Sep 13, 2004
A newly filed lawsuit against Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan reveals a little more of the big health-care concession foisted on workers in last year's contracts between the big auto companies and the United Auto Workers (UAW).
The lawsuit was filed by associations representing most Michigan MDs and osteopaths. The doctors claim that Blue Cross illegally cut back what they are allowed to charge for an office call.
Last fall, the UAW pushed workers to accept new contracts with Ford, GM, and Chrysler. UAW president Gettelfinger assured workers that the union had held the line on health care and there would be "no cost shifting." Well, at least there was no cost shifting that the workers were told about before voting on the contract. Not until this spring did UAW leaders let workers in the traditional Blue Cross plan know hat their plan was ended and that they were now in a PPO plan, like it or not.
The plan "features" increases in some fees that workers used to pay – except for office visits, which go down about $20. And since this is exactly what the doctors are suing over, the court suit may wipe out even this small benefit!
The new plan also puts new restrictions on which doctors workers can use – Blue Cross has already said it is disqualifying ten% of the doctors that workers were using.
As Blue Cross cuts doctors out of the plan, pressure is put on the ones left. Everyone knows that some doctors scam the system, but there are many other doctors who are careful about their patients' health and order preventive testing and exams. With Blue Cross dropping doctors, the ones left will feel a pressure not to order a routine exam, not to mention an expensive one.
There is also a mandatory prescriptions-by-mail program, which has now kicked in, requiring workers to finish lots of paperwork and other requirements in order to get their prescriptions.
The prescriptions are sent without regard to problems faced in the mail: heat, cold, or even theft. Second, there's uncertain cross-checking for harmful drug interactions. Third, in case of problems, there is no pharmacist to go to for help. Those workers with serious, chronic problems like diabetes and blood pressure are especially at risk with this new system.
A General Motors spokesman defended the new plan by saying, "We're hoping it will provide our workers access to the most high-performing doctors in the state." Yes, exactly like the companies measure high performance: profit first, numbers second, and workers' welfare last.