U employees favor health care plan separate from state

Erin Ghere

Faculty leaders might be getting closer to recommending dramatic changes in how the University insures its employees’ health.
According to a report to be released this week, University employees have a high interest in independent health care providers rather than contracting with the state of Minnesota, as the University does now.
The report, released by the University’s Health Plan Task Force, was composed from University employee survey responses.
The task force, which was created in 1997 to look into employees’ increasing concerns with the state health plan, presented the survey results to the Faculty Consultative Committee (FCC), a faculty governing body, on Aug. 31.
Fred Morrison, Law School professor and FCC chair, said it appears the task force and the FCC are moving toward separating from the state.
The task force will make a final, formal recommendation to the Board of Regents in October. The decision will not be made until the end of the year.
Surveys were sent out earlier this summer to every University employee — including faculty and staff members, academic professionals and bargaining unit staff.
Even with only a 33 percent response rate, enough surveys were collected to make generalizations about the entire population, according to minutes from the task force’s June 1 meeting.
The employees’ responses show “changes need to be made,” said David Hamilton, a cell biology and neuroanatomy professor and task force member.
“Different groups have different wants,” Hamilton said.
Those different wants have been the concern of University employees for some time.
Some issues unique to University employees, which the state plan does not provide for, are domestic-partner benefits, out-of-state coverage and improved retirement benefits.
According to the survey, respondents said they would like to see changes in coverage for complementary/alternative medicine, as well as improved out-of-area coverage and mental/behavioral health coverage.
Faculty members were the least satisfied with their health care plans, according to the survey: Only 76 percent were satisfied with their medical care and only 46 percent with their mental/behavioral health care.
The concerns were compounded when state health plan rates jumped dramatically on Jan. 1.
Hamilton said the task force now needs to decide how to balance the employees’ desires with what the University can provide.
The report will be discussed by the full University Senate, which includes the FCC and Student Consultative Committee, during October and November meetings.
Then Regents will make a final decision during November or December.

Erin Ghere welcomes comments at [email protected]