SYRACUSE — The vast majority of voting CSEA members working for Onondaga County approved a change to the county’s prescription drug plan, proposed by the County’s unions, that will save money for both taxpayers and union workers.

By a 97% majority, in a secret ballot vote, the workers approved the new Specialty Prescription Drug Cost Share Assistance Program, negotiated between the County’s multiple unions in the joint Labor-Management Health Care Coalition, with professional assistance from CSEA’s Health Benefits Department. Both union and county leaders hailed the program as a means to contain increasing health care costs.

Onondaga County Local President Dan Vadala

“This is a win-win for County workers and taxpayers,” said CSEA Onondaga County Local 834 President Dan Vadala. “We were pleased that we were able to work with the other county unions and our new administration to implement this cost-savings for everyone involved. This is an outstanding example of what can result when we work cooperatively to address our concerns.”

County Executive Ryan McMahon said, “This vote is great news for everyone and an example of what we can accomplish when we work together.” McMahon continued, “My team looks forward to finding additional ways we can work with our union partners to better serve both the workers and taxpayers of Onondaga County.”

The union brought in CSEA Health Benefits Specialist Chuck Guild to help negotiate the terms of a Memorandum of Agreement that created the Program, which adds a fourth tier to the workers’ existing prescription coverage to cover “specialty” drugs. The new tier ensures that both the worker and the County will always pay the lowest net cost for the medication.

This change was needed because the health plan’s spending on specialty drugs is expected to approach more than fifty percent of total drug cost spending in the next year. Specialty drugs are costlier drugs and treat primarily chronic disease states, for example: autoimmune diseases, hepatitis C, and multiple sclerosis. These medications often require special handling and additional patient monitoring.

While only about 200 County workers covered by the plan are currently utilizing drugs that would fall under the specialty category, the plan change is expected to save the health plan more than $950,000 dollars a year. The union expects part of that savings will be passed along to workers in the future.


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Mark Kotzin has been passionately advocating on behalf of workers for more than 29 years, previously as the communications specialist in our union's Central Region, and currently as CSEA's statewide Director of Communications.

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