DEARBORN (WWJ) – Ford is going to launch a new program that will make health care very personal for workers who are dealing with critical illnesses. The workers — and retirees who are too young for Medicare —  chosen for this program will be assigned to nurses who will individually guide them through the health care system, and coach them on the best ways to deal with their ailments.

“We can help people at the same time, and address health care costs.” said Ford vice president of labor affairs Marty Mulloy.

The voluntary program will seek to identify workers, and pre-Medicaid retirees, who have chronic health problems, or at risk of those issues. It will be up to the workers physician to decide if that individual would get a benefit from the program.

“My doctor will send me a letter inviting me to join the program,” said Ford’s director of employee benefits Rick Popp.

About a dozen nurses have been hired. Each nurse will be assigned no more than 125 patients to work with as coach and consultant.

“That person is there to be with you to guide you through the system,” said Popp. “This person knows everything about you. She knows your diagnosis. She knows the other doctors you’re supposed to be seeing.”

A similar program at Boeing helped cut the company’s health care costs by 17 percent.

Sixty one percent of Ford’s health care costs go to deal with five chronic issues: Diabetes, Coronary Artery Disease, Congestive Heart Failure, Asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.

Ford’s Marty Mulloy says the idea came out of discussions Ford had been having with the UAW before the 2011 contract talks.

“We had a discussion, how do we help our employees be healthier and how can we work collaboratively together to reach that objective.”

The program is a two-year pilot. It’s open to current manufacturing workers, and retirees of Ford, GM or Chrysler who are under sixty-five and not yet eligible for Medicare. The UAW says it’s discussing a similar program for active GM and Chrysler workers, but has nothing to announce now.

Ford expects 1200 to 1500 people to take part in the two-year pilot program. All must be referred by their doctors.

As companies look for ways to reduce health care costs, Susanne Mitchell, who directs the UAW’s Social Security Department says this is the type of program that can make a difference.

“Mostly what you hear right now in health care innovation is shifting cost. Really, what you want to do is reduce the overall cost and improve patients health. That’s our goal.”

Connect with Jeff Gilbert
Twitter: @jefferygilbert

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