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Benchmarks of Value – January 23, 2014

Hello everybody:

Implementation of the Affordable Care Act has presented a variety of challenges, including adjusting to the concerns of insurers, who are trying to anticipate costs associated with covering a much larger pool of potential patients.

As a result, insurance premiums for employers and individuals have jumped significantly in many instances, and many employer-provided plans are being scaled back. It’s not uncommon these days to see companies cutting health benefits and offering voluntary supplemental plans, substantially increasing costs to employees to maintain coverage.

While WesternU is not immune from these issues, I am pleased to announce that as benefits open enrollment gets underway for 2014, the University will continue to absorb more than 72% of the costs of medical plan benefits for its employees – a rate that far outpaces the national average for employer-provided benefits, and is unchanged from last year.

What’s more, rates for dental, vision, long-term disability, long-term care, and life coverage are unchanged for employees.

Medical premiums have risen, as expected, but in the case of those covered by Blue Shield, the increase for its HMO and PPO plans is a manageable 2% – only slightly higher than the 2013 inflation rate of 1.5%. WesternU’s California employees who wish to remain with Kaiser Permanente for their health coverage will see a rate increase of 9.4%, which is significant, but is substantially less than the 13.4% rate increase initially proposed. The tradeoff for the smaller increase can be seen in the cost of co-pays, as well as the deductible amounts for some outpatient procedures. Please refer to the 2014 Annual Enrollment News brochure located on the WesternU Intranet site, under the Human Resources Benefits tab, for a complete listing of key changes.

Kaiser’s rates for WesternU employees in Oregon are unchanged.

While benefits news that includes added costs for all involved cannot be considered perfect, I view the health insurance packages for this year, and their premium rates, as a significant, employee-centered accomplishment. The industry standard for overall health insurance rate increases has been 9%, in addition to the 2-4% increase attributable to the Affordable Care Act. WesternU’s health benefits rate increases are well below that 11-13% range, with minimal impact on the quality of the benefits themselves.

This commitment to providing excellent benefits to employees, and minimizing the impact of plan changes and cost increases as much as possible, is very much in keeping with the WesternU Way. I commend the University’s team for its diligence and efforts in this area.

I also remind all of you that open enrollment is January 24-31, and will be conducted online. You should have received a 2014 Benefit Guide mailed to your home earlier this month. If you did not get one, please contact Human Resources.

While you need not do anything if you wish to maintain current coverage, you must take action if you wish to change plans or participate in the Flexible Spending Account or Health Savings Account programs, even if you have participated in those programs previously.

WesternU is fortunate to have a well-trained benefits staff, which will be available for consultation during a Benefits Fair from 12:30 to 4 p.m. Tuesday, January 28, in the Recital Hall on the second floor of the Health Education Center. I urge you to attend the fair if you have questions or concerns.

Employees who need assistance with online enrollment should stop by the Computer Lab from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday, January 29. Human Resources staff will be on hand to help you.

Western University of Health Sciences remains committed to helping our employees stay as healthy as possible. The continued breadth and depth of the University’s health benefits packages, and the constant effort to keep costs as low as possible, is a reflection of that commitment

My best to you all,