COUNCIL 1999-2000 Year-End Committee Reports
September 11, 2000
Discussed at Council on April 19, 2000
Four general areas have occupied the attention of the committee this year: Healthcare, Retirement, Privacy and Education/Communication.
The closing of two Cardiac Rehabilitation Centers by the University of Pennsylvania Health System (UPHS) has caused great concern. It resulted in substantially reduced convenience and general availability of the services for those enrolled in PENNCare. It may also have resulted in a decrease in the quality of such care and, in some cases wherein enrollees have felt the need to go to out-of-network providers for the services, increased their costs. A concern was also expressed about those people in West Philadelphia who use the Presbyterian Center because they may face particular hardships in securing alternative treatment.
The first problem with such a decision is that it occurred in the middle of a contractual period, leaving enrollees locked into a plan until the new enrollment period that was several months away. Furthermore, there is concern that other in-year changes might take place in the future that could seriously erode the availability and quality, and increase the cost of services available to University employees with no recourse open to them. The committee recommends that if UPHS must make such changes it does so, if at all possible, only at the end of contractual periods and provide both ample notification and clarification prior to re-enrollment decisions. The committee further recommends that when this proves not to be feasible, that every effort be made to minimize the inconvenience, possible diminution in the quality of service and potential escalation in the costs of those services. It may also be desirable to enable enrollees to make changes in their enrollment decisions prior to the end of the contract period. In no case should cost savings be realized at the expense of enrollees. Enrollees should be guaranteed comparable service at no added cost to them for the duration of the contract period.
Also, concerns have been raised about the quality of service offered by Independence Blue Cross (IBC) in support of several University Healthcare Plans. Apparently they have a near monopolistic control over healthcare administration in the Delaware Valley and that control has apparently led to a level of quality in the delivery of services that is substantially below that offered in other areas of the country. The PENNCare Coordinating Group is now evaluating the IBC and will be presenting its recommendations. A UPHS Coordinating Committee is likewise examining ways to improve access to PENNCare as well as investigating other operational and developmental issues.
The proposed new prescription drug plan will provide mental (behavioral) health parity with respect to prescription drugs as recommended by this committee. The committee welcomed this decision. The proposed plan will offer 90% reimbursement for all generic drugs as well as brand-name drugs for which there is no generic equivalent, or if the brand-name is specified by the physician, and 70% for brand-name drugs when a generic is available. The current plan offers 80% reimbursement for all drugs. Also, other options for bringing mental health into full parity with other illnesses are being given serious attention by the Administration and additional recommendations are expected soon. The Committee applauds these efforts and strongly encourages the University to push toward full parity as expeditiously as possible.
Caremark has been designated, as the new administrator of our prescription drug plan and the committee will monitor the performance of this organization over the 2000-2001 academic year.
A review of the performance of Hewitt Associates in administering the University's health and welfare programs was begun at the April (final) meeting of the committee. Anecdotally, there appears to be a high level of satisfaction with their performance but detailed, quantitative data were requested by the committee for review in the fall of 2000.
An option that has been requested for many years by the A3 Assembly has finally been approved by the University. A1s and A2s, who choose to do so, have had the option of enrolling in a Tax-Deferred Annuity Plan (TDA), which is seen, in many cases, to be more beneficial to its enrollees than the Retirement Allowance Plan (RAP) presently available to the A3 employees. Current A3 employees will now have a one-time option to switch to the TDA and all new employees will be automatically enrolled in a new plan that provides a choice between a non-contributory plan on the part of the employee with an age-based University contribution and an employee contributory plan with a University match.
Early withdrawal options from one's retirement plan as well as the use of retirement funds in a program of graded retirement continues to be examined by the committee.
Concerns have been raised by this and other committees as to the confidentiality of employee information. The committee endorsed the need for a monitoring committee. If, for example, the University releases (or sells) contact information about University employees and/or students to a credit card company (or provides University endorsement of such a card), what special benefits accrue either to the University or to the employees/students as a consequence? How and by whom are such decisions to be made? And under what guidelines? What might such information include? Is confidential information released? Who within and outside of the University has access to what kinds of information?
Education and Communication
A recurring theme across the benefits issues is that of education and communication. Employee benefits in nearly all areas (but particularly with respect to healthcare and retirement) are becoming increasing complex and difficult to understand. Making informed choices at enrollment time is becoming exceedingly challenging (perhaps impossible). Even those of us on the Benefits Committee, who probably spend more time with these issues than other employees and who have experts available to us, find much of the information confusing. Trying to discover what implications various plans, policies and practices have for implementation in our daily lives is, increasingly, demanding. It is hoped that new applications of technology may facilitate the flow of relevant information to employees, including the ability of each employee to view his/her personal account. We will be consulting with the Committee on Communications to determine what improvements might be brought about with respect to these issues.
--Charles E. Dwyer, Chair
Chair: Charles E. Dwyer, edu; Faculty: David Hackney, radiol/med; Hendrik Hameka, chemistry; John Hansen-Flaschen, med; Carl Polsky, acctg; Gerald F. Porter, math; Cynthia Scalzi, nursing; Ingrid Waldron, biology; Graduate/professional students: Donna Louizides, med; PPSA: Michelle Taylor, dental school; Jo-Ann Verrir, career plng & placement, law; Cathy DiBonaventura, ISC; A-3: Michael Wisniewski, library acquisitions; Louise Alexander, education; Ex Officio: Elenita Bader, dir, benefits: Kenneth Campbell, comptroller; John Heuer, vp, human resources.
Almanac, Vol. 47, No. 5, September 26, 2000