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COUNCIL 2000-2001 Year-end Committee Reports


The following reports were presented at Council last spring.
Final reports for Community Relations, Facilities, Personnel Benefits, Pluralism, Quality of Student Life, and Safety and Security, were given to
Almanac recently for publication.

Personnel Benefits

July 3, 2001

Discussed at Council, April 25, 2001

We have held six meetings this academic year. The following issues have been our foci: Health Benefits, Retirement Issues, Disability ‘Gap' Coverage, Passive Enrollment Changes, Evaluation of Hewitt Administrative Services and Privacy/Confidentiality of Employee Records.

Health Benefits

Parity in Mental Health--We are continuing to monitor the progress of the administration in moving toward parity in mental health. Last year parity was established in prescription drugs and this year there have been substantial improvements in the coverage for both in-patient and out-patient days. We welcome these improvements and urge the administration to continue to move toward parity. In support of this we have forwarded, with our endorsement, the recommendations made by Professor Ingrid Waldron of this committee and Dr. John Hansen-Flaschen, formerly of this committee. Specifically, we have requested the Human Resources-Benefits Office and Associate Provost's Office to provide their evaluation of the advantages, costs and specific options for implementing these two proposals for moving toward parity of coverage for mental health to this committee early in the fall semester, 2001.

The University Health Care System--We have continuing concerns about the future of the University Health Care System and the implications this may have for the availability, quality and cost of health care services to the University employees whose health care benefits include use of those services. At one point there was discussion of a possible sale of some portions of the system and we believe such an action could have had a dramatic effect on the services available. While such a sale does not now seem a likely outcome for the foreseeable future, we are concerned that substantive changes may be made in the system and we urge the administration to carefully consider the effects of any action regarding the health care system on those whose health care coverage includes access to those services before making any decisions. We note, for example, that the closing of two cardiac rehabilitation units last year in mid-contract caused serious difficulties for several patients and no adequate recourse was afforded them. In support of more collaborative decision-making, we urge the administration to keep an open line of communication with this committee including periodic reports about any proposed changes in the system. In that way we can ensure that the interests of the employees have a voice in any decisions to be made.

Long Term Health Insurance--In looking into the use of long term health insurance as offered through university options, we have discovered that a very small percentage of those eligible make use of it (3.7%). It is also noted that the majority of those opting for it are those nearing retirement when, of course, the premiums are highest. We have asked the Human Resources-Benefits Office to continue to review additional plans as they become available in the market, to ensure that our employees have access to the most cost effective plans. While we do not take a position on the desirability of such insurance we do note that a portion of the premiums for such insurance are given favorable tax treatment by the federal government and legislation is pending to improve that favorable tax treatment. We should ensure that our employees are fully aware of these developments in making their decisions. This is a part of our continuing concern about the complexity of the benefits issues facing our employees and our recommendation that a continuous search be made for better ways of providing relevant information that is easily accessible to them.

Dental Benefits--We had requested that the administration look into the feasibility of increasing the maximum annual benefit of the MetLife dental program from $1,000 to $1,100 or $1,200. The report we received back indicated that such an increase would (based on present trend information) increase the cost to the University by an additional 10% and therefore at this time such an increase is not deemed feasible. The increased costs of dental care and its impact on employees and their families are being monitored and we anticipate that this will be a part of the charge for next year's committee. We also intend to examine the alternative of offering a different kind of dental policy with a deductible for routine examinations and procedures and a much higher limit for more serious and complex dental care procedures requiring large (catastrophic) expenditures.

Vision Care--Some 33% of eligible employees have elected the Clarity Vision Care plan. Anecdotally, the plan has had mixed reviews and we believe next year's committee should provide a more thorough examination of the levels of satisfaction with it.

Costs of Health Care--The University's health care costs rose 13% in the last year and, based on national data and projections, such increases can be anticipated for at least the next five years. The prescription portion of those costs alone has risen by 25%. Clearly, such substantial increases in costs will have serious implications for both the University and its employees. Once again, as the administration grapples with these issues, we urge them to keep in close communication with this committee in determining the ways in which they intend to respond to what many see as a crisis in health care costs. In several cases we are aware that employers have both reduced benefits and passed added costs on to their employees. While these measures may be considered within the University we are hopeful that the voice of the employees, through this committee, will be solicited before final decisions are taken.

Defibrillators--We urge the administration to make a study of the desirability and feasibility of placing defibrillators at strategic locations across campus and having trained personnel available to use them in the event of an emergency. We note that many organizations, including high schools, have taken this action and that such action has saved lives. We also note that the cost of such equipment has decreased in recent years as their use has spread more widely and the user-friendliness of defibrillators has improved significantly.

Retirement Issues

The A3 Option--Approximately 50% of the eligible A3 employees who were offered the choice of remaining with their current retirement plan or switching to the TDR plan (which had previously been available only to faculty and A1 employees), switched to the TDR plan. The transition appears to have been smooth. Approximately 1600 individual counseling sessions were held prior to the cutoff date for the decision and we applaud the Human Resources-Benefits Office for their fine work.

TIAA-CREF--Due to changes in plan design approved by this Committee and in order to allow more flexibility to the participants, TIAA-CREF and Vanguard modified the participants' statements to reflect the appropriate sections of the Internal Revenue Code. In addition, because of insurance regulations, TIAA-CREF had to issue new contracts to all current enrollees; Vanguard was not affected by these regulations. TIAA-CREF is urging anyone with questions to call their regional office in Philadelphia. They also reminded us that individual counseling sessions are available two days per month. The Retirement Call Center is another resource open to our employees. We have also urged Vanguard to offer more counseling sessions to our employees. Once again, the complexity and importance of these benefits issues requires us to do everything possible to make relevant information conveniently accessible.

Other Issues

Disability ‘Gap' Coverage--There continues to be a gap in the disability coverage for our employees. When short-term disability coverage ends there is a waiting period before the long-term coverage becomes applicable and therefore a ‘gap' occurs. We have asked the Human Resources-Benefits Office to investigate options from various carriers and we expect a report next year.

Evaluation of Hewitt Administrative Services--As an initial step in evaluating the quality of the administrative services provided by Hewitt in support of our benefits packages, we asked Hewitt to have an independent survey made by an outside firm. We aided in the design of the questionnaire and the process to be used in the implementation of the questionnaire. A phone survey is currently being conducted and is to be completed this month. The survey covers the medical, dental, life insurance and the pre-tax expense accounts programs along with responses concerning the satisfaction by users of the services provided by Hewitt. A report is expected in June of this year.

Passive Open Enrollment Changes--The Human Resources-Benefits Office, in the interest of efficiency, proposed a more streamlined approach to the open enrollment process. It consists in reducing the amount of what they believe to be redundant information sent to the enrollees. Members of the committee have expressed concerns that critical and timely information might be omitted if the general rule guide to benefits is sent only to new employees and not the current employees. Although more detailed information will be made available on the web site, many current employees do not yet have web site access. We recommend that monitoring procedures be in place if a new process is implemented to ensure that it does not purchase efficiency at the cost of effectiveness. The Human Resources-Benefits Office has made additional modifications in the process in response to the suggestions of the committee.

Privacy/Confidentiality of Employee Information--There are ongoing concerns across campus about issues of the privacy of employee information and we have coordinated with the Committee on Communications in examining some of the key areas of concern. A Privacy Issues Task Force has just issued a report by Professor Porter, who is with the Communications Committee and that report highlights the particular need to replace social security numbers as the primary identifiers on printed materials. We support the careful examination of the desirability of appointing a Chief Privacy Officer for the University to monitor these critical issues of privacy and identity theft. Of particular concern is the use of social security numbers in the outside labels of the mailings made by Keystone. Flo Stopper of IBC and Keystone will look into the feasibility of using an alternative identifier and report back to the Committee in the early fall term of 2001-2002. Likewise, the replacement of social security numbers on payroll stubs and materials used by various vendors (e.g. Clarity Vision) is being investigated and a report on suggestions for action and actions taken will be made to the committee in the fall.

-- Charles E. Dwyer, Chair

2000-2001 Council Committee on Personnel Benefits

Chair: Charles Dwyer (Education). Faculty: David B. Freiman (Radiology/Medicine), Hendrik Hameka (Chemistry), Carl Polsky (Accounting), Gerald F. Porter (Math), Cynthia Scalzi (Nursing), Ingrid Waldron (Biology). Graduate/Professional student: John Nemec; A-1 staff: Cathy DiBonaventura (ISC), Michelle Taylor (Dental School), Jo-Ann Verrier (Law School Career Planning & Placement). A-3: Susan Russoniello (Career Services), Michael Wisniewski (Library Acquisitions). Ex officio: Elenita Bader (Benefits), Kenneth Campbell (Comptroller), John Heuer (Human Resources).


Almanac, Vol. 48, No. 6, October 2, 2001

ISSUE HIGHLIGHTS:

Tuesday,
October 2, 2001
Volume 48 Number 6
www.upenn.edu/almanac/

Dr. Lerman appointed associate director for Cancer Control and Population Science and director of the Tobacco Research program at the Leonard & Madlyn Abramson Family Cancer Research Institute
$2.1 million grant to introduce advanced security features into standard office PCs.
Dennis DeTurck, Srilata Gangulee and Alton Strange will serve the Colleges Houses this year.
The new director for public serves at the Library is Sandra Kerbel.
Wharton as appointed Steven Oliveira as associate dean for External Affairs.
UCD has announced it's new executive director.
Deadlines are announced for Pilot and Feasibility Grants, Trustees' Council Grants, Robert Bosch Fellowships and Luce Scholars Program
Year-end Council reports: Community Relations; Facilities; Personnel Benefits; Pluralism; Quality of Student Life; and Safety and Security.
A new Temporary Staffing Services has a new vendor; EHRS has Training for October and Annual Tuberculosis Screening is now available.
Steinhardt Hall, the new Hillel Center breaks ground.