On Tuesday, July 19, Swedish invited Randy Axelrod, M.D., a nationally recognized expert on value-based medicine and wellness to present to the Union and bargaining team during negotiations. Dr. Axelrod recently finished a comprehensive analysis of Swedish’s health plan, as well as employee use of the plan. His review included more than four years of medical and pharmacy claims and more than 2,000,000 claims – and the results are startling.
“If I were to grade Swedish employee’s on their use of preventative heath services, I’d give them a failing grade,” said Dr. Axelrod. “In 2011, employees spent more on acupuncture and massage therapy than on preventative care such as mammograms and prostate cancer screenings. Employees simply need to start making better choices with the use of health care resources.”
Dr. Axelrod found that Swedish’s explosive usage trends and overall costs are well above average when compared to other similar plans in our region.
“In my 25 years of evaluating health care plans, I’ve seen only one other company whose costs were as out of control as Swedish,” Dr. Axelrod added. “This is unsustainable and you must make immediate changes.”
In addition, Swedish’s unhealthy workforce is aging (the average employee age is 48), so these problems are expected to get worse, not better over time
Reversing the Trend: Getting Healthy and Reducing Swedish’s Unsustainable Healthcare Costs
Swedish employee healthcare costs are budgeted at about $5-6 million a month. Swedish is self funded which means that we pay for all medical claims including every prescription, doctor visit, surgical procedure, test, etc. Unfortunately, in 2011 our costs have run closer to $8.5 million each month. The main drivers of this explosive increase in cost is high utilization i.e. employees and dependents are accessing services at a higher rate as compared to past years, sub-optimal care delivery and high cost because of late diagnosed cases of cancer and heart disease. If this trend continues, we will exceed our healthcare budget for the entire year as soon as October!
Swedish’s Proposal: How to Course Correct
After Dr. Axelrod’s presentation, Swedish proposed to SEIU that the labor/management benefits committee roll up their sleeves and come up with joint recommendations by the August 23rd bargaining session. The committee will focus on strategies to improve wellness, prevention and disease management, as well as recommendations on how best to redesign the health care plan. The committee will not focus on premium share. Those issues will be taken up with the full bargaining committee.
SEIU President Diane Sosne agreed that she sees opportunity and “low hanging fruit” to work in a collaborative manner to develop a plan redesign that improves our employee’s health and also save costs. She agreed that a wellness program should be an integral part of the solution. We applaud SEIU’s willingness to address these very important issues.
It’s Not a Gag Order
Following Dr. Axelrod’s presentation, SEIU raised concerns that Swedish is restricting employees from talking about union matters. Swedish emphasized our existing policy: employees may discuss matters of personal interest, whether its union matters or how the Mariners lost another game, provided the conversation does not interfere with patient care or work duties and responsibilities.
Swedish further clarified that, in accordance with our contract, Union organizers may meet with employees only in public areas such as the cafeteria, but not in employee lounges. The Union put forth a proposal to allow Union organizers to meet with employees in lounge areas.
We all agreed that patient care is the primary focus while we are at work.
Questions or Comments?
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