcare, vision and dental benefits.
  • Job Security: The contract improves job security for janitors by eliminating probationary periods in situations when a building changes cleaning contractors. This means that when there is a change of contractor at a building, workers who have more than one year of service will no longer be subject to a new probationary period.
  • Unscrupulous contractors: The agreement creates a joint labor-management funded watchdog organization to investigate and abolish illegal and unfair employment practices in the janitorial industry.
  • Personal day. For the first time, workers will earn one personal day per year starting in the second year of the contract.”