Health employees deserve health insurance

As an employee of one of Mission Hospitals’ two Emergency Departments for over three-and-a-half years now, I’d have to say that I greatly value my position and have tremendous esteem for my co-workers. It’s a wondrous thing when you can help aid a wound, comfort a distressed family member, or help save a life.

It’s less wondrous when you realize that the patients who enter the doors of our department either have much better health insurance than we employees do, or have no coverage at all, and they do not have to field calls from collection agencies trying to extract money on behalf of their own employer.

Two years ago, Mission changed from a more universal/general employee health plan with co-pays and no itemization, to a plan that allows a set amount of dollars per calendar year. Under the new plan, the deductible for an individual employee is $3,000 dollars. Once the individual has reached $2,000 dollars of that deductible (through co-payments etc.), he or she must then pay $1,000 out of pocket with no contribution from the insurer before “insurance” begins to pay for health services again. The deductible for a family plan (employee, spouse and children) is $5,000 dollars. Once $4,000 dollars is used, the family must pay $1,000 dollars out of pocket—and then coverage payment is resumed.

A further, extremely confusing detail is that the company that manages this plan requires that the users save and potentially send them every single receipt for every single usage. If you fail to act as your own certified public accountant and itemize as desired, you may be audited and your benefits immediately suspended. In addition, if money is still owed to Mission as the health-care provider, it will be your own employer’s billing department providing you with collection phone calls, and before the day is done you could be turned over to a collection agency. My family’s coverage was abruptly cancelled (and I know of other such families) for discrepancies of less then $5! Approximately $3,600 dollars a year comes out of my paycheck in the form of premiums for such a hideous plan. And the neurology blood work alone for our 5-year-old son was $2,100 dollars because—we were told—we did not “ask” first.

No plan is perfect, and it is indeed a blessing to have a job and any medical coverage at all. I wanted a place to grow with, and as action goes, Mission is by far one of the most interesting and busy places in town.

Mission is the region’s largest corporation, continually touting itself for its accreditations, and employees wear badges carrying the slogan of “Merit”—mercy, excellence, respect, integrity, trust/teamwork. Yet I feel Mission is not meritorious regarding the health and happiness of its own people and their families.

— Radix Y. Faruq
Asheville

Janet Moore, director, Community Relations, Mission Hospitals responds: Four years ago Mission Hospital switched from a traditional insurance plan to a consumer-driven health plan. Consumer-driven health plans are being used by organizations nationwide as a way to provide competitive health-care benefits and involve employees more in managing their care. It’s a new model, and many employees have found the plan difficult to use. Mission’s leaders, all of whom are covered under the same plan, recognized this challenge. After conducting staff focus groups earlier this year, the problems are clear. Using this information, Mission is modifying the current plan to make it more user-friendly. Along with the frustrations, however, are some excellent benefits. Mission contributes to the deductible for each employee, according to their individual plan. Mission’s plan covers preventive care like annual physicals, mammograms and other services that prevent disease or diagnose diseases in their early stages. For many employees, this has enabled them to enroll in disease-management programs through which they receive services and medications at no cost. The writer is correct: No health plan is perfect. The challenge is to develop an “easy button” when it comes to using the plan. We’re working hard to develop one that minimizes frustration and allows all of us who work at Mission to utilize our health-care benefits for ourselves and our families.

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5 thoughts on “Health employees deserve health insurance

  1. vrede

    When I worked as a Mission RN, I found that most health insurance claims required follow-up phone calls and letters in order to receive the benefits to which I was entitled. Each time, I wondered what the poor folks who were less knowledgeable and persistent than I am did.

    Now, I am at a different local hospital and am hearing the same complaints from my coworkers. As a PRN (as needed) employee actually working more than fulltime, I am not elligible to participate in the group plan, even if I were to pay the full cost myself. So, I’m forced to pay twice as much for private insurance.

    I applaud Radix Y. Faruq for speaking out in a state where employer retaliation is far too easy. According to the employee handbook, Mission is an “at will” employer, meaning that one can be fired for any reason or no reason at all with merely a month’s notice.

    These things did not happen in the two previous non-‘right to work’ (ie. worker and union friendly) states where I worked. When my family situation changes, NC’s hostility to workers will be a major factor in leading me to seek employment elsewhere.

    Mission should be given credit for striving to improve health coverage services, but I doubt the result will be acceptable as long as it’s employees are unable to organize for their needs.

  2. Meiling Dai

    Someone should investigate the marvelous health plans (full coverage) that the Mission Hospital Administration has (including Board members and CEO)as compared with the meager catastrophic medical coverage the hospital employees have. Without the hard work and dedication of the employees, Mission Hospital would be toast. Whatever it takes, Mission Hospital Administration should make every effort to
    give its employees adequate and affordable health coverage. They deserve it. They save lives everyday!

  3. Meiling Dai

    I just learned that the health insurance for hospital employees (nurses, aides, etc.)
    will cover them up to $2,000. After that amount
    is used up in claims, the hospital employee has a $3,000 deductible that he/she must meet before the insurance starts picking up its share of medical expenses. Who has $3,000 to throw around these days? The media should do an investigation into hospital employee medical insurance to get at the truth and let the public know what is going on. As the letter writer indicated, “some of the patients we treat have better health insurance than we do.” This has to change. Why should Mission Hospital employees have to leave their jobs to seek work elsewhere in order to get better health insurance. Mission Hospital is a major player in this town. It’s the public’s turn to speak up about this and to contact the powers that be to pressure them to give hospital employees adequate and affordable insurance which they currently do not have.

  4. vrede

    Meiling Dai,

    Not exactly. Mission puts $2,000 per year into a health savings account which can be used to meet the first $2,000 of the $3,000 deductible. So, individual employees have to pay $1,000 out of pocket, not $3,000, before the insurance kicks in. Mission’s plan is still inadequate and it’s imposed from the top down rather than achieved through negotiations with the workers, but it’s not as bad as you describe.

  5. Anthem

    Great blog I hope we can work to build a better health care system as we are in a major crisis and health insurance is a major aspect to many

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