October 18, 2011
By Marc Bussanich
After working all day, working folk do not look forward to logging into their health care provider’s website to find a doctor. But with health care costs going up and up, it’s important for union members to find an in-network physician, lest they want to unnecessarily spend more of their hard-earned money.
Andrew Johnson, the Administrator for the Teamster Center Services Fund (TCF), provides the members of 20 Teamster unions and 28,000 family members important referral services and advice to make sure that members receive the appropriate care from the appropriate physician.
It’s important for members to see in-network doctors because out-of-network costs can quickly drain a fund’s money flow. In addition to providing referrals, Johnson is responsible for pursuing group purchasing opportunities so to keep costs low for mental health and substance abuse services members rely upon.
Johnson may be the sole TCF administrator, but like any professional responsible for managing or directing an organization’s assets, he looks to his colleagues in the field to learn what successes they are having and challenges they are facing.
To that end, he has developed educational forums where the administrators of other union health funds meet to share ideas on how to increase quality services without dramatic price increases, for example.
For the past 17 years, he and his colleagues have organized the Health & Benefits Expo which attracts a diverse group of individuals who manage funds and organizations that provide the health care services union members use. This year’s expo at the Grand Hyatt Hotel will occur on Friday, October 21. Some of the expected attendees include health care service providers such as Blue Cross Blue Shield, EmblemHealth and Cigna.
Each of the providers has its own area of expertise. Some provide pharmacy and prescription solutions, while others offer medical claim audits and reviews. Johnson noted the expertise of one of the expo’s attendees, Health Care Strategies, which culls and extracts minute data to help organizations clearly see patterns in health care usage and associated costs.
“The administrators of a multi-union fund told the union leaderships and staff that the fund would be in the red in five years if did not find a solution to the quandary of providing quality care at non-premium prices. The fund hired Health Care Strategies, which was able to save the fund $74 million because the data it collected and analyzed facilitated tailored solutions to help the least healthy union members.”
Johnson has heard some heart wrenching stories from union members whose son or daughter may be experiencing a relapse. He said he hasn’t received any thank you calls from members after he directed them to a reputable health care facility for treatment, but he’s reassured by the immeasurable value the fund’s services provide.