Health Care Benefits Change at U?Again

Starting the last week of October and ending Nov. 21, University of Utah employees will have yet another chance to change health- insurance plans. It is the second time in three months the U has offered employees open enrollment for health-insurance plans.

In Jan. 2002, to compensate for rising health-care-coverage costs, U employee benefit packages will change. This, the third change in a little more than one year, will affect nearly all U full-time employees.

The U dropped Healthwise coverage, while prices increased for all the other plans the U offers.

Monday, at the Academic Senate meeting, senators discussed the changes.

“We?re in a position we wish we were not in, but we are not the only ones in this situation,” said Joan Gines, director of human resources. ?This is not just our problem, both the private and public industry need to adjust to the rise in health-care costs.?

She also explained that U health-insurance benefits are self funded. All funding comes from employee premiums and departmental funds.

Health-care costs increase, and have increased, significantly each year?quickly depleting reserves used for health coverage, said Loretta Harper, vice president for human resources, in a previous interview. When health-care costs go up, we have to adjust, she said.

Last year, drug costs increased 15 percent, Harper said. Projections indicate another 10 percent increase this year.

Cost exceeded funding for insurance coverage by $4 million during the 1999-2000 fiscal year. During 2000-2001, the U gave $2 million in one-time funding to help compensate. However, when the year ended, the U spent $1.9 million more than came in.

In June, the U switched drug management companies, signing with Advance PCS. For the U, the new contract saves money on administrative fees and prescription-drug costs, however, some drugs will be more expensive for employees.

In January, U insurance dropped one of its most popular plans. They no longer offered the zero premium plan, which had no monthly costs, but charged higher costs for care. To combat the price jump, the U switched drug management companies.

Harper admits everything in U health care has changed over the past year. She hopes the changes, effective January 2002, will be enough to support the increase in costs through 2003.

She feels the faculty and staff know of the need to increase benefit costs.

“Of course, no one want to pay more or see a reduction in the benefits,” Harper said.

Almost 6,000 employees currently choose ValueCare, the most popular care-program at the U. They will now pay 10 percent of costs, whereas previously they paid only a co-pay.

Vice President for University Relations Fred Esplin said, in a previous interview, U health coverage remains inexpensive when compared to national trends. Despite changes in health care policy, it still helps in recruitment of employees and faculty.

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