General Timeline In Place For Health Care Motions

By Rachel Voris

For the past eight months, the university has echoed the state and nation in making deliberate changes to health care in an effort to reduce costs and create a healthier employee population.

A recent article in the Alaska Journal of Commerce painted a dire picture for Alaska businesses. Most are paying 30 percent more for insurance premiums than comparison states, like Washington. Alaska doesn’t stand alone. The article states that on a national level, the rising cost of health insurance has outpaced general inflation and growth of workers’ earnings.

Plan changes over the past several months have been made in an effort to combat costs for all. The university has made substantial efforts to make sure employees are informed on these changes, and more, the UA has listened when people have spoken in support or disagreement of the proposed changes. Through collaborations with the Joint Health Care Committee, Staff Health Care Committee, staff, faculty and human resources offices, motions have been approved and a general timeline for implementation of those motions is now in place.

The JHCC will review a draft of proposed health care plan rates during their February 27 and 28 meetings. These rates will be finalized shortly after the meeting. Review the draft here.

Timeline for Motion Implementation

February 2013

  • After going through a request for proposal (RFP) process, the university has decided to stay with Premera, but with a renegotiated, reduced-cost contract.
  • The Pharmacy Benefits Management (PBM) contract will also be changing to Premera, using their pharmacy partner Express Scripts. This change will be effective for employees July 1, 2013.
  • The Joint Health Care Committee confirmed new UA Choice Plan names as the: 750 plan, High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) and Consumer-Directed Health Plan (CDHP). The JHCC also recommended continuing coverage with the Signature Plan on the VSP contract with allowance for frames/contacts increased to $150.
  • Rescind spousal surcharge, eliminate opt outs
    After careful consideration of the feedback received at the employee forums, the JHCC decided to rescind two motions including implementation of a spousal surcharge and to eliminate the opt out option from the UA Choice Plan. Neither option will be forwarded for implementation by the JHCC at this time.

April 2013 (Open Enrollment), for changes effective July 1

  • Eliminate 500 Plan; move orthodontia benefit to 750 plan
    When open enrollment begins in April, the 500 Plan will no longer be offered. If you are currently on the 500 Plan, you will be automatically moved to the 750 Plan unless you fill out necessary forms indicating another plan choice. The orthodontia benefit will be moved to the 750 Plan. Elimination of the 500 Plan will affect about 140 employees who will need to move to a different plan.
  • Add a consumer directed health plan with a health savings account
    A new plan, the Consumer Directed Health Plan (CDHP) with a health savings account, will be offered during open enrollment. The term “consumerism” is often used in reference to this type of plan. The idea is that the consumer has more “first dollar” responsibility and will choose how to spend those dollars (such as buy a brand name drug or generic) more cost-consciously.
  • A health savings account (HSA) vendor for this plan was chosen earlier in the month. In partnership with Bank of America Benefit Solutions, the UA will deliver comprehensive education on the health savings account including a tool kit for planning and determining eligibility (not all employees will be eligible for the HSA due to various federal restrictions on the account.) Education on the health savings account will begin in March and continue through open enrollment.
  • Expand coverage tiers for dependents
    Employees with dependents will notice a change during open enrollment due to new coverage tiers based on the number of dependents on a plan. The cost for one dependent will be slightly reduced, while those with three or more will see an increase. The new tiers allow for a more fair distribution of costs. The tiers will max out at three dependents. Less than eight percent of employees have three or more dependents on the plan. Currently, everyone with dependents pays the same rate regardless of the number of dependents.

July 2013, Vendor in Place

  • Revise wellness program
    A vendor for a new wellness program will be in place by the new plan year, beginning July 1, 2013. For the first six months (July through Dec. 2013), human resources will work with the vendor to fine tune plan details and get ready to begin health screening events and health risk assessments with the start of the new year. A request for proposal (RFP) to determine the new vendor will be issued within the next month.

September-October 2013

  • Provide cost transparency; patient advocacy
    A request for proposal for a vendor on patient advocacy and cost transparency services will be issued after an RFP for the new wellness program is issued. These services will not be tied to plan year implementation, so services may begin at any time. Human resources hopes services will go into effect toward the end of September 2013.

January 2014, Begin Screenings

In the first year of the wellness program, plan members (employees and spouses) will be asked to take a health risk assessment and provide verified biometric data (blood pressure, cholesterol, BMI, etc.) in order to receive wellness credit for a reduced plan rate in FY15. Based on results from this information, HR will design wellness programs that accurately reflect the needs of health plan members. In future years, employees and spouses will need to complete more steps to qualify for the wellness credit for reduced plan pricing, such as get a flu shot, age and gender specific screenings, and an annual physical in addition to the risk assessment and biometrics. Dependents will not need to participate in the wellness plan but spouses will. In FY12, spouses were responsible for 40 percent of plan cost, even though they are just 25 percent of the member population. Spouses are frequently the plan members who suffer from chronic conditions. Specific features of the wellness program are not yet known and will be developed in partnership with the new wellness program vendor.

Charts provided by Lockton, UA's consulting firm, illustrating chronic conditions within UA employees. The chart on the left demonstrates the top five chronic conditions within UA members. The right chart demonstrates how many members have chronic conditions and what the cost of those conditions was for FY12. Click to view larger.

July 2014, Wellness Credits Offered

  • The wellness credit incentive aspect of this program won’t begin until FY15 (July 2014). The cost-savings potential will likely be 30 percent of the cost of the lowest priced plan and will be the same dollar amount, regardless of what plan you are enrolled in.  

Wrap Up

With all the momentum and changes the UA is making towards creating a healthier employee population, communication will be key for staff and faculty. Next month's communication will cover the new wellness program and the significance it will carry for employees, as well cover the background of wellness programs, the law, potential concerns and what the future holds for employees. Wellness programs are becoming increasingly popular among employers and employees since the Affordable Care Act expanded an employer’s ability to reward employees who meet health status goals by participating in wellness programs.

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