Boeing negotiates directly with more health systems

Airplane manufacturer Boeing Co. will soon offer more employees the option of health benefits negotiated directly with local health systems. The employer, skilled in the art of negotiations, first used the strategy last year in Seattle to better control healthcare costs.

Boeing added direct contracts with Roper St. Francis Health Alliance in Charleston, S.C., one major location for Boeing’s commercial airline business, and with St. Louis-based Mercy. Boeing’s defense, space and security business operates in 10 U.S. cities, including St. Louis.

Roughly 19,000 Boeing workers will have the option to choose new health plans for 2016 under the contracts. That’s in addition to the 30,000 Puget Sound employees, dependents and retirees eligible for benefits under a similar Boeing contract with Providence-Swedish Health Alliance and the UW Medicine Accountable Care Network in the Seattle area.

Boeing is one of a few national employers that now negotiate directly with hospitals and medical groups to provide employee health benefits or specific services. Intel Corp. contracts directly with Presbyterian Healthcare Services in New Mexico. Lowe’s Corp. and Wal-Mart Stores have limited contracts for orthopedic and cardiac surgeries with select U.S. health systems.