Benefits program will change

Will Whiting
Managing Editor

   Mounting health care costs forced University of Arkansas chancellors and vice presidents to approve a new medical insurance benefits plan for employees at several UA campuses including the University of Arkansas - Monticello. Some changes became effective Nov. 1 at UAM, while others will not become effective until Jan. 1, 2005.

   According to UAM Chancellor Jack Lassiter, the university will not pass on a premium increase to employees as a result of the needed changes.

   “UAM employees will continue to pay the same monthly rates for their health plans, and it will not take any more money out of employee paychecks.” Lassiter said. “Rather than passing on costs to our employees, the university will pay the required additional 10 percent.”

   The additional 10 percent will result in the university footing an approximate $120,000 bill to cover the costs of this new plan. Lassiter said UAM will pay for this with contingency funds.

   While premium rates will not increase for employees, other plan changes will be effective Jan. 1, 2005, include adding a $500 deductible. This deductible will not apply to office visits. In addition to the new deductible, there will be an increase of $5 in the co-pay amount for a primary care physician office visit and an increase of $10 for a visit to see a specialist.

   Co-payments for some prescription drugs will be affected. There will not be an increase in co-pay for generic drugs, however, according to Lassiter, there will be a change in the “preferred” and “non-preferred” prescription drug categories.

   “UAM employees currently pay a $25 co-pay for 'preferred' and a $40 co-pay for 'non-preferred' prescription drugs,” Lassiter said. “This will increase by $5 and $10.”

   According to UA Vice President for Finance and Administration Ann Kemp, the increases are necessary to maintain a quality health benefits program for all employees.

   “Our health claims are rising at a rate of 28 percent a year and our pharmacy costs are close behind, increasing at a rate of 20 percent a year,” Kemp said. “We have an excellent plan, and we want to keep it financially sound and competitive without passing on premium increases to our employees.”

   Lassiter maintains that this new plan remains to be one of the best in the state.

   “If you look at other plans, our plan is still very good,” Lassiter said. “It is vitally important for all employees to understand that the new plan’s premiums will not cost them another penny. Medical insurance is crucial, and I would not want any of our employees to have to forgo their healthcare benefits.”

   Students may also breathe a sigh of relief. Because the additional 10 percent needed for this new plan will be paid using contingency funds, students will not see a tuition increase in January as a result of such action.

   Meetings to discuss the new plan and how it will effect employees will be held at the UAM College of Technology - Crossett campus Nov. 8 and at the UAM College of Technology - McGehee campus Nov. 17.

   Employees with questions about the new coverage on the Monticello campus may contact business manager Lathan Hairston at 460-1522.

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The Voice, 2004
Revised 041025 —