Good records helped to cut insurance costsWant to cut your...

WORKPLACE & CAREERS

November 20, 1992|By Kim Clark

Good records helped to cut insurance costs

Want to cut your health insurance costs? Start keeping records of your medical hassles.

When Chris Colehouse took over as personnel manager of Bindagraphics Inc. in Baltimore, she confronted an expensive and chaotic health insurance program.

The bindery company's insurance rates had risen crazily, even though it had switched insurers every year to take advantage of low introductory rates.

"They give you a low rate so you get sucked in with them because the employees don't want to change [doctors and health plans]," Ms. Colehouse explains. "Then they sock the costs to you in the second year."

In 1991, she found a new company, a health maintenance organization run by Prudential Insurance Co., offering a low introductory rate. And she promised the workers that she would try to make this the last change.

For the next year, she exhorted employees to report any hassle with their doctors or health bills. She kept a list of names, dates and details.

This summer, Ms. Colehouse solicited bids for a new contract. Sure enough, Prudential wanted an rate increase, while other insurers offered lower rates to lure new business.

Over lunch with Prudential executives, she pulled out the "single-spaced typewritten list."

"We said 'These were the problems. We want these problems resolved and we want assurances they won't happen if we go with you again.' " As a kicker, she added: "We want a [rate] decrease."

All of which she says she got.

;/ Prudential declines to comment on the case.

Workers paid price for wage increases

Unionized workers won higher wage increases in the third quarter -- at a cost. Companies continued to erase automatic cost of living raises clauses from contracts.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics says large private employers signed three-year contracts giving average annual wage increases of 3.1 percent in the three-month period ending Sept. 30.

The new contracts replace agreements that awarded an average annual raise of 2.8 percent, the bureau said.

But the trend toward low wage inflation continues, as 14 of the 91 contracts settled in that period eliminated automatic cost of living adjustments (COLAs). Now, only 28 percent of all unionized private workers get wages automatically tied to inflation. That's down from 40 percent in 1991.

Waiting tables said to be valuable training

Next time you eat out, consider leaving a dollar bill with some career advice scrawled on the back.

A think tank funded by big restaurant chains found -- surprise! -- that a job waiting tables is terrific work training for American youngsters.

The Washington, D.C.-based Employment Policies Institute, which is funded by the likes of TGI Fridays and Chili's restaurants, says their workers' tips aren't just loose change.

The institute surveyed current and former waiters and found that four out of five said the job was very helpful or somewhat helpful in training them for the rest of their careers.

Enthusiasm for waiting jobs varied with the subject's age and job, though. For example, only one out of four blue-collar workers said waiting was "very helpful" for later life.

And the skills that waiting teaches varied, too. Nearly everyone interviewed said that waiting jobs teach workers to get along with and communicate with people. But only six out of ten said the jobs improved writing skills.

Machinists' offices moved to Maryland

The International Association of Machinists and Aeorspace Workers has moved its headquarters from Washington, D.C., to Maryland.

Last month, the Machinists union's 200-member headquarters staff dedicated a new three-story granite and metal building that mimics the high-technology machinery its members build.

"You get the feeling of entering the gantries at a NASA space center," union assistant secretary William Engler says of the $22 million building in Upper Marlboro.

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