Firms offer plan for uninsured workers

Posted on Tue, May. 11, 2004

By Bruce Japsen

Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO – More than 50 of the country’s largest employers said Monday that they will band together to offer health insurance to workers who otherwise would not qualify, offering coverage to 4 million uninsured workers and their dependents by next year.

The companies include major Tarrant County employers — American Airlines parent AMR Corp., Lockheed Martin and Bell Helicopter parent Textron — as well as McDonald’s, Sears Roebuck, Home Depot, Ford Motor and General Electric.

The plan also lists Dallas-Fort Worth as one of six regions where the companies intend to create a purchasing coalition to negotiate lower costs.

Coverage would be offered to part-time, temporary and contract employees as well as early retirees. Those workers make up a growing share of the nearly 44 million uninsured Americans.

“We’re very supportive of this program, we think it’s a good community initiative,” American Airlines spokesman Roger Frizzell said. He noted that the program entails no additional costs for American, which has been working over the past two years to reduce expenses.

Besides addressing a growing social problem, the move saves the companies money. Major employers have reduced the medical benefits they offer as costs have zoomed upward, but now private insurance is absorbing costs from those who cannot afford medical care, essentially sending employers a larger bill.

By reaching out to the uninsured, employers hope to eventually rein in health-care costs, which are climbing nearly 14 percent a year for large companies.

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