Health costs will rise for faculty, staff

Colin Morris

Increase reflects national trends

Kent State faculty and staff will see their employee health insurance costs jump by 30 percent or more in 2010, depending on their salaries.

Eric Mintz, second vice president of the Kent chapter of the American Association of University Professors, said the rise was an expected result of a larger problem.

“I’m no more alarmed than anyone should be that the costs of health care are rising faster than inflation,” he said.

Mintz said several factors contributed to the increase.

First, the 2008 tenure-track faculty collective bargaining agreement includes an increase of average employee shared cost from 10 percent to 12 percent.

Second, Mintz estimates health care costs, in general, have risen 5 to 6 percent per year during the last two years.

Finally, Tiffany Murray, human resources benefits director, wrote in an e-mail that this year’s increase reflects two years’ worth of that cost growth.

“It is also important to note that, as a result of the 2008 contract negotiations, the tenure-track and non-tenure-track faculty did not have an increase in their monthly premiums for the 2008-2009 calendar year,” Murray wrote.

Murray said the cost hike is having a universal effect on university employees.

“The monthly plan cost is based on plan selection and the salary tier each person falls within,” she said.

Rebecca Chism, foreign language pedagogy associate professor, said she wasn’t yet aware of the changes but expected them to be reflected in a bill from a recent dental appointment.

“I think Kent State has good health care compared to other jobs I’ve had,” she said. “If you want quality care, I don’t mind having to pay a little more to be able to choose what doctor I go to.

“Overall, I’ve been pretty satisfied.”

Mintz said Kent State is self-insured. That means the university estimates what costs will be, creates premiums for employees on a sliding scale of salary and pays two companies, Medical Mutual of Ohio and Anthem Blue Shield, to administer the plans.

The situation is comparable at The University of Akron. The school’s assistant director of benefits administration, Kevin Turner, said individual premiums have risen an average of 8 percent this year.

“I don’t know of anyone whose rates are going down right now,” he said. “I’ve spoken with other benefits managers across the state, and they’re having similar experiences.”

Turner said Akron employees pay an average of 15 percent of benefits costs. If the premiums change, the university adjusts its employee contribution structure to keep employees’ costs at that 15 percent average.

Mintz said the increase at Kent State doesn’t just hurt employees.

“Both sides – employees and the university – are paying more,” he said. “Every dollar that goes to health care is a dollar that can’t go to anything else.”

Contact faculty affairs reporter Colin Morris at [email protected].