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August 18, 2009

Dear Colleagues:

The University is closely monitoring the progress of proposed U.S. health care reform, and I am personally involved in the process (as much as I have time for). Lawmakers from both houses of Congress continue to debate different proposals to fix our complicated health care system.

It is apparent to everyone that the current system is not working well and that families and businesses are suffering. Health care costs continue to increase at two to three times the rate of inflation each year, and the number of people who are uninsured or underinsured grows every day.

The bottom line is that health care costs will continue to increase. Health care reform is needed, and I believe it will happen soon. Meanwhile the University must continue to look at ways to control health care costs right now. All of us have a stake in keeping UM’s costs down—whatever we spend on employee health care detracts potential resources for future salary increases.

We also must work together to ensure that all of us who are healthy, stay healthy, and that those of us who need medical care are asking questions, staying on top of our conditions, and getting the highest quality care. As you know, a healthy UM community equals lower health care costs for all and a more productive organization.

The University is spending millions of dollars on health care for our employees. Our goal is to help you improve your overall mental and physical health and your quality of life, both by educating you about things you can do to stay healthy and by offering quality care at lower costs through UHealth. By including all of our wellness initiatives under one program—Well ’Canes—employees will have easy access to all of the available programs.

During Open Enrollment, which will be held from October 19 through November 6, you will receive more information about many new wellness initiatives for 2010. But there is no need to wait; there are programs to help you start making positive changes right now:

  • Members on the UM/Aetna medical plan should take advantage of our free preventive care benefits, including a free annual physical, mammogram, skin cancer screening, and more.

  • Quit smoking. Please! If you’re a smoker, now is the time to quit. The Miller School of Medicine will become a smoke-free campus early next year. In line with this effort, we will double the smokers’ surcharge for members on the health care plan in 2010. It isn’t always easy to quit—I know, I was once a smoker. If you need help, contact the staff of our Be Smoke Free Program today.

  • Please get a free flu shot this fall. Getting a flu vaccination is the single best way of preventing seasonal flu. We will provide educational materials and free flu shots across all campuses this fall. Look for future announcements about free flu shots.

  • Become a Herbert or Medical Wellness Center member and take advantage of the SHAPE-UP program—spouses too! Beginning September 1, 2009, spouses will have access to the SHAPE-UP program. If you and/or your spouse exercise at least three times per week throughout your membership period (at least four months), you are eligible to receive a 20 percent rebate on your Wellness Center membership. Spouses must be members of the Aetna medical plan to qualify for the rebate. Call to become a Herbert or Medical Wellness Center member today. (Coral Gables: 305-284-8540, Medical: 305-243-7604)

  • Many other programs are available now. Visit www.miami.edu/wellcanes to learn more.

August is always an exciting time at the University of Miami. Faculty and staff are working diligently to prepare for the start of a new academic year, ’Canes fans are revving up for our next Hurricanes football season, and all of our campuses are buzzing with energy for opportunities waiting around the corner.

Amid all of the excitement, it can be challenging to balance life and work, and sometimes we’re too busy to stop for a moment and take care of one of the most important parts of our lives—our health. But a healthy university is a thriving university. We have a successful history of teaming up to address challenges and make great changes. By working together this year, we can kick off a culture of wellness at UM.

As always, please send me your suggestions and comments at dshalala@miami.edu. Thank you for all you do for our wonderful University.