New York union leaders appear to be on a fast track to creating a new healthcare purchasing group that would steer patients to labor-friendly hospitals.
The goal of the new group would be twofold: Lower healthcare costs for their members through collective negotiations with hospitals; and create an incentive for hospitals to slow the pace of staff cutbacks that thin the ranks of the unions' dues-paying members.
Representatives of the New York State AFL-CIO and local unions met earlier this month and agreed to continue talking about the creation of a pooled purchasing initiative.
Sponsored by the state labor federation, the invitation-only meeting focused on challenges unions are facing in providing benefits and services to members and how they may collaborate to secure better deals (Dec. 2, p. 4). About 30 of the federation's 3,300 union affiliates attended. Collectively, the affiliates represent 2.5 million union members.
The New York State AFL-CIO's 50-member executive board was scheduled to convene late last week to consider the matter further, said Mario Cilento, a spokesman for the organization. Cilento wouldn't reveal specifics of the invitation-only meeting or comment on what the board might do.
One strategy is "piggybacking" on the health plan administered by Local 1199 of the National Health and Human Services Employees Union, New York's largest healthcare labor union, a plan official said. The health plan administered by the union's National Benefit and Pension Funds covers 300,000 members, spouses, dependent children and retirees.
New York State AFL-CIO President Edward J. Cleary already has revealed interest in developing a preferred provider network of hospitals. The network would enable unions to exert some control over pricing and enable them to direct members to union-friendly hospitals-those that employ union workers and contract with union labor.