New York labor leaders recently confirmed they are aggressively pooling their purchasing power.
As MODERN HEALTHCARE previously reported, the New York State AFL-CIO is seeking to maximize the collective purchasing clout of its 3,300 local unions (Dec. 2, 1996, p. 12; Dec. 16, 1996, p. 22).
A resolution passed by the state labor federation last December authorizes its newly created healthcare department to pursue initiatives resulting in "high quality, reasonably priced" healthcare for its 2.3 million members.
Also, as expected, Local 1199 of the National Health and Human Services Employees Union, New York's largest healthcare labor union, confirmed it is carving out a leading role on the healthcare labor purchasing front.
These initiatives build on labor's historic role in shaping U.S. healthcare delivery. Some of the nation's first HMOs were organized by unions. And, not coincidentally, the current and past presidents of the American Association of Health Plans, an HMO trade group, came from the national AFL-CIO.
The New York State AFL-CIO said its affiliates collectively account for nearly $10 billion in annual healthcare spending, about a third of all healthcare purchasing in the state.
Initially, the federation will help individual unions pool their resources under one umbrella, such as a central labor or trade council, to purchase healthcare services, said Edward J. Cleary, president of the New York State AFL-CIO. He said the federation would assist local labor by providing information that will help them select HMOs that will serve their interests best.
Labor unions in New York's Nassau County and Buffalo already are examining ways to come together and hand their pooled business to an HMO, he said.
Local 1199 President Dennis Rivera said his union is seeking to create a managed-care plan that will be marketed to other unions. The union already administers a health plan that covers 300,000 union members, retirees, spouses and dependent children. It currently pays doctor claims directly and contracts with Empire Blue Cross and Blue Shield to administer hospitalization coverage. But now union officials say they want to set up their own hospital network and pay those claims directly.