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Part-time employees under these Rutgers faculty unions now have access to affordable healthcare

Earlier this month, members of American Association of University Professors-American Federation of Teachers took to a Board of Governors’ meeting in support of pay equity and affordable healthcare. These unions have since received some of theses benefits.  – Photo by Declan Intindola

Some of the 3,000 part-time faculty members at Rutgers now have access to R-Health Direct Care, a “boutique-style” primary-care network that does not require co-pays and offers easy access to personal physicians.        

The R-Health Direct Care option is available to all part-time Rutgers employees who are members of the American Association of University Professors-American Federation of Teachers (AAUP-AFT) — the University’s faculty union. The option is also being offered to public-employee adjuncts and other workers throughout the state, according to an AAUP-AFT press release.

The program offers employees who sign up access to a personal physician, same-or-next-day appointments and comprehensive primary, preventive, urgent and chronic care, according to its website. Employers who sign up pay a fixed-monthly rate that is not subject to price increases. 

“Rutgers tells us healthcare for part-time employees is not possible,” said Teresa Politano, president of the part-time faculty union, according to the press release. “Yet most Big Ten schools offer healthcare options and job security to part-time faculty members and other employees. This R-Health option proves that there are progressive solutions to a complicated problem.”

The new option was unveiled by the labor union on Thursday at a town hall meeting, according to the press release. The event included a visit from a New Brunswick-based R-Health physician, blood pressure screenings and a healthcare representative who discussed the program.

Union members now have the option to purchase a discounted membership to R-Health at a members-only rate, according to the press release. Rutgers has approximately 3,000 part-time faculty members, which includes many longtime, regular employees who do not receive health benefits.

The program works through independent, primary-care physicians using data analytics to analyze risks, predict treatment success, locate areas of inefficiency and improve patient outcomes, according to the website. This allows them to make unbiased decisions, avoid unnecessary tests and refer patients to lower-cost facilities.

At a protest held outside the Rutgers Board of Governors’ meeting earlier this month, members of the faculty union called for pay equity and affordable healthcare, according to The Daily Targum. The union is currently undergoing its bargaining process, as contracts for part-time lecturers and contingent faculty are set to expire on June 30.

“The response hopefully will be in the coming months when they see our show of power, they see how many people came out, how many members we have,” said Jerald Isseks, a School of Graduate Studies student and teacher assistant to the Targum at the time. “Our membership is at like 60 percent capacity right now which is the biggest it's ever been. It went up from like 20 percent to like 60 percent in the last three years, so hopefully that’s a little bit of a message to them that we mean business.” 

The University's faculty unions currently represent 20,000 employees, according to the press release. NJ Spotlight reported that contingent faculty and part-time lecturers make up 70 percent of teaching staff at Rutgers. The groups are arguing that the pay and treatment of some of its members is unfair.

“ … Adjuncts are more often than not highly educated academics with multiple degrees,” according to NJ Spotlight. “Many are full-time educators in practice, but teach a smattering of courses at schools across the state, cobbling together a schedule that varies from semester to semester with no guarantee that their courses will be picked up.”

Part-time faculty who are union members can now purchase discounted access to R-Health through a special members-only rate. For an individual member, an R-Health membership costs $69 per month, for two individuals it costs $129 per month and for a full-family membership it costs $179 per month, according to the website.

“These employees deserve healthcare options,” Politano said.

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