More MBS CoverageTRAVERSE CITY, MI – Compuware Corp.’s Covisint subsidiary says it has inked a strategic partnership with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan to create a statewide health-care portal.

Covisint says it will build and integrate a “secure, efficient and scalable portal platform” for Michigan’s largest health-insurance provider, including hardware and software configuration. (See related story: Covisint to Target Health-Care Costs )

“It’s really exciting for the automotive industry,” says Covisint CEO and President Robert Paul, speaking on a panel at the Management Briefing Seminars here.

“We’re taking the investment the auto industry made in providing a collaborative platform to share information online and basically replicating that with full HIPA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996) compliance for the local regional health-care market.”

Covisint's Bob Paul

Covisint says the portal will improve “the automation of routine business practices and shared access to information over the Internet,” in areas such as benefits administration and claims management.

A variety of panel participants discussed how to tackle the auto industry’s health-care crisis.

Theresa Skotak, vice president-human resources for Dura Automotive Systems Inc., says by implementing generic-drug incentives the supplier’s employees have made a significant shift to generic medications from brand-name drugs.

Dura also has joined a pharmacy-buy consortium, providing notable cost savings and rebates from pharmacy-benefits providers, she says.

“And in 2004, we introduced a wellness incentive plan where we provided 100% coverage, with no deductibles and no-care co-pays for preventive tests and services based on the recommendations of the American Medical Assn.,” Skotak says.

Dura is hoping the preventative efforts will pay off in the long run. It ultimately will result in a cost avoidance for Dura, she says, adding it is too early to tell the program’s outcome, which began last year.

Additionally, Dura offers a voluntary disease-management program for employees with long-term health problems, such as diabetes. Skotak says the program likely will become mandatory, “under certain conditions,” in order for employees to get maximum benefit levels.

Dura’s health-care costs in 2002, before any of these actions were taken, were climbing at a rate of 12.8% annually. In 2004, costs increased 6.7%, she says. “We think we’re on the right track,” Skotak says.

Charles Roehrig, of the non-profit Altarum Institute that researches, develops and deploys decision-support technologies in the health-care field, says too many workers engage in unhealthy habits.

“Don’t smoke, have a proper diet, control your weight, get some exercise,” Roehrig advises the audience. He preaches rewarding good behavior, while penalizing bad employee behavior…within reason.

“I’m not promoting, ‘If you smoke, you’re fired,’” he says, referring to the case of health-care company Weyco Inc. of Michigan, which fired known smokers earlier this year.

Roehrig says he doesn’t have the answers regarding changing employee behavior. Those who figure it out, he says, “will be ahead of the pack.”

cschweinsberg@primediabusiness.com