Emory Report
February 27, 2006
Volume 58, Number 21


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February 27 , 2006
Faculty Council discusses health plan problems

BY Michael terrazas

Sharon Strocchia (history) began the Feb. 21 Faculty Council meeting, held in 400 Administration, by reporting that she, Dwight Duffus (math & computer science) and Bill Branch (medicine) will constitute an ad hoc committee charged with collecting nominations for faculty counselors to the Board of Trustees. She said the group sent an e-mail on Feb. 7 to all University faculty asking for nominations, with a submission deadline of March 1.

Next, Harriet King from the provost’s office asked for the council’s endorsement of a switch to electronic voting in the election of members to the President’s Advisory Committee (PAC). She said the traditional paper-ballot processes usually results in low faculty voter turnout (about 25 percent), but that two years ago, when an emergency necessitated the use of electronic voting, roughly 80 percent of faculty voted.

King said Daniel Teodorescu of Institutional Planning and Research has developed a secure Web site for the election process that limits access to only those eligible to vote, and ensures the votes will remain secret. The council unanimously endorsed the switch.

Charlotte Johnson from the provost’s office gave a presentation on recently approved tuition and fees for fiscal year 2007. Annual tuition at Emory College will increase by $1,700 to $32,100, a 5.6 percent hike. Johnson gave tuition numbers for the other University schools with some pertinent notes, like the fact that Rollins School of Public Health is switching from a credit-hour-based tuition schedule to one that is semester-based, making it easier for public health students to take elective courses offered by other schools.

Johnson also gave comparative data for how Emory matches up in tuition costs with its peer institutions, and trend data for financial aid. The latter showed that fears of middle-class students being “squeezed out” (because they are too wealthy to qualify for significant financial aid but still cannot comfortably pay full tuition) may be overblown, but it also showed those middle-class students are borrowing more to come to Emory. Several faculty expressed concern about the debt loads students in several schools carry after graduating.

To close the meeting, Sid Stein (who chairs the University Senate committee on fringe benefits) asked for the council’s input on two issues concerning health insurance. First, he said, as the University continues to urge employees to use Emory doctors for health care—and as Emory’s health plans add disincentives for using out-of-network providers—Oxford employees are finding that providers located near their campus are now out-of-network, creating an undue burden by their needing to drive to the Atlanta campus for care. Stein said he would bring the issue to Emory’s health care steering committee to be addressed.

The second issue concerned complaints that changes to physician networks in the 2006 plans were not adequately communicated to employeers before and during last fall’s Open Enrollment period. Stein said the issue came to his attention via a retiree who lives in Denver and no longer has access to providers considered in-network, but said the same problem likely exists for local employees.

At a previous council meeting, President Jim Wagner had raised the possibility of holding a second Open Enrollment period this spring to allow people to switch plans. New Human Resources Vice President Peter Barnes, who was in attendance Feb. 21, said the Internal Revenue Service restricts Open Enrollment, but that some compromise may be possible. He said employees could be allowed to switch health plans if they maintain the same premiums associated with their original plan choice.

One problem, Barnes said, is that health plans are becoming increasingly complex, and when an institution tries to maximize service by offering many plans, each tailored to the needs of certain groups, the result is often confusion. “We need to go [for example] with a ‘purple’ choice and a ‘green’ choice, and you choose one, and you get what you want,” Barnes said.

Barnes said HR has designed personalized “transition of care plans” for many individuals, both retired and active employees, whose established caregivers are no longer considered in-network. He said he would continue to investigate options for those who feel they’ve selected the wrong plan for 2006.
The next Faculty Council meeting will be held March 21 at 3:15 p.m. in 400 Administration.

If you have a question or concern for Faculty Council, e-mail Chair Michael Rogers at rogers@learnlink.emory.edu.