a health insurance claim form with a stethoscope on top

Changes to 2018 benefits determined

Premium costs for Case Western Reserve’s primary insurance programs will climb significantly less than forecast next year after officials adopted changes that faculty and staff supported in town hall meetings and a campus-wide survey.

Accelerating health costs nationally, coupled with university employees’ increased use of care, led to projections of premium increases between 15 and 18 percent for 2018, a figure that translated to an additional $72 to nearly $1,300 per year depending on plans used.

With the new adjustments, that growth instead will be between roughly 6 and 10 percent.

As part of the changes, the university will transition to a program where participants receive maintenance prescriptions by mail yet still can continue to get medications for acute or urgent needs at a local pharmacy. This transition will not take place until July 1, and the Office of Human Resources will provide extensive information about it next year.

Not included among the alterations was a proposal to consolidate from two insurance plan administrators to one, a move that would have cut costs by about $800,000. While about 45 percent of employees surveyed supported the idea, it met vehement resistance during open campus meetings.

Although more than 90 percent of those covered would see no change in the physicians and organizations considered in network, several expressed great concern that their provider might be among the minority not in network. As discussions ensued, the university determined that not enough time remained to be able to execute a consolidation effectively. That said, the option remains a possibility for future years, and officials will continue to gather more precise data regarding potential impacts on coverage.

The two areas where the 1,813 survey respondents showed the greatest consensus involved keeping covered services and predictability of costs. Just under 89 percent said they wanted no change in the providers and procedures covered, even if doing so increased their out-of-pocket costs. Meanwhile, about 92 percent said they preferred fixed costs—for example, caps on co-pays—to ones that would vary based on how many visits or treatments sought—like deductible and co-insurance payments.

To that end, the plans keep provisions for out-of-pocket limits for all participants, but maintain the same figure as this year for all employees earning under $100,000; those earning under $50,000 also will see no increases in their co-payment amounts or annual deductible payments. In addition, those earning more than $200,000 per year will face steeper hikes in all areas compared to those under that threshold.

The university has held several benefits and wellness meetings in October, both in open sessions and in specific school or organizational-based settings. These meetings will continue this month, and the Benefits Fair will take place Wednesday, Nov. 8, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Thursday, Nov. 9, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Tinkham Veale University Center ballroom.

Open enrollment begins Monday, Nov. 13; effective this morning, information regarding benefits is available at case.edu/finadmin/humres/benefits/2018.oe.html.