General Motors Corp. has joined a small but growing number of large companies taking a different approach to improving the health care delivery system by cutting out health insurers and contracting directly with providers.
Late this summer, the Michigan-based auto manufacturer signed a deal with Henry Ford Health Systems to provide health care and wellness services to salaried GM employees and their families throughout southeast Michigan. In doing so, the company joined Walmart, Boeing, Intel and other employers shaking up the system by adopting alternative pay and delivery models, such as accountable-care organizations and high-performance networks.
The way large employers see their role in health care is changing, with nearly half adopting a more activist role in shaping health care delivery, according to a 2018 survey of large employers by the National Business Group on Health.
“The reason for this activism is the confluence of several things,” said Suzanne Delbanco, executive director of Catalyst for Payment Reform, a nonprofit coalition of about 30 employers seeking improvements to the health care market. “There is an awareness of the variations in quality and cost, which often have no relation to one another, and how that is a reflection of the provider market power. There is an awareness of consolidations, which allows providers to command high prices. And there is an awareness that employers have to get creative by contracting directly with providers.”
Although the percentage of employers contracting directly with health systems and providers is small, it has more than tripled in the past year, from 3 percent to 11 percent for 2019, according to the recent NBGH survey.
The GM plan, which launches in January, will provide access to more than 3,000 providers, including primary care and more than 40 specialties, behavioral health services, and hospital and emergency care. It will be available to nearly 24,000 salaried employees and their families.
“It’s a sign that more employers in different markets like Detroit are getting involved in engaging providers on a local level,” said Steve Wojcik, vice president of public policy for the NBGH. “It’s not only companies on the West Coast or tech companies like Intel that are adopting these innovative approaches.”