Washburn regents approve health insurance premium hikes for faculty and staff

Faculty and staff at Washburn University will be paying more for health insurance after action on Thursday by the school’s board of regents. (File photo/The Capital-Journal)

Faculty and staff at Washburn University will be paying more for health insurance beginning Jan. 1 after action taken on Thursday by the school’s board of regents.

 

The regents unanimously approved an overall average increase of 16 percent in deductibles and physician office visit co-payments. Hikes in premiums will be dependent on salary and coverage, Washburn officials said.

“It is no secret that the cost of health care has been rising significantly in recent years,” Washburn president Jerry Farley said in a statement before Thursday’s vote, “and those increases inevitably have an effect on the cost of providing health insurance.”

Farley said the increases in deductibles and premiums are needed after a rise in the number of employees facing “some dramatic health challenges.”

According to information provided by Washburn, premiums are expected to increase by 14 percent in 2018 with the university funding 83 percent of the premiums that are expected to cost $7.6 million.

“Funding the health care plan is by far the most expensive benefit,” Jim Martin, Washburn’s vice president of administration and treasurer, told the regents. “We’ve benchmarked this against the state (of Kansas insurance plan). It’s still a very affordable plan.”

Shaun Schmidt, president of Washburn’s faculty senate, declined to comment on the health insurance increases.

The health insurance plan also includes the following modifications, according to information provided by Washburn:

— An increase in the medical plan deductibles and co-insurance levels by $500 for both the base and buy-up plan. The buy-up plan reduces the deductibles but does so at a higher premium.

— An increase in office visit co-pays for primary care physicians from $30 to $35.

— An increase in the specialty office co-pays from $40 to $45.

— The elimination of the additional $300 benefit for lab tests and X-rays.

Washburn regents also approved employees in the top three premium tiers of the six-tier plan, those earning $55,386 or more, to pay a portion of their individual coverage, ranging from $35.52 to $50. Those staff members who fall into the lower three premium tiers will still have to pay deductibles and co-pays, Martin said, but won’t have to pay a monthly premium for employee-only coverage in their base plan, just as they aren’t now.

Martin said it was approximately 2009 when Washburn starting paying the full cost of the base premium for the three upper tiers.

With the premium and deductible increases, the regents also approved adding a voluntary vision care plan that will add coverage for contacts, frames and lenses and “unbundling” the current dental plan from the university’s medical plan in order to “allow flexibility in choosing coverage.”

Faculty and staff will also have access to a new employee assistance program that Martin said had previously been “non-existent” for Washburn staff. He said the university has seen a greater need for “broader mental health coverage.” The contract with New Directions Behavioral Health, Martin said, will allow for a pool of counselors to come to campus in the event of a tragedy.

Contact reporter Angela Deines at (785) 295-1143 or follow her on Twitter @AngelaDeines.

 

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