Senate supports plan to create standard retiree benefits program

The University Senate has voted to recommend approval of a proposed retiree benefits policy that specifically defines which employees are considered retirees and delineates what benefits are available to them.

Approved at the Senate's April 16 meeting in four separate votes, the proposal was put forth by the Senate's Fringe Benefits Committee and presented by committee chair Sid Stein. One of the committee's goals in creating the proposal, Stein said, was to standardize what is currently an informal retiree benefits package.

The proposal, which will go to President Bill Chace for his consideration, ultimately would require the approval of the Board of Trustees. The plan calls for retirees to be defined for the purposes of receiving supplemental benefits as employees who have reached the age of 55, provided they have completed at least 10 years of service to Emory and the sum of their years of completed service and their age equals 70 or more.

"This substantially liberalizes our existing policy," Stein said. The current policy allows retirees to receive benefits after reaching age 60 and at least 10 years of service, or age 55 and at least 15 years of service.

The most costly supplemental benefit available to retirees under the proposal is continued access to an existing Emory health insurance program of the retiree's choice. Retirees would be responsible for a portion of the monthly premium, and the University would contribute the remainder in a proportion similar to that of active employees. University Secretary Gary Hauk said an actuarial analysis of the proposal indicates that it could potentially increase the University's health insurance costs by more than $1 million per year for the first five years. Hauk said that Vice President for Finance and Treasurer Frank Huff, however, has estimated the actual cost increase at about $200,000 per year. Both Hauk and Stein said the president's senior staff have expressed support for the provision, despite the additional cost.

Stein said that two provisions of the health insurance portion of the proposal, recently added at the request of the Faculty Council, likely will not be supported by the administration. Those provisions call for a guarantee that retiree health insurance premiums be identical to those of active employees, and a guarantee that retiree health benefits cannot be terminated unilaterally unless health benefits for active employees are terminated. The Senate voted with minimal opposition to include the provisions in the proposal.

Other benefits called for in the proposal, some of which are already available to retirees on an informal basis, include:

*Courtesy Scholarships for retirees and their spouses for undergraduate and graduate courses, and for their dependent children for undergraduate courses only.

*Full use of all University libraries and library research facilities.

*Access to the facilities and catering services of the Houston Mill House, and access to monthly faculty dinners and daily lunches.

*A yearly parking permit at no cost for retirees receiving no compensation from the University.

*Participation in convocations and commencement.

*Free Eagle account with access to e-mail and the internet.

*Access to the P.E. Center on the same basis as active employees.

*Access to Alumni University and alumni travel programs on the same basis as alumni.

*Discounts on cultural/theater/special event admission tickets.

*A 10 percent tuition discount on Evening at Emory courses.

*A 10 percent discount in Senior University registration costs.

*Access for emeritus faculty to professional continuing education courses in the school from which they retired on the same basis as active faculty.

*A subscription to Emory Report.

*Access to shopping discounts available to active employees.

*Access to discounted computer equipment and software available to active employees.

*A permanent EmoryCard.

*Inclusion of emeritus faculty in the campus directory.

*An invitation to StaffFest for retired staff.

After concerns were raised about the cost implications of some of the provisions, the Senate voted to include an additional statement that all benefits outlined in the proposal will be available to retirees according to the policies governing the use of Emory resources to which active employees must adhere.

As part of the proposal, the Senate also voted to create a subcommittee to study the possibility of office space and/or secretarial support for selected retirees continuing research projects or providing consultative services to the University. This item will not be included in the proposal that will be forward to President Chace.

--Dan Treadaway

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