Teamster Center Connects Fund Admins to Vendors

October 19, 2012
By Marc Bussanich
The Teamster Center Services recently held its 19th Health & Benefits Expo where exhibitors who run the full spectrum of the labor benefits world displayed their services and products to fund administrators of multiple Teamster and non-Teamster union welfare funds. The annual conference allows numerous vendors to potentially secure new business and for fund administrators to implement new services that can maintain costs and simultaneously provide quality service to Teamster members.

The conference included 58 exhibitors, five of whom exhibited for the first time, and 350 attendees, according to Andy Johnson, administrator for TCS, which provides advice, referral and case management for all types of behavioral health and substance abuse treatment for 20 International Brotherhood of Teamsters locals.

“The best thing about the event is that fund administrators get to meet vendors in an intimate setting. We hear regularly from funds that they’re able to connect with vendors from all over the country they otherwise wouldn’t know about and talk with them and potentially set up a future meeting at their fund,” said Johnson.
Johnson noted that because the country’s population is getting sicker, the job of a fund administrator is incredibly difficult. Because they can’t project costs, administrators look to multiple vendors for help.
“Funds are sometimes grasping at straws to maintain costs and the many ways to do it were at our event,” Johnson said. He attributed the event’s success to the vacuum it fills. “There’s a need. Vendors need to reach clients and clients need to find new vendors.”
A big challenge for fund administrators to maintain costs is ensuring that members who need a healthcare service go to providers in the network, particularly among those members who utilize a larger share of the benefits.
A fund administrator might not have the resources to keep track of high-risk patients who unnecessarily revisit the doctor’s office because he or she didn’t fill a prescribed medication for diabetes, for example. Therefore, an administrator will hire companies such as HMC HealthWorks and HealthCare Strategies who specialize in care management.
“Typically, 20 percent of a benefit plan’s participants incur 80 percent of the plan’s medical costs. If a fund administrator can get that 20 percent of the participants to lower their costs, a fund will significantly lower its costs,” said Johnson.
According to Johnson, these care management companies will cull through a fund’s claims data to identify high-risk patients or gaps in a patient’s care and address those patients and gaps resulting in significant savings.
“I have seen cases where a fund has saved over $100,000 just on one admission when our office directed the patient to a contracted specialty facility rather than an insanely priced full-service hospital. Moving forward, more and more funds will need to hire care managers to check their costs.”
Tom LaMontanaro, fund administrator for IBT Local 804, which represents mostly UPS package delivery drivers, said that the network of companies the Teamster Services Center has pooled together for the Health & Benefits Expo has benefited his fund immeasurably.
“I get cold calls everyday from different companies wanting to sell me their services. But at the conference I know the companies exhibiting there are reputable,” said LaMontanaro.
He noted that the fund’s trustees were receiving complaints from the members that the dental network was too small.
“We interviewed three different companies and selected DDS Inc., which expanded our network by over 1,000 dentists.”
And the fund is on the verge of reaping significant savings by paying $1,500 apiece for hearing aids valued at $3,000 through a vendor they met at the Health & Benefits Expo
In addition to connecting LaMontanaro with vendors, the Teamster Center Services also handles all the referrals for Local 804 plan participants seeking substance abuse or psychiatric treatment. 
“If the fund had to field calls for substance abuse or mental health treatments, we’d have to hire an entire staff,” LaMontanaro.
He noted that when the Mental Parity Act goes into effect for his plan in 2014, and will require that the plan treat mental disorders with the same coverage limits as any other disease, he’ll need the service center more than ever because the current limitations on impatient treatments for alcohol and drugs will be lifted from two lifetime visits, potentially putting great financial strain on the fund.


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