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February 7, 2007

Dear Colleagues:

Shortly after my arrival last fall, President Shalala asked me to launch a comprehensive study of the University’s health care benefits. Her request was made against a backdrop of rising health care costs in South Florida and throughout the country. She was particularly concerned about the impact that increased health insurance costs have on our faculty and staff and their families.

As a result, we convened a task force of University leaders whose charge is to take a long-term view of this complex issue and develop solutions that work for our employees and the University.

The group includes: Roosevelt Thomas, vice president for human resources; Bill Walsh, assistant vice president of benefits administration; Cristina Elgarresta, director of benefits plans; Mark Diaz, associate vice president for budget and planning; William J. Donelan, vice president for medical administration and chief operating and strategy officer of the Miller School of Medicine and the UM Health System; Paul Hudgins, associate vice president for human resources, Miller School of Medicine; and Steven Ullmann, vice provost and dean of the Graduate School.

Early on in our discussions, we agreed on a few guiding principles:

  • The University is committed to providing high-quality and comprehensive health insurance plans at a cost to our employees that is competitive with other local employers.
  • Individual circumstances vary, so we will provide options that meet the diverse needs of our faculty and staff.
  • Our people will have numerous opportunities to share their thoughts and participate in the health care benefits planning process.

Some opportunities to improve the quality of health care services and reduce costs seem obvious.

We are looking at programs that encourage wellness. Some employers have strengthened such programs and report impressive results.

We are looking at disease management with a goal of providing best-practice support for anyone who suffers from a chronic illness.

The best physicians in South Florida work at our Miller School of Medicine. We will find more opportunities to make them available to our faculty and staff. We realize that access and location are important issues in that regard.

We are evaluating our health care insurance administrator, Humana. We want a full partnership with a health management organization that includes ambitious goals for quality and responsiveness and a high level of accountability that ensures the goals are met.

One of our first priorities is to improve communications with faculty and staff and ensure that your opinions are heard and considered. We will do that in several ways:

We have asked AON Consulting to host a number of faculty and staff focus groups that are designed to reveal a clear picture of your full range of ideas, attitudes, experiences, and opinions. These sessions will be held in February with employee participants selected by AON. We will take some volunteers. If you have a particular interest in participating, send me an e-mail at umbenefits@miami.edu.

Volunteers who are not selected for a focus group will be invited to a less formal employee meeting that I will hold.

In March we will conduct an anonymous survey on health care that will be distributed via e-mail to all faculty and staff. Please take the time to complete this survey. We need your feedback.

All of the information obtained from the focus groups and the online survey will be reviewed by the task force and taken into consideration when we begin discussing 2008 health care benefit plan designs.

There is much more to come. We will keep you informed of our progress and welcome your ongoing participation and feedback.


Joe Natoli

Senior Vice President for Business and Finance
and Chief Financial Officer