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Monday, April 9, 2012

Health Care Petition - Comments

We, as the employees of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, want to express our concern that staff are not feeling valued. Health care costs are increasing at an alarming rate, longevity and loyalty do not appear to be rewarded by the administration, and current compensation packages make it challenging to sustain a family.

The healthcare increases implemented for FY 13 will be detrimental to the University’s efforts to recruit and retain staff. We request that the University system seek to mitigate these costs for FY 14 to prevent a competitive disadvantage among peer institutions and other state agencies. We furthermore ask to see additional choices developed to preserve our current PPO options, and incorporate Health Savings Accounts, Supplemental Insurance options, HMO options, and innovative solutions to broaden choice and potentially reduce costs.

To sign this petition either see your UAF Staff Council representative or see Mary Sue Dates at 110 Eielson Bldg.  For rural sites please email your comments to


Anonymous said...

This petition is very much appreciated by the staff here. I can't speak for others, but I would additionally like for the University to provide documentation of the specific effort, methods,and approaches they have used to address the rise in health care costs. I have pointed this out in the recent survey that was circulated also.

I might be mistaken or have not been paying attention over the last 16 years here at UAF, but
the general perception that staff have as a whole is that the University has not really "gone to bat" on behalf of employees. I do not consider changes in accounting methods, budgets, or "negotiations" with policy administrators as putting any real effort into coming up with a solution. It's like throwing a
life preserver to a drowning person at the last minute.

It would be somewhat comforting to know that the University is doing everything possible at the State and National level to address Alaska's unique healthcare problems, and not just focusing on this as anorganization. This lack of engagement gives the appearance of indifference. This is a State issue, and it seems the University system as a whole has been unwilling to consider other options for health care.

It is much like the University's current involvement with trying to address Interior and Rural Alaskans energy costs. There is none. If they think healthcare costs will make them unable to compete, couple huge enegy costs with it, and see how many people start leaving. The University is no longer attractive as an employer.

Anonymous said...

I had a staff member tell me they would have to quit because it wouldn't pay them to work here any more. With the parking fees and the higher cost of insurance, it would be more cost effective for them to not work. Now they are thinking to opt out of insurance and use a clinic on a sliding fee scale because it will take to much out of their pay. Admin Assistants just can't afford this, we are suppose to be the glue that holds the system together but we don't get paid like it.

Anonymous said...

I would like to add my voice in support. I have been staff with UAF since 1986 and have never felt so undervalued and frankly overtaxed. this year's rise in health care cost will take over $160/mon from my check, any proposed salary increases won't even come close to covering those costs. meanwhile my faculty colleagues cannot even conceive how much this will hurt, since it appears the UA is balancing all these costs on us. the letter I got last week made it sound like it was our fault that costs were rising - no flipping wonder people are opting out and of course we go with the high deductible - it's the only way we can afford to keep insurance at our pay level. sign me up, I've had it!

Anonymous said...

I agree with all comments here. It is sad what is happening. I am in such a state of shock over these increases. I am wondering how to make ends meet. I think there are many in the U are wondering the same thing.

I am sorry for all of us. I appreciate all the work staff council is doing to help the staff.

Anonymous said...

The writing was on the wall when the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care act was passed so no one should be surprised by this. AFter all, it allows 26 year olds to stay on their parent's coverage, mandates that entities such as the University pay a 40% excise tax on our plan because it is a "Cadillac" plan, and requires insurance companies to go from paying 65% of premiums out in the form of claims to 80% (leaving all of 20% for overhead such as the payroll for employees who handle our insurance, the office space where they work, their equipment, etc.)

The University has their hands tied complying with the outrageous demands of this law and are only doing what they have to do to both comply with it and to not go bankrupt because of it. Perhaps we should be petitioning our legislators to repeal it instead of petitioning the University to somehow magically sidestep what is now being mandated of them.

GIves new meaning to the phrase "Careful what you wish for, you just might get it". Or, more aptly, "Careful what you vote for, you just might get it".

Anonymous said...

I appreciate this petition, though I have little faith it will work. The accusatory tone of the e-mail we all received last week from the Statewide Director of Benefits pretty much said it all: the University is blaming us, not working for or with us to find a solution.

Unknown said...

I am glad to see folks doing what they can to call attention to this situation. It's so hard to know what to do about it. As a member of the Joint Health Care Committee, I'd like to clarify the previous posting referring to the Affordable Care Act. The overall increases in our health care costs have been going on for many years prior to the recent passage of health care reform. Most of the provisions mentioned in the post either haven't gone into effect yet, or don't apply to us. And insuring a few more twenty somethings is likely to help our situation rather than hurt it - this is a healthy group and it is good to have them in our pool.
It is only a coincidence that we are feeling these effects shortly after the passage of that legislation - the timing of our increases is instead driven by the fact that for the past several years our plan has been running a deficit that has been offset by a $12 million fund from prior years. During those years, the university and its Joint Health Care Committee were not able to agree on a plan to reduce costs, though they knew we were headed for the situation we are in now. So when the fund ran out last year, first they slashed benefits and now they're raising rates. Unless something changes, they will raise rates again next year, probably significantly. That is where this petition comes in. We need to insist that other options are explored. Thanks for your work on this, Mary Sue!

Anonymous said...

Idid email our Senators regarding stammering increases of health care and to be told, we won't work with you or anyone else to find other solutions from UA Administration is beyond words. UA needs to get out of the "self-funded" and make healthcare affordable. I too am an admin asst and trying to cling on for a few more years to retirement. If premiums keep going up and up, I will barely be able to keep afloat with being about 90% of the time of being a single income in the household and living 20 miles out of town, incurs now fuel increases!

Anonymous said...

I disagree with the tobacco free hiring proposal. What comes next? If you drink caffeine? If you wear glasses? If you have allergies or asthma? If you are obese? If you ride a snowmachine or motorcycle? I don't see how any of these situations are any different - they all could just as easily result in additional health care costs. I don't smoke but I do believe it's a personal choice and as long as it doesn't impact job performance, why should it be a factor?

This is a slippery slope the University is looking down. Does the UA system really need to do something that could contribute to a higher unemployment rate? I think we should hire on merit and qualifications, not on personal choices that may or may not impact the person's ability to perform job duties.

I don't think the health care cost increases are distributed fairly. It costs as much to take a child dependent to the doctor as a spouse dependent. So why is the health care charge less for an employee and 4 children than just the employee and spouse? The health care costs need to be distributed more evenly. Perhaps we should consider a tiered system: employee, employee+1, employee+2, employee+3, etc? It doesn't necessarily have to go up evenly on each step, but at least some acknowledgement that a 3 person family will be less expensive on health care cost than a 6 person family.

The overall attitude regarding tobacco and health costs has made me question my return to the University. Poor communication of this information in a timely and professional manner to staff does not make me feel like the UA administration values and appreciates staff. I know the University is being hit hard by rising fuel costs and decreased budgets, but so are staff. This is the time for the University administration to step up and work with staff to help deal with these issues, not just pass the cost on to the staff.

Anonymous said...

Increased UA rates are based on history of UA pay-outs, not speculation on future pay-outs, so blaming increased pay-outs in the past two years on subsequent Affordable Health Care Act is political rhetoric.

As the provisions of Affordable Health Care Act go into effect over the next several years, some will argue they will increase costs, other that the decrease costs. Economic analyses of alternatives indicate the act will reduce the amount of increase in health care costs over what would be the case without the reforms, or in case the act is repealed as in the recent House budget.

Alicia Andrus said...

I agree with everyone else regarding health care. I started working at UAF nearly 5 years ago. At the time I was healthy. Two years ago, I was diagnosed with a chronic illness. In spite of all of that, I come in to work every day unless I am at a medical appointment. It's horrible. I have worked through days while experiencing excruciating pain when I wanted to stay home, but I am always concerned about my job and doing my best to be there.

Thanks to the treatments, cost of yearly travel to Anchorage to see a specialist (there aren't any in Fairbanks), and whatever the plan doesn't cover I am very concerned I will not be able to pay my rent by winter. Where am I supposed to live? I am single, don't have family in Alaska, and due to the cost of everything am worried that I will be homeless and buried under a mountain of medical debt. There go any dreams I ever had regarding home ownership. I make less than $40,000 a year- spending over $10,000 on medical AFTER our insurance makes my life unbelievably difficult.

I am caught in a catch 22, as I can't afford to quit unless another job offers insurance immediately AND the insurance picks me up. I don't have money to pay COBRA, nor do have the thousands to cover anything if I was without coverage. I feel like I am stuck on a road to ruin whichever way I choose.

My issue with the health care is why UAF is pouring so much funding into programs like WIN Alaska, and Best Doctors? They can NOT do ANYTHING special for you- I have gone through those programs, and everything else assistance wise that UAF offers, and all they offer is a person over the phone who reads what they found via a google search or WebMD!
Thanks UAF, I can hop on the internet and find the same information for myself.

If the money set aside for those programs was put towards our health care, I am sure we, the workers, would not be stuck shouldering the major burden.

Also, I would like to address the callas attitude of our President and those in charge of things like benefits. Erika Van Flein, our director of benefits told me having a chronic illness was the same thing as having a sick child! How is that even comparable, unless the child had a chronic illness?

Why would President Gamble tell people that we should feel lucky, as some places have 50/50 coverage? Places in the private sector also pay better and offer better retirement packages to help cover that.

As a maintenance worker, I feel the people in charge just don't care. They make far more than twice my yearly wages- why should it matter if people like me are being driven into the ground? They don't have to worry about the rising costs of living the same way people like I do. They may have to forgo a new luxury item for an extra year. I am stuck without the basics- food, rent, transportation, utilities.
Funny how that works, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

I have heard comments that the 500 & 750 health care options are going away and that there will only be one plan in FY14. That plan will be the High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP)>

The problem with this plan is I don't have the money for a High Deductible Health Plan. I barely make it on the 750 plan using the flexible spending. To go to the HDHP means that at the bare minimum I would have to set aside $1250 a year to meet the deductible.

If I have a hard time with the $750 how am I expected to meet the $1250? That means I won't be going to the doctor when I need it, and in fact will cost the university more in the long run.

For President Gamble and the administration to behave as if the staff's lively hood is unimportant and can make decisions without input or at least providing a forum to voice our concerns is extremely disturbing.

To put out a memo making it sound as if the Joint Health Care Committee made this decision is deceitful. If they are being deceitful about this, what else is going on that we are unaware of and how can we trust them.

The health care increases are no issue for them as they make six figures and pay the same rate of health care, if the university does not include it in their package, as someone making under $40,000 annually.

The university then pays thousands of dollars for an out-of-state consultant firm to review our plan. Millions of dollars on the WIN program. People who do not even participate in the health care of the university, paying premiums, have the ability to win financial prizes in WIN. What about putting that into the costs?

If they don't mind cutting our pay, how about they take a significant pay cut. It always amazes me that individuals that make six figures don't mind cutting other's pay and yet they will take a pay raise. President Gamble was given a pay raise. Yes, he donated the raise to a scholarship. What people are not taking into account is the university is paying his retirement for the full amount of his earnings, to include the raise he "donated."

And the administration wonders why staff is angry. President Gamble can take a pay raise, Chancellor Rogers can hire an assistant (another six figure cost - last year), the legislature can take a raise, but when staff is just trying to break even we are being unreasonable.

Go to bat for your employees. Show us you care about us.

Lou Brown said...

If University employees were to become employees of the state of Alaska, we would enter a far larger pool and, presumably, see a reduction in premiums and co-pays. Is anyone looking into this possibility?

Anonymous said...

By raising the cost of the high deductible package the university is chasing away those who are in good shape and don't draw very much from the system. The result will be even higher expenses for those that are left. I had the high deductible last year and will probably drop the university's insurance entirely next year and go on my husband's plan instead. My cost will be the same, but the deductible is $200 instead of $1250 so I have a chance of getting my money back rather than pay both for the insurance and all of my medical bills as well.(My medical costs this last year have totaled ~$700)

Anonymous said...

Though my sentiments are similar to the previous comments by others, I wanted to add my own observation and conclusion. My premiums for health coverage have increased by approx 50% each year for the past 4 years, on average. For this year the increase in the premiums exceeds the
difference in deductibles between my current plan and the next higher-deductible plan. So there is a financial disincentive for me to keep my current plan, in fact a guarantee that I'll be paying at at least the difference in deductibles between the two plans if I collect any insurance benefits. I felt the letter we received from the University on this matter was slightly insulting, given this simple arithmetic.

Anonymous said...

Last year, I enrolled in the 750 plan. Even with this plan, I avoided going to the doctor because of the $750 deductible. With the new rates and having to select the higher deductible plan, there is no way that I will be able to afford to go to the doctor. There has to be other options available.

Unknown said...

I agree with all the comments above. I find it interesting that the university was surprised that so many people switched to the high deductible plan last year. As it has been mentioned before it is a simple matter of arithmetic and the university has now made that even easier with their new calculator

If they don't redesign the plans anyone that can do simple math will choose the high deductible.

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