The Senate Source

November 2013

UCFW Letter Urges Faculty to Study New Medical Plan Options

UC faculty should carefully evaluate the new medical plan options and other  health care benefit changes UC is rolling out during Open Enrollment for 2014, says an open letter to faculty from the University Committee on Faculty Welfare (UCFW)

The changes include UC Care, a new three-tiered, self-funded PPO medical insurance plan for UC employees intended to leverage the resources of the UC medical centers. UC is also adding a new Blue Shield Health Savings Plan option and discontinuing the Anthem Blue Cross PPO and Health Net Full Network HMO options. The Health Net Blue & Gold HMO, Kaiser, and Western Health Advantage plans will continue to be available.

The November 12 UCFW letter is part of a flurry of activity by that committee, the Academic Council, and the campuses, as UC faculty and staff scramble to understand the new options and decide which will be most appropriate for their individual circumstances, before the Open Enrollment period ends on November 26.

One of the most important things for UC faculty and staff to know, says UCFW, is that employees currently enrolled in Anthem who do not initiate changes during the open enrollment period will be assigned to UC Care, and employees in the Health Net Full Network HMO will be assigned to Health Net Blue and Gold.

“All employees, and especially all employees currently in any of the Anthem Blue Cross plans or the Health Net Full Network HMO, should consider carefully the potential trade-offs in costs and choice of medical providers presented by the options,” says UCFW Chair Dan Hare.

UCFW, the Academic Council, and others are also concerned about the ability of employees to access the least-expensive “UC Select” tier of Blue Shield providers within UC Care. Employees who utilize providers not in the UC Select Tier must pay for their services using a more expensive price structure. UC Care plans to offer broad access to the UC Select tier through campus-based medical centers, where possible. Access for employees on non-medical center campuses who are not close to a UC medical center will be through non-UC providers in the Blue Shield network that have agreed to be included in the UC Select tier.  This issue is most acute at Santa Barbara, where the main regional hospital has not agreed to join the UC Select network, but faculty at other locations also report concerns. In addition, faculty who regularly travel for extended periods of time for research and employees whose families face complex or chronic health challenges may face significant cost increases to access the same quality of health care previously provided within the discontinued Anthem plans.  Out-of-state emeriti in the discontinued Anthem plans now will be provided by UC with a $3,000 Health Reimbursement Account to purchase their individual medical coverage through ExtendHealth, a Medicare coordinator,

The Academic Council noted these and other concerns in an October 31 memo to President Napolitano, which also highlights the expertise of faculty who serve on the UCFW Health Care Task Force (HCTF) in health care policy and delivery systems, and urges the President to ensure close consultation with UCFW and HCTF to evaluate and adjust the benefit options next year.

“Council and other Senate agencies intend to monitor the roll-out of UC Care and engage in discussions of quality improvement for the next enrollment cycle,” said Senate Chair Jacob. “The Health Care Task Force includes some of the nation’s leading experts on health care delivery and can provide excellent advice on costs, benefits, and plan features. The Task Force and the Senate will be looking closely at options to ensure that UC Care provides equivalent coverage at all campuses in future years.”

More information about the 2014 Medical Plans and rates can be found on the At Your Service website.