University suspends controversial changes to retiree medical insurance coverage

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After significant opposition from retired faculty and current employees, in an email from President John Bravman last Thursday, the University reversed its August decision to push retiree health care benefits from group policies to individual policies in 2022.

Previously, and without consulting professors in their decision, the University administration had decided to partner with Aon Health Exchange for retiree health care instead of continuing with Highmark for 2022. This decision would eliminate health coverage group and would reduce the University’s contributions to beneficiary plans.

Retirees objected both to the way these changes were made and to the substance of the changes themselves.

According to the faculty manual, “proposed changes to the benefit policy are reviewed by the faculty and academic staff committee and by the university faculty before being submitted to the board of trustees for adoption.”

However, in this case, the faculty as a whole was not consulted, nor was a faculty committee. Instead, retirees were notified of the changes through letters from human resources with no possibility of contribution.

Additionally, the faculty manual states that “previously covered employees and previously covered eligible dependents have access to group health insurance coverage, including cost sharing, as part of a supplemental program. special Medicare after age 65. Eligibility for this coverage is in effect for the retiring faculty member. for the rest of his life.

By “unilaterally implementing the announced changes in retiree health benefits, [the University] broke the trust he had with his retired employees – who didn’t expect to be treated this way and who don’t deserve to be treated this way, “said Dr. Stephen Becker, Associate Professor emeritus in physics, in a letter of October 13. to President Bravman. “I would also like to note that breaking such trust with retirees [University] employees will also generate trust issues between [the University] and its current employees – who will expect much less to be treated fairly both as current employees and when they retire. “

In addition to the way the administration changed the insurance policy for retirees, the substantive changes have also been distressing for retired professors.

“I was appalled, horrified, terrified and deeply disappointed with the proposal,” said former chemistry professor Dr John Coleman. “My base support was reduced by 60%, with a one-time ‘bonus’ that reduced the package to just 30% for the first year. But the loss of the group plan made individual plans much more expensive than under the group plan. The bottom line: “affordable” plans have left my family exposed; plans comparable to what we had enjoyed over the previous 18 years were utterly unaffordable.

According to Dr. Becker, in 2023, retirees are expected to pay an average of $ 1,700 more per person for coverage similar to their current plan, which is roughly the amount by which the University is reducing its contribution. Changing providers would have a greater negative impact on older retired faculty, as they would also be charged an individual premium based on age.

It should be noted that although Dr Becker wrote on behalf of some retired faculty, he was unable to contact most of the non-faculty retirees as one of the vice-presidents gave him a call. refused permission to use the University’s mailing list, an online database that included contact information for many of these employees.

“Many of our older retirees are in poor health and anyway may be ill-equipped to deal with such complex decisions, most of which are made online,” said Emeritus Professor of Political Science Dr John Peeler. “Plus, in my own case, I found out that all the plans available included my personal spending on drugs at $ 90,000!

“Although HR later reassured me that a catastrophic reimbursement account would cover these costs, it was still shocking because under our current group plan I had much smaller co-payments. (non negligable). This is not the only problem where the current administration has developed policies, affecting current faculty and staff as well as retirees, without the consultation which is a mark of good management. In the case of the Faculty, such consultation is mandated by the Faculty Manual, ”said Peeler.

After Becker’s letter including a wave of dissatisfaction comments on the faculty mailing list, a review of the evolution of retiree health care and one-on-one conversations between President Bravman, retirees and the board of directors , the University suspended the transition of retiree health insurance plans.

“While a transition away from Highmark would have resulted in more plan choices and better value for many of our retirees, and while many could also have benefited from the $ 2,000 cap on prescription drugs, I think the transition to an individual retiree exchange model requires more consideration, ”President Bravman said in an email to professors at the university on Monday.

Going forward, President Bravman has guaranteed that retirees and their eligible dependents will have access to Highmark Medicare plans until at least 2022. In addition, it plans to form a retiree health commission, made up of appointed retiree representatives, current employees and board members.

“This commission will review various health care coverage options available to our retirees, including group and individual plans, and make recommendations for plan year 2023 and beyond,” Bravman said.

Dr Becker was “happy” that the directors decided to stop their plans to change plans for the following year.

Dr Coleman expressed similar gratitude, saying: “When you’re in a hole up to your neck, the first thing to do is stop digging!” Then repair the damage.

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