Benefit changes unlikely; cost unknown

April 1, 2010
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Most changes to health plans offered to university employees will take place behind the scenes this year, E. Jill Pollock, senior associate vice president and chief human resource officer, CU System, told UCCS faculty and staff Thursday.

Pollock and Gina Trujillo, director, Benefits Administration, told faculty and staff that few changes are anticipated in coverage for faculty and staff. A plan used by a few staff members, the Blue Preferred PPO plan will be discontinued and another plan, HMO Colorado, will not accept new members.

But for faculty and staff using plans offered by Kaiser Permanente and Anthem Blue Cross, changes will be minimal. Employees will be notified by postcards delivered to home addresses of changes in the plans.

Rates for the plans will be available by May 5, Pollock said. Open enrollment for health plans is April 26 through May 21. An open enrollment session is scheduled for April 29 at UCCS. For more information, visit www.cu.edu/pbs.

Behind the scene changes to CU health care plans include a move to self-funded plans which would allow the university to better manage health benefit plans and could cut costs over time from 3 percent to 7 percent annually, Pollock said. Additionally, she believes self-funding of the plan will allow plans to be better tailored to meet CU faculty and staff needs.

One element of self-funding is an ability to link the utilization of benefits across the plans for annual rate setting; doing so might smooth the cost spikes in a particular plan in a year due to unusual medical expenditures. At its March 18 meeting, however, the CU Faculty Council approved a resolution on the matter: “The Faculty Council expresses concerns about proposed processes in rate setting for the CU health plans.”

Said Pollock, “We appreciate the Faculty Council’s concern about rates. It’s the same concern we have. We want to deliver the best plan choices at the lowest costs, but we also do not want to cause, by highly differentiated individual plan pricing, a shift of, say, healthy participants to a single plan. The result would be a significant cost increase for the other plans in the following year.

“With self-funding, we hope to reduce, over time, the rise of health-care costs to all employees.”

The university also is focused on a wellness and prevention program as a key component of all health plans that would begin with a voluntary health-risk assessment that employees could complete online. Pollock has said that studies show such assessments, along with medical management programs, can reduce health costs over time by up to 3 percent, slow the rate of increase in health plan rates and cut down on absenteeism. About 1 percent of the money received from employee and employer medical contributions would fund the wellness and prevention program.

–Tom Hutton with information also provided by Jay Dedrick of the CU System Office of University Relations

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