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Sunday, November 25, 2012

JHCC Recommended Changes to Health Care Benefit

From the UA Staff Alliance blog at http://www.uastaffalliance.wordpress.com :

**Please note the JHCC memorandum has been updated from the original post.

On October 16 and 17 the Joint Health Care Committee met to review the suggestions coming out of the Health Care Task Force.  At that meeting they passed eight motions recommending changes to our health care benefit to the statewide administration.  They forwarded these motions to the administration on November 1. Please read JHCC Oct Motions for details.

Two changes were recommended that have received mixed responses from staff. They are a spousal surcharge and taking away the Opt Out choice. Please note that the staff representatives on the JHCC voted against taking away the Opt Out. The Staff Health Care Committee will meet on November 27 to discuss these changes. We’d like to hear from you before we take a position with the administration on the changes. Please leave your comments here and/or email Donald Smith, Chief Human Resources Officer at donald.smith@alaska.edu or Juella Sparks, chair of Staff Alliance at juella.sparks@alaska.edu .

39 comments:

Heike Merkel said...

Motion #2 would be fantastic!

Tina said...

You want the employee to make another health insurance provider their primary or you charge them extra but you still want them to pay a premium for minimal coverage even if they have better coverage elsewhere. It seems contradictory charging someone a surcharge if they have other health care but not allowing them to opt out all together. I am not a fan. Please continue to allow me to opt out of UAF's less than stellar health care.

Anonymous said...

I strongly support keeping the opt-out option for employees who have external coverage. Please support its continuance. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I am opposed to any "spousal surcharge."

I would appreciate it enormously if the administration would stop hunting for scapegoats on whom to pin their cost increases. First it's smokers. Then it's obese people. Now it's spouses.

This kind of action is flatly discriminatory.

If health insurance costs must rise, they must rise equally for all insured employees.

I'm sorry if healthy people feel that the less fortunate are causing insurance costs to rise. But those lucky enough not to require health care very often should carefully consider: the need for health care can arise suddenly for .

We are all in this together, people.

Anonymous said...

Removing the opt out is a terrible idea. UAF health care coverage is not the best that Fairbanks employers have to offer families. And to force your employees to chose a substandard insurance as their primary health coverage would be an unnecessary stress and expense. I cannot believe that it was even considered a viable option.

Anonymous said...

Motion 6 is outrageous. If my husband's insurance is more cost effective and more economical for our family of 5, why require me to waste thousands of dollars on a UAF plan with lessor benefits and higher deductibles?

Anonymous said...

Motion 6 is outrageous. If my husband's insurance is more cost effective and more economical for our family of 5, why require me to waste thousands of dollars on a UAF plan with lessor benefits and higher deductibles?

Anonymous said...

To remove the opt out option is absolutely ridiculous. UAF health coverage is not the best that Fairbanks employers have to offer, so why would you force your employees to retain a substandard health insurance plan? The additional expense to your employees?! This does not seem like the right answer for a 'community' centered employer to have. I cannot believe that this was even brought up as a viable option!

Anonymous said...

The Spousal Surcharge seems difficult to enforce and counter-productive to the elimination of the "opt-out" program. With the elimination of Opting out you're trying to increase the pool, and then with the surcharge you're trying to shrink it. Also what resources would have to be devoted to ensure that an Employee's spouse has an option, is not using it, and therefore eligible to be fined, I mean surcharged? Seems like a hassle that counter acts another proposed option.

Anonymous said...

For the spousal surcharge (#5), how would UA be able to determine who's spouse has access to other insurance carriers? What proof will I have to provide to UA that my wife doesn't work so that I don't get charged a surcharge for having her on my plan?

For #4, preferred pricing. I am opposed to using the HRA as a coupon to lower individual premiums. This won't lower our health care costs now, but increase them because the program is offering discounts. Also, any benefits from this will not be realized over the short run.

Anonymous said...

Please define spousal surcharge. Do you mean paying some additional amount over the huge amount I already pay for my spouse? Why?? No. No.
And of course we should not eliminate the opt out option. Both of these ideas are bad, bogus, outrageous, nonsensical, and punishing. No. No. No. Fight to stop these. Bad ideas. No. No.

Anonymous said...

While I understand the need to revamp health care as the charges are becoming increasingly more expensive to cover; I disagree with adding a spousal surcharge when we are already paying a fee to cover the spouse. If you want to increase that portion do so but I wouldn't call it a spousal surcharge. Why are we not charging a separate charge for dependents that are covered until the age of 26? I know other plans (outside the UA system) that are.
I totally agree with employees who have children paying more - before I worked at UAF I had my own individual Blue Cross policy and I had to pay $103 per month per child.
Thanks again for allowing me to voice my opinion.

Anonymous said...

I am opposed to eliminating opt out. It doesn't make sense for me to join the UAF health care plan if I get better coverage under my husbands plan. Why should I pay for two plans? If UAF actually offered a plan that was worth joining, I would possibly rejoin, but the 3 plans that are offered are pretty much the same.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for asking for our input. Employees need more of a voice in these decisions.
Removing the opt-out option is a very bad idea. There is very little gain and much more to lose by taking this away. Many employees have other options that provide better coverage at lower cost. This will only increase the payouts as those who wanted out will make sure to use as much as they can from the plan to recover the expense of it. There are many avenues our plan can use to save money that don’t require a money grab from the employees, cutting benefits or both.
For the spousal surcharge, how can UA find out if they have access to insurance without violating privacy laws or HIPPA? UA has no right to know if my spouse is employed, much less if they have coverage where they are working. The cost of trying to figure out who should be charged will most likely be more than the cost recovered.

Francine said...

My spouse works for the state of Alaska and their health insurance plan employee costs are SIGNIFICANTLY lower than the employee costs for the UA plan. By taking away the opt-out option, you are increasing employee expenses and many of us will see very little benefit. My spouse's plan will start covering most expenses at 100% before I even meet the UA plan deductible (high deductible plan). My 2nd concern is that the UA plan costs are increasing at a much faster rate. What assurance do I have that the costs are not going to increase significantly each year? It seems like taking away the opt-out option and adding a spousal surcharge are a quick fix for next year but don't address the real issues. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Are you also going to institute a dependent surchage for children that could have coverage elsewhere but opt to use UA? Seems like you are punishing spouses.

Additionally, if you are trying to save money, then why not make people with kids pay for them separately like you do spouses?

Anonymous said...

Keep the opt-out option. If UAF wants/needs to increase/maintain employee participation in its health plan, then UAF should offer us a health care plan we wouldn't refuse. Removing the opt-out option would enable the university to force employees to accept sub-par health care.

I strongly disagree with the sentiment posted earlier that health care costs must rise equally for all. Smoking has no health benefits, will almost surely result in expensive medical problems, and is a learned human behavior (as opposed to some inherited medical problem). Smokers choose to engage in medically risky behavior and therefore should pay more in health care costs.



tk said...

I'll upvote this comment from anon above:

"I strongly disagree with the sentiment posted earlier that health care costs must rise equally for all. Smoking has no health benefits, will almost surely result in expensive medical problems, and is a learned human behavior (as opposed to some inherited medical problem). Smokers choose to engage in medically risky behavior and therefore should pay more in health care costs."

I also agree that it is very bad to force people to accept the UA health plan if they have better options elsewhere. Isn't that communism? What market incentive does that provide to keep people working on the problem rather than just making it a condition of employment? Sounds stupid to me, and a good way to lose people.

Anonymous said...

I agree with several of the commenters above. There is no need for an additional spousal surcharge. If you need to increase the spouse fee that is already built into the system then do so. Dont bother with the tiers in motion #7 just simply have an additional dependent charge; if you have one dependent to insure the cost is X, if you have 4 then cost is 4X. Dont make things more difficult than they need to be.

Anonymous said...

Leave in the opt-out option for military members and their spouses. Military members and veterans have earned their health insurance through they dedicated service to our country and their sacrifices. Don't punish them by making them buy health insurance that they don't need.

Anonymous said...

1. Spousal surcharge - I don't think it is fair that spouses are the the only ones having to pay a surcharge if they have coverage thru other means. What about children who can be covered up until age of 26 on their parents insurance who may have medical insurance thru other means? How come they don't have to pay a surcharge? It is not as though my husband is on my plan for "free". I already pay a huge amount to have him on the plan. A surcharge on top of it is just ridiculous.

2. Capping the amount of children to 3. I think all dependents who are covered should have to pay some sort of premium. If a employee has a large family, they they should have to pay a premium for each child covered, especially since they can stay on there until they are 26 years old. I think it is ridiculous to charge extra for a spouse to be on the plan, but "cap" the amount of children to only 3.

Anonymous said...

1. Spousal surcharge - I don't think it is fair that spouses are the the only ones having to pay a surcharge if they have coverage thru other means. What about children who can be covered up until age of 26 on their parents insurance who may have medical insurance thru other means? How come they don't have to pay a surcharge? I am already paying a huge premium to have my husband on my policy. It is not like he is "Free".
2. Capping the amount of children to 3. I think all dependents who are covered should have to pay some sort of premium. If a employee has a large family, they they should have to pay a premium for all the children, especially since they can stay on there until they are 26. It is not fair to pay a surcharge to have your spouse on there, while dependent children as basically free over the limit of 3.

Anonymous said...

I am strongly in favor of keeping the opt-out option for employees with other health-care coverage. Please support keeping this option.
Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Taking away the option to Opt Out is a very bad idea. I already have great insurance under my husbands plan. I do not need the insurance up here. I started out with the 750 plan when I first got hired and then decided to Opt out when the rates went through the roof.
It costs to much to pay for 2 plans. This may make people think about leaving and going to work somewhere where you have a choice. Bad Idea.

Anonymous said...

The Opt out Option should not be taken away and it should not remain in place just for Military families. If you have other insurance you have the right to Opt of another Plan. The idea is ridiculous.

Leona said...

Thank God for the opt out option for health insurance! And thank you to my fellow staff members that voted against taking this option away. My husband works for the borough. We have great insurance through his employer.

Before coming to UAF, I spent six months checking insurance benefits for local patients. UAF health insurance is crap. Especially considering the other fantastic benefits that the university offers.

When you or a loved one is facing an illness, the $1250 deductible is stressful. That means, you would have to pay that much before Blue Cross even considers contributing to your health care.

Personally, I would never meet that deductible. I would be less likely to get health care because I know I would have to pay out of pocket.

Anonymous said...

I have some major concerns about the direct liability that the University is putting on the employee. First by even passing these motions the committee isn't thinking about the function and well being of the employee, it's the bottom line. Frankly, I feel that being targeted is discriminatory and makes me feel poorly about working for an employer who could do this.

My major concerns are...
#5 - Spousal surcharge: If the spouse wants to be on our plan, let them. It's their choice but don't penalize them for it. Wasn't the goal to have more people on the plan anyways. Now your going to penalize them. How nice? My opinion...don't do it.
#6 - Opt Out: Ethically should be an individuals decision, not the employer. My opinion...leave it alone.
#7 - Tiers: This one is huge for me and should be for all staff as a group. How many of you work paycheck by paycheck? How many of us have children that rely on this plan? What if the University finally made it so that you couldn't afford to work because you couldn't afford to pay their mandatory insurance and can't have the option to opt-out? Doesn't make it a very nice inviting place to work does it? I bet that if this is passed, many of the lower paid employees (who mind you do most of the grunt work) leave the University and subsequently leave the insurance plan as a paying person. My opinion...leave it alone...forever!

Employees, we are getting into deep water here and as Staff Council said, if these things are passed without warrant, later would the University be the employer of choice? NO, I don't think so.

We need to think this through a little and not just for ourselves.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate the University asking us our opinions. Please keep the opt-out option available as a choice. Thank you!

jdak said...

People seem to be misreading the spousal surcharge motion... unless I am. The way I read it, the surcharge comes into effect ONLY if the spouse is eligible for health benefits through their employer but waive it to make the UA coverage their primary one. That doesn't seem too unfair.

I agree enforcement would be a pain.

Anonymous said...

I'm a staff member, I have opted out of the insurance policy. I have an excellent policy through my husband's insurance policy. Health care is supposed to be a benefit not a curse. Please allow us the opportunity to have a choice in our care and not allow the opt out change to occur.

Unknown said...

The reason so many people have opted out is because of the OUTRAGEOUS cost of our health insurance - the deductible is what kills people because most people will never even meet the deductible and that means I might as well light my money on fire because at least then I will get a little heat from it!! for most employees, it will be cheaper for them to just quit their jobs, than to stay and pay the health care costs!

Anonymous said...

Identifying as Faculty.

I do not agree with the opt-out option being eliminated.

I do not agree with adding a spousal surcharge. Seems to me, if an employee's spouse has the opportunity for better insurance coverage at a lower cost, why would they have UAF ever decreasing benefits as a primary anyway?

Anonymous said...

Another pathetic activity on the part of the University powers that be to pass along health care costs to employees. I am tired of it. I am flatly opposed to a spousal surcharge. I already pay enough for this already expensive health care. My costs went up nearly $2000in July and now you want to add more?

Anonymous said...

I understand the need to look seriously at our health care plan as I have been on both sides of the fence: administration and staff.

Here are my concerns:
1. Health rates increase each year.
2. Deductibles are almost unreachable, which unless I am seriously ill I don't go to the doctor. In not going to the doctor there is possibility that in the long run UAF will have a heavier debt if my health fails.
3. I am a single individual on the lower earning pay scale. I barely make it paycheck to paycheck.
4. Parking also seems to be increasing each year.
5. With all of the increases OUT of my check the "increase" in salary each year is minimal. With this last "increase" I actually lost $10 out of each paycheck.
6. The opt-out option, at the very least, should be available to military and veterans. They and their families have paid a big enough price. Let's show them our gratitude with more than mere words. Back it up.
7. If you want to have a spousal charge, which I do not support, then work it so that those who are on their parents plan and are adults pay a charge. I have real issues with grown adults being on a plan that I am contributing to at no cost to themselves.

It feels like the university is intentionally pushing loyal, trustworthy, good, competent employees to seek employment elsewhere. If this goes much further I will not be able to afford to work here at UAF.

Anonymous said...

Well at least someone finally figured out that part-time employees are a disproportional cost to our benefit package. Some Part-time, less than 12 month employees don't even work the so called required 1049 hours a year to be benefit eligible; yet no one was willing to look in to this. Do employees realize that staff benefits are a percentage of salary; therefore, those who work less than 12 months or part-time get the same benefit package as every other benefit-eligible employee but the department really is paying much less for those employees. Maybe if you actually started charging for the benefit package you wouldn't need to force those of us who chose to opt out back in? Although this use to really be a problem when people shopped our health care plan; now it may not be since our plan really isn't of great value any longer.

At least someone was smart enough to say people need to pay for the number of people on the plan; 3 dependents really doesn't cover it though; how come everyone doesn't pay a charge for each person they have on the plan? Maybe then you wouldn't have to force opt out people back in? But at least it is a start. Especially since you are going to force me back in to the plan, I don't believe I should have to help subsidize those who choose to have large families.

And lastly, this so called proposed spouse surcharge; that WILL be applied to spouses who both work at the University and continue to choose double coverage right? If not, you are definitely being discriminatory.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with this persons below comment. "The Spousal Surcharge seems difficult to enforce and counter-productive to the elimination of the "opt-out" program. With the elimination of Opting out you're trying to increase the pool, and then with the surcharge you're trying to shrink it. Also what resources would have to be devoted to ensure that an Employee's spouse has an option, is not using it, and therefore eligible to be fined, I mean surcharged? Seems like a hassle that counter acts another proposed option."

Anonymous said...

Our insurance is hardly a benefit anymore. Most people can no longer afford to use it because of the high deductibles.

Anonymous said...

I disagree with removing the opt-out option. However, if the opt-out option ends the employees who have chosen to opt-out should have the opportunity to be “grandfathered” and be able to opt-out on a yearly base. Each year employees should provide proof of other insurance and sign the opt-out form. If for some reason this is not done then the employee loses the opt-out benefit. Don’t just take away the option. You are hurting your employees in such a tight economy. The money I save with this option puts food on my table and heating fuel in my tank.

Anonymous said...

Get rid of the UA health insurance all together. Give me back my $4.5k/year premiums and kick the $9k/year the UA systems pays on my families behalf into my first paycheck of the year and let me manage the healthcare costs of my family. UA knows exactly what they will pay each year and I know to negotiate my doctors bill.

As it stands going forward there is little benefit to employees to keep the plan.