Health Care Looms Large in Upcoming League Talks

July 27, 2021

1199ers say they are ready to defend essential lifesaving health benefits.


can’t let ourselves think that it’s just about the paycheck. There are a lot of working people who have to choose between paying for health care and paying their rent—or even paying for something to eat,”

– Linda Askew, Senior Lab Clerk, Montefiore Medical Center

The Local 1199 Benefit Plan was formed in 1945, and its goal was to provide basic health, disability and life insurance benefits to just 300 New York City retail drugstore workers with employer-paid contributions. In 1948, the Benefit Fund became self-insured and self administered.

Since then, the Fund has continued to grow, providing the infrastructure to support additional benefit funds that provide coverage for healthcare workers throughout the industry in hospitals, nursing homes and homecare agencies.

Today, four jointly administered Benefit Funds provide a full package of benefits, including hospital, medical, prescription, dental, vision and quality-of-life benefits to more than 400,000 members, retirees and their families.


Perhaps nothing in recent memory has highlighted the importance of these health benefits like COVID-19. During the pandemic, frontline healthcare workers tended to some of the most desperately ill patients they’d ever seen. In many instances, those patients were friends and acquaintances from the same communities, and in too many instances, they were close family and loved ones.

As 1199ers prepare to enter contract negotiations with the League of Voluntary Hospitals and Homes, the reality of our COVID experiences remains fresh in our minds, and so too is the importance of protecting all members and their families with good, strong health benefits. Come contract time, 1199ers are clear that we will do whatever we must to protect the health benefits that we and our families depend on.


Support for Family & Chronic Conditions

“When we go into negotiations, we really need to keep in mind that we have to protect all the 1199 benefits we have, but especially our healthcare benefits,” notes Montefiore Medical Center Senior Lab Clerk Linda Askew.

As the mother of an asthmatic son and someone who has her own chronic health conditions, Askew is very aware of the crucial role her health coverage plays in her family’s life. Maintaining these benefits feels like a personal mission.

“We can’t let ourselves think that it’s just about the paycheck,” she continues. There are a lot of working people who have to choose between paying for health care and paying their rent—or even paying for something to eat,” adds Askew, a longtime delegate at Montefiore.

Caring for Our Emotional Health St. Barnabas RN Heidi Espinal says her 1199 health benefits have provided the resources to help her process her COVID trauma. Espinal says the support of the NBF has helped her professionally as well as at home as a mom to her 12-year-old daughter.

“When you have a support system like the NBF, you are able to move forward in life and take care of all the things you need for your family to the best of your ability,” says Espinal.

Support In A Crisis Yesinia Pena, a Patient Care Technician at New York- Presbyterian’s Allen Pavilion heartily echoes Askew and Espinal’s reminders. After falling ill on a family trip to Mexico in 2018, an arduous diagnostic journey—all of which was covered by the 1199 National Benefit Fund—revealed that Pena had Stage 2 Thyroid Cancer. The mother of three underwent a pair of surgical biopsies as well as surgery to remove more than 50 cancerous lymph nodes and her thyroid gland.

Because the surgery affected the nerves in her neck, Pena was unable to work for several weeks leading up to her prescribed course of radiation.

Pena couldn’t eat, speak or dress herself without pain. When a clerical error almost stalled her radiation treatments, representatives from the 1199 National Benefit Fund leaped into action, making sure she could get the treatment she needed when she needed it.

“The moment I needed 1199 the most, [my benefits] were there for me,” she says. “They just said that Presbyterian should send them the bill. I didn’t have to worry about paying a penny. That’s why I tell everyone that we must take every opportunity we can to support our Union and protect our benefits.”

For more information about the 1199 National Benefit Fund and your healthcare and other benefits, visit

1199 Magazine - May / June 2021