HSS to Roll Out New, More Affordable, Health Plan

HSS Interim Director Mitchell Griggs (left) presents the new plan to the PEC.

HSS Interim Director Mitchell Griggs (left) presents the new plan to the PEC.

San Francisco’s Health Services System (HSS) is introducing a new, more affordable, option for City and County of San Francisco employees. By working with Blue Shield, HSS is offering Blue Shield Trio. The new plan is being implemented to create competition in the market place to force Sutter’s prices down.

Currently, Sutter is the most expensive hospital system; they charge 20% more than other competitors, like UCSF or Dignity, even though they provide similar or poorer quality of care. When Blue Shield was working to create the more affordable Trio plan, they reached out to Sutter and asked them to participate, but Sutter was unwilling to lower their costs.

There will now be two Blue Shield Plans: the current plan, Blue Shield Access+, which includes Sutter, and Blue Shield Trio, which is the new, more affordable plan that cuts Sutter out. The plan design and coverage of Access+ and Trio are the same. HSS and Blue Shield hope that introducing new competition into the healthcare market will encourage Sutter to lower their outrageous costs in the future.

The current plan, Blue Shield Access+, is going up from last year’s plan by 5%. The new plan, Blue Shield Trio, will be 5% less, totaling to a 10% difference from last year’s price. Blue Shield Trio’s rates will be guaranteed for three years to keep the rates stable. This doesn’t mean that members are bound to this plan for three years if they sign up; the guaranteed rates only affect the provider.

No one is being forced to switch; this is merely a new health care option that Local 21-represented employees can choose, but if you currently use Blue Shield you will need to indicate your preference during Open Enrollment. Members should review Open Enrollment documents carefully and talk to their doctors to see which plan is best for them. For example, someone living in SF could switch to Trio and keep their same doctor, provided the doctor has admitting privileges at a non-Sutter hospital. Employees who live outside the city, where Sutter is the only nearby hospital, might choose to stay with the current Access+ plan.

The new HSS plan was passed on May 10 at the encouragement of the PEC (Public Employees Committee), a coalition of City unions that Local 21 chairs. Our expectation is that it will lower costs for our members in BlueShield, making BlueShield more competitive.

Open enrollment is in October and any plan changes will take effect in January 2018.

A special thank you to Representative Organizer Emma Erbach for being on the Health Services Committee and staying ahead of the curve so members are informed as early as possible.

Emma presented the new option to the Local 21 San Francisco Council, and HSS Interim Director Mitchell Griggs presented the new plan to the PEC.

For more information on the new plan, you can view the HSS presentation here. Or, contact Emma at EErbach@ifpte21.org.