In Montana, a tough negotiator proved employers don’t have to pay so much for health care: ProPublica

“Marilyn Bartlett took a deep breath, drew herself up to her full 5 feet and a smidge, and told the 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,” Marshall Allen writes over at ProPublica. “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. Bartlett came with some unique qualifications. She’d just spent 13 years on the insurance industry side, first as a controller for a Blue Cross Blue Shield plan, then as the chief financial officer for a company that administered benefits. She was a potent combination of irreverent and nerdy, a certified public accountant whose Smart car’s license plate reads ‘DR CR,’ the Latin abbreviations for ‘debit’ and ‘credit.’  Most importantly, Bartlett understood something the state officials didn’t: the side deals, kickbacks and lucrative clauses that industry players secretly build into medical costs. Everyone, she’d observed, was profiting except the employers and workers paying the tab.” Marshall Allen, “In Montana, a Tough Negotiator Proved Employers Don’t Have to Pay So Much for Health Care,” ProPublica.