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Labor Unions Promise To Fight Employers' Efforts To Shift Costs

MANAGED CARE February 2003. © MediMedia USA
News and Commentary

Labor Unions Promise To Fight Employers' Efforts To Shift Costs

MANAGED CARE February 2003. ©MediMedia USA

Walls that have historically protected workers from sharing more of the financial burden for health services may have also helped to block knowledge about how much their choices actually cost. Cracks now seem to be appearing in some of those bastions — large labor unions. Whether those openings will help to throw light on the subject remains to be seen.

At General Electric, unions staged a two-day strike last month over the company's insistence that workers pay more for health care. In addition, other major industries face similar labor unrest over coverage. U.S. automakers and the United Auto Workers union, and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and trucking companies, will also be negotiating this year.

"Rising health care costs mean that health care benefits and who should pay for the increases are going to be an issue in almost every set of negotiations until those increases disappear," Rick Banks, director of collective bargaining for the AFL-CIO, tells the Washington Post. "And that's not going to happen anytime soon."

GE officials say that the company increased employee copayments by about $200 per person on Jan. 1. Those increases include a $10 rise for specialist visits to $25 per visit, and a new $150 copayment for inpatient hospital care.

Overall costs to GE workers will increase about 20 percent from the current $1,000 a year. The company says that its health care costs have increased about 45 percent from 1999 to 2002 ($965 million to $1.4 billion).

Companies expect health care costs to rise 14.6 percent this year, according to a recent poll by Mercer Human Resource Consulting.

As a result of such forecasts, many businesses are testing the limits of how much of the increase they can pass off to workers.

"From the point of view of many unions, what they see is an unraveling of what it has taken many decades to put together, which is the employer paying most of the cost of benefits," Harley Shaiken, a professor specializing in labor issues at the University of California at Berkeley, tells the Post.

Meetings

Private Health Insurance Exchanges Conference Washington, D.C. October 7–8, 2014
National Healthcare Facility Management Summit Palm Beach, FL October 16–17, 2014
National Healthcare CFO Summit Las Vegas, NV October 19–21, 2014
National Healthcare CXO Summit Las Vegas, NV October 19–21, 2014
Innovative Member Engagement Operations For Health Plans Las Vegas, NV October 20–21, 2014
4th Partnering With ACOs Summit Los Angeles, CA October 27–28, 2014
2014 Annual HEDIS® and Star Ratings Symposium Nashville, TN November 3–4, 2014
PCMH & Shared Savings ACO Leadership Summit Nashville, TN November 3–4, 2014
World Orphan Drug Congress Europe 2014 Brussels, Belgium November 12–14, 2014
Medicare Risk Adjustment, Revenue Management, & Star Ratings Fort Lauderdale, FL November 12–14, 2014
Healthcare Chief Medical Officer Forum Alexandria, VA November 13–14, 2014
Home Care Leadership Summit Atlanta, GA November 17–18, 2014