Bucks County IU 22: Labor-Management Consortium Saves on Health Care Costs

The Bucks County Intermediate Unit 22’s (Bucks IU) health care consortium provides medical and prescription drug coverage to 29,000 school employees and their dependents from 22 school entities in Bucks and Montgomery counties.  Since its inception in 2012, the health care consortium has saved more than $55 million dollars for local taxpayers. 
IU 22 jointly formed the consortium along with the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) when Superintendents and labor representatives in Bucks and Montgomery county schools sought help with rising health care costs. Working together under a joint labor-management governing structure, the consortium showcases the power of local schools joining together with labor to provide high quality health benefits at reduced costs.   
Currently the consortium offers three preferred medical plans through Aetna Health care and prescription drug coverage through CVS Health. Dental, vision, and other employee benefit options are also offered.
The consortium places a large focus on wellness initiatives and preventative care to increase employee health and reduce overall claims. Members of the consortium can work directly with wellness coaches to identify and work towards personalized health and fitness goals.  Labor and Management trustees jointly identify cost-drivers, focus on disease management, and promote healthier lifestyles. Having labor representatives at the table adds perspective that boost effectiveness.
“Our labor colleagues help us understand what may work with employees and what may not work,” says IU 22 Deputy Executive Director Rebecca Roberts-Malamis, who also serves as co-chair of the consortium, along with the Mideastern President of PSEA.  “If we want employees to get flus shots, participate in biometric health screenings, or see value in disease management, our labor colleagues have a unique perspective to help us understand what approaches may be the most effective.”
Managing chronic conditions is expected to bring significant cost savings in the coming years.
“In the first few years of the consortium, moving to self-funded health benefits saved a lot of money for our schools,” says Roberts-Malamis. “Then the real savings comes from actually reducing claim costs.  To reduce claims, we need to help encourage employees to adopt healthier lifestyles.”
The consortium has been “exciting for all of us,” says IU 22 Executive Director, Dr. Mark Hoffman.  “The role of the IU is to be able to offer choices for our school districts.  This is an example of a cost-saving option that we are proud to offer to our districts.  Offering options is what we do best as an IU.”

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