A Tough Negotiator Proves Employers Can Bargain Down Health Care Prices

csimt In The News

By: Marshall Allen

Marilyn Bartlett took a deep breath, drew herself up to her full 5 feet and a smidge, and told the assembled handful of Montana officials that she had a radical strategy to bail out the state’s foundering benefit plan for its 30,000 employees and their families.

The officials were listening. Their health plan was going broke, with losses that could top $50 million in just a few years. It needed a savior, but none of the applicants to be its new administrator had wowed them.

Now here was a self-described pushy 64-year-old grandmother interviewing for the job…

When Bartlett took over the state health plan, it spent about $200 million a year. Bartlett’s team estimated that the new hospital pricing schedule saved the plan more than $17 million in the second half of 2016 and all of 2017 — almost $1 million a month. By 2017, a plan that state officials had predicted would go broke had turned itself around. And it’s projected to save an additional $15 million in 2018 without cutting benefits to employees or raising their rates…

In July of this year, her mission accomplished, Bartlett left her position as administrator of the state employee health plan. She now works for the Office of the Montana Insurance Commissioner, which is taking on pharmacy benefit managers in a bigger way.

Read more at NPR