“There are thousands of doctors in these networks. We’re not trying to act like it’s perfect every single time,” Mitchell said.
Boeing, too, has hit some snags with plans it negotiated directly with hospitals in four states covering 15,000 employees plus family members.
Doctors have willingly prescribed cheaper generic drugs, says Boeing global healthcare head Jeff White. But getting them to commit to, say, physical therapy first before scheduling a costly knee replacement has been harder, he said.
White said direct arrangements have boosted quality and saved Boeing money; he declined to provide exact figures. The aircraft maker spends about $2.4 billion annually on healthcare for more than 120,000 U.S. workers and their dependents.
Some healthcare experts point to the inherent conflict for providers: If they prevent expensive health crises through better care, they also lose out on more profitable services, such as hospital admissions.
“That’s the challenge of trying to ask the health system to save money,” said Jack Hoadley, a health policy expert at Georgetown University.