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Close, convenient access to health care benefits for union members

by International Union of Operating Engineers

Published on 10/16/2017

Steven Collier knew something was wrong when he kept losing weight, but he couldn’t clearly explain his problem. He didn’t have an established primary care provider, and didn’t know where to turn for medical help.

A fellow union member encouraged him to ask for help at the health center at the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 101 (IUOE Local 101) in Kansas City, Missouri. IUOE Local 101 teamed up with Cerner to offer a health center for its members, conveniently located at the office.

Collier met with the on-site health center physician. “I explained that I’d lost about 80 pounds, and I just wasn’t feeling good,” said Collier.

The doctor immediately could see something was wrong and quickly referred Collier to a specialist, who discovered colon cancer.

The news came as a shock for Collier and his wife.

“I was at work when he told me. It was earth shattering; I had to leave work. We had to go home and prepare ourselves mentally, physically and spiritually for what was coming,” said Grace Collier.

Just a few weeks after that initial visit, surgeons removed a five-inch mass. Since then, Steven’s outcome has been a success.

“It’s gone. I’ve beat it so far,” he said.

Steven credits the health center at IUOE 101 for giving him a place to turn as his health declined. The health center opened in June 2016. Since then, there have been more than 2,300 visits through June 2017.

Saving time and money

IUOE 101 offers the health center to members without copays and deductibles. In addition to saving them money, the health center also fits into a difficult schedule for Operating Engineer members who don’t want to spend time away from work.

“Time is money to our membership,” said Scott Rettig, business manager. “They’re not going to go sit in a doctor’s office and wait for three hours and lose half a day’s wages,” he said.

To ease the impact of working around the engineers’ schedules, the health center makes it easy to schedule an appointment and see Cerner physician Toni Zink, MD, quickly. In addition, patients receive more personal care than in a traditional setting.

“The care is different here. We have more time with the patients. I’m not rushing from room to room. Each person gets the right amount of time they need,” said Zink.

Prevention and catching problems early

Collier isn’t the only person who learned of potential health problems at the health center. In its first year of operation, IUOE 101’s clinical team diagnosed more than 190 patients with hypertension and nearly 40 patients with diabetes.

“We’re catching a lot of things early and treating them,” said Zink.

The health center works to prevent health problems as well.

Nancy Hayes receives assistance from the center through her husband who is a union member. She worked with the center to improve nutrition and drop her weight. She’s 30 pounds slimmer and plans to continue her progress.

“I come up once a month and we check my weight,” she said. “They gave me some medication that’s helped, and talked about nutrition needs, watching portions and looking for healthier choices.”

Future plans

IUOE 101 leaders plan to continue working with Cerner to expand services offered to members. Visits to the health center exceeded projections for the first year open by 26 percent, with a 99.5 percent satisfaction rate from members surveyed.

“In addition to the quality and convenient health care provided to the membership, we anticipate a big savings for our health and welfare funds,” said Rettig.

For cancer survivor Collier, it’s not just the time and cost savings that he feels is the most important aspect of the clinic.

“The physician here saved my life,” he said. “If I hadn’t done anything, I could either be dead, or my life would be totally changed.”

Client outcomes were achieved in respective settings and are not representative of benefits realized by all clients due to many variables, including solution scope, client capabilities and business and implementation models.