A MODEL OF INDUSTRY
The members of Local 32BJ SEIU are all participants in a health plan
that covers quality care to them, their spouses and their children.
The plan is jointly administered by Union Trustees and Management
Trustees, who carefully manage plan funds and who have hired a team of
outstanding professionals to administer the health fund, with the goals of
providing the best possible care at the most reasonable cost. Leverage
gained from the sheer size of this plan – which includes the workers in both
residential and commercial buildings — has enabled its skilled administrators
to negotiate highly beneficial pricing structures at facilities providing
high quality care.
Every effort is made to control costs without sacrificing quality of care.
32BJ members using plan authorized services are subject to modest copays,
but higher co-pays are imposed on those going outside the plan's
parameters. Outreach to members with chronic conditions encourages them
through counseling and monitoring to control their conditions and greatly
reduce crises, with the double success of healthier employees and reduced
costs to the plan.
The fund is self-insured. Due to its size, the constant vigilance of its administrators
and Trustees – and despite relatively large increases in general
health care costs in the past few years – the 32BJ Health Plan provides top
quality care at a fraction of the cost of similar plans found elsewhere.
This was not always the case. In 2004 the 32BJ Health Care Plan was on
the brink of collapse. The Maintenance of Benefits Provision then in force in
the contract required that employers make up a substantial shortfall, which
was paid into the fund at the end of 2004 and early in 2005. This near-disaster
triggered big improvements in the structuring of the plan, with increased
oversight by employers. The shared goal of quality care at reasonable cost
has evolved into the current plan, which is a model for the industry, much
as it is a model of cooperation between Union and management towards
this common goal. The plan has become more sound each year despite rising
costs of health care. It coped quickly with the Obamacare requirement
that children be covered by family insurance through the age of 26 and the
concomitant extra fees imposed on health plans. It finds ever more creative
ways of helping members better understand and manage chronic illnesses
such as diabetes, heart conditions, asthma and allergies.
Since 2006, the Maintenance of Benefits Provision has been suspended
in all contracts negotiated by the RAB with Local 32BJ. The Union has committed
to finding ways to cope with any shortfall in the health plan contributions
by employers that were agreed upon in the contract. To date, the plan
has been so well managed that this has not become necessary.
The health plan covering 32BJ employees is a highly respected model.
The cooperation between employers and the Union that has been a strong
factor in this achievement should be a point of pride to all involved.