mployees not satisfied with U health care, survey says

by Patrick Hayes

According to recent survey results, University health care plans fall short for employees, retirees and graduate students.
The University Health Care Plan Task Force’s survey conducted last May stated between 62 percent and 73 percent of employees, retirees and graduate students were satisfied with their mental health benefits. This falls short of the 80 percent figure considered acceptable for a large employer.
Furthermore, 71 percent of retirees, 73 percent graduate students and 81 percent of employees said they were satisfied with their medical care benefits.
The telephone survey was conducted from random samples of almost 5,000 employees and 200 graduate students and retirees.
The task force was established in 1997 to examine concerns about University health care plans. It will present its recommendations for improvement to the Board of Regents in November or December.
According to the survey, employees’ number one concern, and a major concern for retirees and graduate students, is the out-of-area coverage the University provides.
Currently, many University faculty on sabbatical, staff and dependents living outside of Minnesota can only receive emergency care.
Other major concerns are the coverage of complementary and alternative medicine, such as acupuncture and message therapy, and improved prescription drug coverage.
Most survey respondents also said premiums — some increasing almost 150 percent in January — are their number one priority when choosing health care plans.
Another problem cited by University employees is health care plans do not provide coverage for lesbian and gay partners.
Richard McGehee, task force chair and University math professor, said because of previous state decisions, University health care plans will not cover domestic partners.
“There is some hope that the state would change on that, but it has been an issue for years and they haven’t changed,” McGehee said.
The task force may consider an independent health care plan if the State of Minnesota Health Care Plan cannot meet the University’s needs, a plan employees favor according to a report released in September.
Yet, the task force has no solid recommendations, McGehee added.
University President Mark Yudof addressed the health care issue in the biennial budget request to the regents Sept. 8, asking for an additional $81.2 million to cover rising costs.
The regents’ final decisions regarding health care plans will not be made until the end of the year and will not take effect until 2002. The budget request will be presented for approval in October.

Patrick Hayes welcomes comments at [email protected]