Task force urges faculty to stay with state insurance

Emily Babcock

A health insurance task force will recommend to the University’s three primary faculty groups Thursday that they remain with the state insurance plan for at least two years.
The written recommendation, which compares health insurance options within and outside the state program, will be reviewed by the American Association of University Professors, the Faculty Consultative Committee and the Senate Committee on Faculty Affairs. Although the report suggests staying with the state through 1999, it also states that researching other options should be explored for 2000.
State officials are expected to unveil more options for University employees under the current plan in the spring. A final decision on an insurance program will be made in July.
David Hamilton, University cell biology and neuroanatomy professor and a task force member, said because of the number of employees on the current plan, separating from the state would have bad effects for both the state and University.
“(State officials) really do have to listen to us, and I think the reason that they are listening now is that the faculty has become so active,” Hamilton said.
The task force was formed in September 1997 after one-third of the University’s faculty and staff members were displaced as a result of Medica’s announcement that it was withdrawing its Premier plan.
Medica still offers one insurance coverage option under the state plan, which now offers five choices — three of which are through Health Maintenance Organizations.
The state plan, which has been a University provider since 1967, counts one-fourth of its total state members as employees of the University.
Richard McGehee, task force chairman, said the University is focusing on issues that are not addressed adequately in the state plan. These include access to University providers, coverage for individuals out of state, and requirements for two spouses to each choose an option.
The task force report included alternative plans for purchasing supplementary insurance to cover the extra needs, for staying with the state, and for a membership with a company that contracts services directly.
Hamilton and McGehee said they are optimistic the state will provide University employees with necessary amendments to their insurance coverage.
At this time only two options offer access to University physicians but the HMO HealthPartners will not accept new patients for 1998.
“It’s pretty crazy if you think about it — that it is so tough for employees to access the University providers,” McGehee said.
Typically, plans that include University physicians are more expensive.
“University doctors see patients with more complicated problems, so it’s high-quality care. And also since it is a teaching University, there is extra training time and cost involved,” said graduate student Matthew Maciejewski, who co-authored the task force report.
Although the University has not committed to the state for the year 2000, representatives from the University will continue to work with the state’s Joint Labor Management Committee. Budd Johnson, purchasing manager for the state’s employee insurance division, said the state will have a better idea of the options it will offer by the end of April.
“The state has always tried to work with the University,” Johnson said. “I think everyone is concerned about the loss of access to University physicians.”
“(The state is) in the middle of figuring out what they are going to do and the U will have to be prepared,” McGehee said.