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General Motors Co. and Henry Ford Health System are rolling out a new health care option for employees of the Detroit automaker using a "direct to employer" health care contract this fall, eliminating the insurance-company middleman to cut costs.

The direct contract with Henry Ford, which allows GM employees to work with the provider to personalize care, is a new strategy modeled after similar moves by companies like Intel and Boeing amid rising insurance costs.

The new health care plan, known as ConnectedCare, is open to 24,000 GM salaried employees and their families in Southeast Michigan. It provides access to more than 3,000 providers from a network of primary care and specialty care doctors in the area.

Eligible employees can opt for ConnectedCare during open enrollment this fall, with service beginning at the start of 2019. Annual premiums will be $300 to $900 less expensive than the current lowest-cost option. 

GM will also still offer its two PPO plans with Blue Cross Blue Shield.

"When we go direct to health system, they are held accountable to health" of our employees, Sheila Savageau, GM's U.S. health care leader, said in an interview. "That leads to accountability in cost performance and focused improvement in the health of the GM population."

It took GM about three years to begin this transition to what Savageau calls "value-based" health care payment based on trends they were seeing in the health care industry.

"We saw this happening and said, 'If we don't transition with the rest of the industry we will end up on the other side of this balloon, and eventually that balloon will pop,'" Savageau said. "We were looking at possible increased costs."

"We are very committed to addressing the affordability of health care – offering exceptional care while bending the cost-curve for consumers in the communities we serve," Henry Ford Health System CEO Wright Lassiter said in a Monday statement. "Given our experience in delivering value-based care, and our extensive physician network, we are uniquely poised to create a truly innovative solution for GM, their employees and families."

GM employees and family members under the new ConnectedCare plan will have access to:

• Electronic medical records systems

• Online and mobile access to Henry Ford's MyChart

• Priority scheduling

• Physician matching based on patient needs, likes and dislikes

nnaughton@detroitnews.com

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