OFT and a new plan for healthcare for Ohio teachers and others
Union-Sponsored Health Care Plan Open for Business
The Ohio Health Care Trust, offering comprehensive union-sponsored employee benefits, is open for business. Ohio labor unions, under the auspices of the Ohio AFL-CIO, have partnered with Michigan unions to create a new, non-profit trust to offer high-quality care at below-market rates. Michigan unions created their Public Employee Trust in 1985 to reduce costs, improve quality and gain more control over their benefits and their premiums. After two years of research and negotiations, Michigan and Ohio unions decided to join forces.
The Ohio Health Care Trust offers medical, prescription drug, dental and vision coverage, as well as term life and disability insurance. The Trust can administer 401(k) and 403 (b) tax-deferred annuity plans, along with Section 125 “cafeteria” plans. Employers and unions can purchase any or all of these benefit programs. But, only bargaining unions represented by unions covered by the Trust and other employees working for the same employer are eligible.
Plans Can Reduce Costs
The Trust can offer teachers, school employees, higher education faculty and staff, and other public employees the same coverage they enjoy now at less cost, in most cases. Or, the Trust can make expanded benefits affordable. The union-sponsored plan can also provide coverage to private sector employees.
How does the Trust hold down costs? First, it is a non-profit entity. Administrative costs are kept to a minimum, and no profits are retained. Second, the Trust negotiates the steepest discounts available with pharmacy benefit managers, hospitals and physician groups. All costs, discounts and contracts are transparent. Nothing is hidden from the employers or the unions seeking coverage. Commercial health insurance and prescription benefit managers too often do not reveal the discounts they negotiate with drug companies and health care providers, so their customers don’t know if they are getting the best available price.
In Ohio, the union-sponsored plan took another innovative step to reduce administrative costs and corporate profits that add to health care costs. After soliciting and examining bids, the Ohio Health Care Trust contracted directly with a provider network, Emerald Health, bypassing the for-profit health insurance companies altogether. Emerald has an extensive network of hospitals, doctors and other health care providers throughout the state, and has negotiated very competitive discounts with them.
Emerald has partnered with a national network, Health EOS, so that employees and family members covered by the Trust have access to care while traveling out of state or attending college.
For prescription drug coverage, the Trust participates in a larger AFL-CIO purchasing coalition that has negotiated one of the lowest cost plans in the country, administered by Caremark.
And, medical benefits offered by the Trust include a state-of-the-art program that monitors the quality of medical care to ensure that patients are getting the treatment they need and that care is coordinated among various doctors treating the same patient. Health care experts agree that timely and appropriate medical care is the most effective way to reduce health care costs in the long run.
Finally, employers and unions that contract with the Trust for benefits do not need to use brokers who add their commission to health insurance premiums.
In addition to the Ohio AFL-CIO, sponsoring unions in Ohio include the Ohio Federation of Teachers, the Ohio Association of Public School Employees/AFSCME, the Ohio Nurses Association, Communications Workers of America, Operating Engineers, Local 20, and the Ohio AFL-CIO. Several other unions are now considering becoming sponsors. Sponsoring unions have a seat on the plan’s board of trustees. OFT President Tom Mooney became the board’s first chairman in May. Officers of the Trust will rotate annually.
If your school district, college or agency has health care coverage, or other insurance programs or benefits that are up for renewal, your local union may want to get more information about benefits and services offered by the Ohio Health Care Trust. Contact Bob McCollins, executive director of marketing and field services for the Trust, at 1-800-968-9682 ext. 383, 614-537-9741 cell or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Employers and unions should, however, seek competitive bids for all employee benefits periodically and should retain expert consultants to review their coverage and costs and assist them in preparing RFPs and analyzing the bids they receive. But, such consultants should be paid fixed fees for their services, not a percentage of premiums.
Article Courtesy of the Ohio Federation of Teacher, AFT, AFL-CIO