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Minn. Nurses Walk Picket Line After Talks With Allina Health Fail

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

In Minnesota, nearly 5,000 nurses are on strike after negotiations over their health care plan broke down over the weekend. Elizabeth Dunbar from Minnesota Public Radio reports.

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ELIZABETH DUNBAR, BYLINE: Hundreds of nurses, including one playing bagpipes, walked picket lines outside of five hospitals in the Minneapolis area. It was the second time in three months they've walked off the job as Allina Health and the union - the Minnesota Nurses Association - continue to battle over the nurses' own health plan. Like health systems across the country, Allina says it's struggling with rising health insurance costs for its employees. It's been trying to move nurses onto the health plans offered to other Allina workers. The union's executive director, Rose Roach, says the company's proposed contract would shift more of the burden to the nurses when they need care for themselves.

ROSE ROACH: They want the control, and if we do that, there is a great fear that by the time we get to the end of that contract, those plans could be huge out-of-pocket costs for patients.

DUNBAR: Speaking of patient care, Allina is covering the striking nurses' shifts with 1,500 full-time replacement nurses. Spokesman David Kanihan says the company won't give in just to avoid the hassles of a strike.

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DAVID KANIHAN: It's not about sort of the short-term expediency, but it's about setting up this organization to be able to care for our communities for the long term.

DUNBAR: Both sides say they were close to an agreement over the weekend, but no new talks have been scheduled. For NPR News, I'm Elizabeth Dunbar in Minneapolis. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.