St. Peter and employee health care Hospital must change with the times

Special to The OlympianFebruary 20, 2013 

Change can be difficult. And sometimes change can be difficult to understand.

As an organization with a 125-year history of caring for our community, including significant care to the underserved and those without health care insurance, we think it’s important that those who have questions about recent changes to our medical plan know the facts.

Fact one: Providence St. Peter Hospital offers its employees three distinct medical plan options to meet their individual needs. Two of the plans cover medications for chronic diseases such as asthma, diabetes and high blood pressure at no cost to employee. In addition, if employees simply take a confidential wellness screening and verify that they have a primary care provider, an additional $700 or $1,400 (single or family coverage) is available to help offset copays and deductibles. It’s true that the plans have higher deductibles. However, we took special care to ensure that deductibles did not increase by an unreasonable amount. With the addition of the $1,400 that Providence provides to employees who completed the wellness activities, the family deductible under one of the plan choices increased only by $150.

Fact two: Our current contract offer to SEIU and our employees includes a wage increase and benefit package with medical, vision and dental, plus a retirement plan. This contract offer in general and our health plan options in particular are very competitive with other regional health care providers. The offer also includes salary increases at a time when many workers have been living with wage freezes or wage reductions.

Fact three: The rising cost of health care benefits is a local, regional and national issue. Across the nation, most employers faced double-digit increases in premiums for 2013. Health care reform is also on the horizon and will require significant changes for Providence, both as a provider of health care services and as a major employer.

Health care reform isn’t just about providing health care insurance to more Americans. It’s about making material changes to a system that’s too costly to operate and too focused on treating sickness, rather than on promoting wellness. Our employee benefit plans reflect this shift in focus.

Fact four: We believe that bargaining should be done at the bargaining table, not in the press. We have bargained in good faith and continue to do so. We are confident that our decisions regarding the medical plans are consistent with our mission, our contractual obligations and the law.

Our founders, the Sisters of Providence, established a legacy of caring for our community and responding to its changing needs. Today, it’s clear that we must change in order to continue serving the health care needs of our community for years to come.

Our mission calls us to balance the needs of our community with the needs of our employees. We believe our medical plan and benefit package achieves this balance.

Susan Meenk is vice president for human resources at Providence St. Peter Hospital.

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