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UAW, Ford Launch Health Pilot Program To Address Chronic Conditions, Reduce Costs

Wednesday, July 3, 2013
By Susan R. Hobbs

The United Auto Workers and the Ford Motor Co. July 1 launched a two-year pilot program to enhance the health care experience and outcomes for hourly workers and non-Medicare retirees with chronic medical conditions, the union and employer announced.

The voluntary program offers more personalized care to help individuals in southeast Michigan with chronic, manageable health care needs, such as diabetes and heart disease, and possibly to prevent future problems. The company anticipates that about 1,200 to 1,500 participants will join the program, which is expected to lead to cost savings.

“This pilot is expected to help us deliver better health care to our employees, while helping to lower total health care costs,” Marty Malloy, vice president of labor affairs at Ford, said in a statement.

The 2011 UAW-Ford national collective bargaining agreement provided for the enhanced health pilot programs.

“The UAW's goal has been and always will be finding ways to deliver better health care to our members. Toward this goal, we will continue to partner and innovate with Ford and other organizations to improve quality of care and outcomes, thereby truly addressing costs instead of merely shifting them,” Jimmy Settles, UAW vice president who directs the union's Ford Department, said in a statement. “We believe the added support in this voluntary program will be of great benefit to our highest-needs members.”

Ford, UAW VEBA Fund the Program

Ford and the UAW retiree medical benefits trust, a voluntary employees' beneficiary association established under an agreement between the union and the three major U.S. automakers, are funding the program. It will have no effect on health insurance premiums for UAW members or retirees who participate.

The $52.4 billion UAW trust, which funds health care benefits for some 800,000 UAW retirees and their dependents, is the largest, nongovernmental payor of retiree health care benefits in the country, Ford said.

Beginning July 1, participants will be invited into the program by their physicians if their health needs indicate they could benefit from enhanced care. Through the program, caregivers will look for ways to help with chronic, manageable health care needs and to prevent future problems when possible.

Ford, UAW, and the UAW trust will not know the identities of the participants or even who is eligible.

A personal care nurse will work closely with participants and their doctors to coordinate care needed to reach health goals. The nurse will be available without extra cost by telephone, email, or in person as often as needed.

The program is being conducted in partnership with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Blue Care Network of Michigan, and Health Alliance Plan as well as certain physicians in southeast Michigan.

Ford has about 18,000 active hourly employees in Michigan. The UAW retiree trust funds health care benefits for about 118,000 non-Medicare retirees in Michigan.

“The Trust is pleased to be asked to participate in this pilot program and excited to partner with all of the participating organizations and physicians. We are thrilled about the opportunity to evaluate this innovative approach, which has the potential to improve the quality of life for retirees as well as active hourly employees,” Fran Parker, executive director of the UAW retiree medical benefits trust, said in a statement.

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