U health task force gains voice, lowers cost options

by Nichol Nelson

University employees will have a louder voice in their health coverage and a cheaper way to see University physicians, thanks to achievements announced Thursday at a Faculty Senate Meeting.
Richard McGehee, chairman of the University Health Plan Task Force representing 15,000 University employees, announced two major gains since September 1997.
First, the task force gained two seats on the State Labor Management Committee, which helps determine what will be covered under the state health plan. Second, the task force enabled people on lower budgets to see University physicians they could not see under previous health plans.
McGehee said the two gains represent notable improvements in the health coverage options for University employees.
A collective bargaining process between the state and employee unions determines the health benefit package for state employees, including University staff members. By law, the University cannot take part in this process, but it can choose whether to accept the resulting plan.
The task force, which was created in September 1997 to determine whether the University should accept the state’s plan, recommended the University stay with the plan until 2000 because of major improvements in coverage.
“What’s going on at the state level looks very positive to us,” McGehee said.
McGehee announced the task force achieved two more University seats on a committee that helps decide policy for the collective bargaining process. Previously, University representatives held only one unofficial seat.
Professor Sara Evans, chairwoman of the Faculty Consultative Committee, said she was pleased to have more representation.
“They got us to the table,” she said. “We don’t have a vote yet, but the people who represent us are speaking loud and clear.”
The task force also boasted the addition of a low-cost option for those who want to use University health-care providers.
Currently, if University staff members want to see University physicians, they must choose the most expensive of five options under the state health plan. In January 1999, that will change: University providers will be available under both the least expensive and most expensive options.
“All of us see it as a very positive move,” said Robert Fahnhorst, acting director of the Office of Employee Benefits.