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Direct care and labor unions collaborate

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Healthcare costs are of major concern to employers as well as to their employees. Companies that provide healthcare as a benefit to their team members face increasing premiums, often in a time when they also realize they need to cut operational costs. Employees can have high deductibles and copays that add to the cost of their healthcare premiums. Some of these companies have discovered that working with their employee unions on a solution proves beneficial to all.

While unions can have contentious relationships with company management, the United Auto Workers (UAW) national leaders collaborated with one of its members’ employers to reduce healthcare costs and to keep the company operations in the US. Spirit AeroSystems, based in Kansas, was searching for a way to reduce its expenses and determined that it might need to move its Oklahoma operations offshore, which would mean hundreds of lost jobs.

UAW national leaders pitched a new idea to the management of Spirit AeroSystems: a direct care model of healthcare, specifically “a direct primary-care provider newly formed with investment from another national labor union.” Spirit implemented the new healthcare plan, which reduced costs for the company and for its employees and was able to keep its operations in Oklahoma.

The direct care model is based on monthly membership fees and is focused on preventative care. Unlike insurance coverage, there are no deductibles or office visit copays. The collaboration between Spirt AeroSystems, the UAW local in Tulsa, and the direct care provider, SolidaritUS, began in July 2018 when three direct care clinics were launched. Each of those clinics cares for fewer than 1,000 patients so each patient receives personalized care. The direct care model also provides same-day appointments and after-hours access.

The results of the direct care and labor union collaboration have been “significant.” Visits to the emergency room and to urgent care clinics are down as are health plan premiums. Although employees were at first skeptical, patient satisfaction surveys are now “off the charts.” The collaboration between the UAW, SolidaritUS, and Spirit AeroSystems is “one of a growing number of examples of labor unions taking control of rising healthcare costs by reimagining such factors as how care is provided and how employers contract with pharmacy benefit managers for prescription drugs.”