An eagerly anticipated improvement to the Seafarers Health and Benefits Plan (SHBP) clinic system kicks off March 1, and the result should be less travel and more convenience for SIU members.
Parts of the new system will be phased in, but Seafarers may take advantage of the expanded network immediately. As of March 1, members will be able to choose from among more than 2,000 participating facilities in the contiguous United States.
As reported at the January membership meetings, the SHBP recently finished negotiations with Comprehensive Health Services Inc. (CHS) to provide participants a more extensive network for clinic services. This larger network virtually without exception will offer access to clinics closer to home for annual exams, functional capacity evaluations and interval exams.
SHBP Administrator Maggie Bowen pointed out that some of the previously utilized clinics are part of the new network, so Seafarers and their eligible dependents “may see the same doctors if that’s what they prefer.”
In the near future, Seafarers will have the option of using the members-only portal on the SIU website to schedule medical appointments and review related information. For now, though, Seafarers should contact their respective port agents for step-by-step guidance on the new clinic system.
SIU Vice President Contracts George Tricker noted that with the advent of the expanded network, it is more important than ever for members to maintain current addresses and other contact information both with the union and the SHBP. This information may be reviewed and updated on the SIU website or via the union halls.
He also pointed out that the improved network is a direct result of SIU negotiators acting upon feedback from the membership during last year’s contract negotiations.
“After a phase-in period, members no longer will be required to pass a pre-hire Anderson Kelly physical,” Tricker stated. “This will affect members seeking to renew their clinic cards that expire after March 1, 2013.”
He added that SIU-contracted companies still may ask for an independent physical analysis.
Last fall, rank-and-file Seafarers and officials from the union and the SHBP visited some of the new medical facilities and completed many of the tests in order to help verify the quality of the clinics and the fairness of the procedures.
Updates on the new clinic system will be reported in future issues of the LOG, at membership meetings and on the SIU website.