Miami-Dade unions want healthcare prices


Labor representatives meeting with Miami-Dade administrators to explore ways to reduce healthcare costs asked for more price transparency.


Miami-Dade labor representatives urged county administrators Tuesday to require more price transparency from hospitals, doctors and insurers — including the county’s employee health plan administrator, AvMed — as a way to help reduce the rising cost of employee health benefits in 2015.

Healthcare costs could rise as much as 10 percent next year when Miami-Dade’s employee health plan could cost as much as $424.7 million, said Ed Marquez, deputy mayor for finance.

With that sense of urgency, the Labor Healthcare Committee — established by Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez to review employee health benefits and save money — began to lay the ground work for labor negotiations that will begin later this year.

The committee will meet as both sides negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement to cover a three-year period from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30, 2017.

Health benefits and their costs are expected to be a major point of contention, following a vote by Miami-Dade commissioners in December to restore workers’ pay and no longer require most of the county’s employees to contribute 5 percent of their base pay toward group healthcare costs.

Labor representatives repeatedly asked for more information on hospital prices for emergency room visits, diagnostic tests and imaging services to better understand the county’s healthcare spending.

“It’s really hard to be insightful with this when you don’t see where 99 percent of the costs are going,’’ said Duane Fitch, a healthcare consultant for SEIU Local 1991, which represents Jackson Health System physicians and nurses.

But those prices are proprietary, said Patricia Nelson, AvMed regional manager. who said insurers negotiate reimbursements with hospitals and doctors each year, and both sides sign non-disclosure agreements.

Miami-Dade’s plan is self-funded, though, which means the county pays its own medical claims, and contracts with AvMed for “access to network discounts and to process the claims,’’ according to a slide presented by Arleene Cuellar, human resources director. AvMed’s fee comes to about $31 per employee.

There are currently 59,964 people covered by the county’s employee health plan, including about 34,000 county and Jackson Health System employees and retirees, and about 25,000 dependents.

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