Cargo handling in Los Angeles-Long Beach slowed on Monday as some dockworkers did not report to work in order to protest what the International Longshore and Warehouse Union say is the slow processing of medical claims.
The Pacific Maritime Association, the employers’ group that represents shipping lines and terminal operators at West Coast ports, said terminals on Monday placed orders for 2,700 workers, but 270 of the jobs were not filled.
Some of the jobs that were affected included crane drivers and other positions that compromised efficient operations at the port complex, PMA President Jim McKenna said. Other West Coast ports were operating normally on Monday.
Picketing by ILWU pensioners was reported at PMA offices in downtown Long Beach and in Tacoma, but the picketing did not affect cargo-handling operations at the ports.
The processing of medical claims has been a hot-button issue, especially for retired longshoremen, for much of the year. The ILWU took similar job actions on April 30 in Tacoma and May 1 in Oakland to protest a backlog of more than 100,000 outstanding claims at the time.
The ILWU health care plan, which is jointly managed by the PMA and the union, changed administrators on Jan. 1, 2013, following charges that the previous administrator, Cigna, was processing claims too slowly.
The West Coast arbitrator chosen jointly by the PMA and the ILWU named a new administrator, Zenith American Solutions, that took over on Jan. 1. Zenith was nominated by the PMA. The ILWU had supported another administrator that had experience in handling union claims.
It took Zenith some time to work through the backlog it inherited, but a pensioner on Monday said the slow processing of claims nevertheless has continued unabated since Jan. 1. This is resulting in some cases in subscriptions for medications for serious illnesses being denied or delayed, the pensioner said.
Employers say much of the delay in paying claims can be attributed investigations into fraud by doctors and abuse by claimants, including doctors charging for services not performed, patients filing claims for procedures that are not covered, including cosmetic surgery, or unbundling of charges.
McKenna said that today most claims are processed in a timely manner, and the backlog is less than two weeks.