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October 20, 2008

To the University Community:

The University of Miami continues to improve dramatically in all areas—from education to research, patient care, and community service. We have moved up to No. 51 in U.S. News & World Report’s “America’s Best Colleges” rankings, jumping ahead 15 spots in just the past six years.

We should all be proud of the achievements we have made as a University, working together as a community to attain unparalleled success. There is absolutely no doubt we can accomplish so much more when we rally toward a common goal.

Unfortunately, our achievements as a University are set against a backdrop of an unprecedented world economic crisis. As I mentioned in my recent Dialogue letter, University leadership has been meeting regularly, and we already are looking carefully at our current budgets. We want to protect our faculty and staff, and we continue to have the resources to pay good salaries and get better.

I have been delighted that many of you have written in with your own ideas about how we can save money for the University. Keep the ideas coming. There are many other ways you can work with us to ensure that we do whatever we can to work within our means and even save money, particularly in the area of health care.

During the Open Enrollment period that began today, October 20, and continues through Friday, November 7, you will have the opportunity to re-evaluate your choices and enroll in important benefits programs.

I encourage you to take the time to review the literature, attend the annual Benefits Fair, and one of the many information sessions. The decisions we make now can have a significant impact on our well-being and that of our families.

The University health care programs we have implemented in recent years have been designed to enable us to take more responsibility for our own health and to become smarter and more sophisticated health care consumers.

In 2009 our total health care costs for the University are projected at $100 million. UM contributes 80 percent of the total cost, or more than $80 million!

We want to do everything we can to keep you healthy and our costs for medical care down, and each of us can help the University and ourselves control spending by being smart health care consumers.

  • For example, consider going to University of Miami Medical Group (UMMG) doctors and facilities to take advantage of the discounted rates on medical services.
  • If we have a non-emergent—not an emergency—medical condition, we should consider going to an urgent care center instead of the emergency room. In most cases this is the better option not only financially, but also medically.
  • In addition, when our doctor prescribes a medication, ask about its generic equivalent. Last year, generic medications cost approximately $85 less than their brand name counterparts.
  • Consider enrolling in a flexible spending account. These accounts enable us to pay for health care and dependent care expenses using pre-tax dollars, which could mean hundreds of dollars more in our pockets at the end of the year.
  • Get a flu shot.
  • Most importantly, we can eat healthier, get more exercise, and (for those who do) stop smoking. Take advantage of the Walking ’Canes program and other programs offered by our Wellness Centers. To tell you the truth, I need more exercise and to drop at least 10 to 20 pounds. If you pledge to get into shape this year, I will too!
  • Informed health care consumers ask questions of their doctors and go for regular preventive care visits (which are free to you and paid 100 percent by us).

There is a direct connection between healthy behaviors, your state of wellness, and health care premiums, which is why I am encouraging all of us to take increasing responsibility for our health.

There are two easy steps you can take to check your health status.

  • Starting this January, all employees who are members of our health care plan will have the opportunity to complete the Aetna online health assessment. The health assessment provides specific guidelines to changing poor health and nutritional patterns. Please take the time to fill out the health assessment. I will remind you again in January.
    • In 2009 those employees who voluntarily participate in completing this confidential online questionnaire will receive a $20 credit to their health care premiums.
  • Please go to www.uhealthsystem.com and take the easy, fast test that will give you a brief evaluation of your risk for heart disease. You can print out the report and take it to your primary doctor the next time you see her/him.

These both are confidential (I wrote the Federal Healthcare Privacy Rules.) 

All of these actions mentioned above can mean big savings for both you and the University. Be assured that we will continue to be vigilant about our finances during this economic crisis while pursuing our goals of making the University of Miami among the best and most secure places to work in Florida. By working together, we can ensure our future success.

Thank you for your dedication to this wonderful University. Keep in touch.

Office of the President
P.O. Box 248006 Coral Gables, Florida 33124-4600
305-284-5155 Fax 305-284-3768