The $0 deductible: How one union curbed the cost of health coverage

A labor union in Boston offers its members health coverage with no deductible and low family premiums by leaving the city's most expensive providers out of its network, according to the Los Angeles Times

The union, Unite Here, Local 26, represents 9,000 Boston hotel workers and their families. Before their new health plan launched in 2013, union workers were given a choice: guaranteed pay hikes and a limited provider network, or unlimited access to all Boston hospitals but no pay raise for 2.5 years. Two-thirds of workers voted for the narrow network, leaving renowned hospitals like Massachusetts General Hospital and Boston Children's out of the network.

In the years following the decision, the health plan has allowed workers to get health coverage for family premiums that are a tenth of the U.S. average. Union workers have zero out-of-pocket costs for physician visits, tests and hospital stays, while specialty drugs cost $12 per prescription and generics are $1. 

"Everyone says we can't do anything about costs, or we just have to get patients to put more 'skin in the game,'" John Brouder, a longtime health benefits consultant who helped Local 26 create the plan, told the Los Angeles Times. "This union showed that's not true … It's a very profound and important message."

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