Negotiations resume this coming week. It is our intention to meet with the company to determine if the parties can reach a new agreement in a timely manner. As we have noted before, the IAM has told the company that some key areas must be revised from the previous tentative agreement – wage improvement (including retroactive increases for all members), job security, insurance improvement, and language issues – if a new agreement is to be reached. The results of the current survey will identify other concerns of members but if these critical areas cannot be agreed to then an overall agreement will not be possible. We are hopeful that through our discussions in the next two weeks we will see the opportunity for settlement in the near future.
United Airlines notified us this week that Aetna would be taking over the administration of all PPO insurance programs. Member currently covered by Blue Cross/Blue Shield or United Healthcare PPO will now need to make sure their doctors and hospitals are part of the Aetna network. The company claims 95% of current BC/BS and United Healthcare physicians are already in the Aetna network. Since United is self insured the IAM’s concern is to make sure that the contractually required coverage is maintained and that premium costs do not exceed the contractual cap. The information provided by the company thus far has shown that those requirements are being met by this administration change. This change applies to PPO coverage and does not effect HMO options that members may have selected.
This change in insurance administration points out the competition between insurance companies to win business. Since the coverage of our contractually outlined plan must remain unchanged, the insurers need to compete through cost to the company and additional benefits for employees. Aetna won this round. This same competition is occurring on a much larger scale now as the country gets closer to the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as Obama-care. These same insurance companies are scrambling to be part of the insurance exchanges that will be set up under the Act. These exchanges will provide access to healthcare plans from BC/BS, Aetna, United Healthcare, Kaiser, and other companies for all Americans. This change will bring millions of new customers to the insurance companies since they will be providing the coverage, not the government. These plans are required to provide coverage similar to the coverage outlined in the current UAL/IAM contracts, including a requirement that wellness programs and preventative tests must be free. The added advantage of the Act is that it provides financial help to those that qualify through premium subsidies and out of pocket caps, based on income. This help is not only for poverty-level type incomes; it is based on family size. California, among other states, has already developed their program that will begin open enrollment in October. Using that state’s calculator you can see tax relief is given to households with incomes over $90,000.00. This is just one aspect of this new, historic law.
District 141 and our International are researching the entire Act to try to understand the impact it may have on our current and future healthcare structure. This research is necessary now that the Supreme Court has confirmed the constitutionality of the PPACA and it is moving forward towards implementation.