KSU employee health benefits cheaper than national average

Allison Smith

Benefits only showed a 6.6 percent increase

Kent State faculty and staff health care costs are below the national average, said Tiffany Murray, director of benefits and records.

“Even though health care costs are rising annually for employers in both public and private sectors, and the trend is about 12 to 13 percent of an increase on an annual basis, our benefits only increased about 6.6 percent in terms of cost to the institution,” Murray said.

In January 2009, Kent State began a domestic partner health benefits program. As of now, 25 employees are covered, said Shields. The program covers medical, dental, vision, life insurance, accidental death and dismemberment and a tuition waiver.

Kent State pays 91.3 percent of university expenses for employee health benefits, which equates to

about $36 million, Murray said. Combined, Kent State employees pay about $3 million for health coverage – or 9.7 percent of his or her annual premium.

Employees at other universities are paying between 16 and 20 percent of their annual premium.

“So it’s akin to what is in the media currently in terms of families trying to determine how much they can pay towards their health care premiums, and we have single coverage and family coverage,” said Loretta Shields, manager of university benefits. “For a single person, the coverage is dependent on your salary. So we take a percentage of your salary and equate that to the monthly premium that you pay.”

Murray said faculty and staff will continue to be covered by Medical Mutual and Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield in 2010.

“They have offered some pretty significant renewal rates and some opportunities for us to save the university significant amounts of money in terms of renewal rates and performance guarantees,” Murray said. “We’ve been placed in a unique position because of our long-term relationship with Medical Mutual and Anthem to position ourselves to negotiate a bit more aggressively with these two vendors.”

Murray said Human Resources has not diminished the level of coverage to faculty and staff, despite the lower-than-average costs. She said it’s a rich benefit plan, and they have negotiated opportunities for enhancements in health management programs, disease management programs and service and delivery of those resources.

“One of the things that we try to do when we negotiate these new plans is to make sure that whatever costs that we are passing on to the employee does not cause a significant financial hardship to the employee,” Shields said.

Human Resources is promoting a wellness strategy for faculty and staff called One Well You, Murray said.

“Our goal is to go live in calendar year 2010 with our new vendors, our new vision plans, our new dental plans and begin to reintroduce our One Well You brand, that’s the wellness concept, that’s the brand that we use,” Murray said.

Murray said it’s not just running and going to the Student Recreation and Wellness Center more; it’s looking at lifestyle changes that employees can perform that require little effort.

“By improving cholesterol screening, lowering high blood pressure, getting more maintenance in terms of asthma and things of that nature, it will lower their cost as well,” Murray said.

Contact administration reporter Allison Smith at

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