April 30, 2007

Dear Colleagues:

Since the first priority of the Health Care Task Force is to improve communications with faculty and staff, I am writing to update you on our activities.

In the first quarter of 2007, the task force launched a comprehensive study of the University’s health care benefits. We are taking a long-term view of this complex issue and seeking solutions that work for both employees and the University.

To ensure that your opinions are heard and considered, we have taken the following steps:

Aon Consulting hosted 13 focus groups on the three main campuses to reveal a clear picture of employee ideas, attitudes, experiences, and opinions. These sessions were held in February with volunteers and participants selected by Aon. I thank everyone who participated. Some of the prevalent themes and recommendations that emerged were:

  • Employees feel that health care open enrollment information is distributed too late and without warning and is difficult to understand. Some thought that three distinct plans would be sufficient and easier to understand than the current five.

    • The task force is working on simplifying the communication materials and the health care plans.

      • The new UM Benefits@Work newsletter was introduced in early April to assist you in understanding important benefit issues. The first edition can be found online.

      • In addition, we’ve charged Humana with providing three plan design options for 2008: an HMO, a PPO, and a Coverage First plan. Having three distinct plan options may make it easier to understand the differences among the plans. We may find that more plans are needed. We’ll see.

  • Employees at all levels should be represented throughout the decision-making process.

    • The task force concluded that faculty and staff should be more involved in decisions and communications about benefits.

    • Through meetings, focus groups, and other communications, we have heard a wide range of ideas on how to involve our people in the benefits decision-making process. As a result, working with the Faculty Senate, we have reconfigured the former Employee Benefits Committee into a new Employee Benefits Advisory Council.

    • The Council will provide advice, guidance, and input about benefits to University leaders and play an active role in educating employees about their benefits choices.

    • The Council will be representative of the University’s workforce—with 16 members drawn from all campuses and employment categories, including four faculty members to be appointed by Stephen Sapp, chair of the Faculty Senate.

    • It will be chaired by me and supported by Human Resources Vice President Roosevelt Thomas, Associate Vice President of Medical Human Resources Paul Hudgins, and Assistant Vice President of Benefits Administration Cristina Elgarresta.

    • Interested employees should submit their names for consideration. Applicants should have an interest in and passion for benefits matters, work well in groups, be able to attend quarterly meetings, and be eager to help with communications.

    • Interested staff working at the Gables and Rosenstiel campuses should contact Roosevelt Thomas at rthomas@miami.edu. Paul Hudgins, phudgins@med.miami.edu, is the contact person at the Miller School of Medicine. The deadline for submitting your name to be considered is Friday, May 11, 2007.

    • We will announce the membership of the Council within 60 days, and the group will immediately begin its work.

  • The referral process in the HMO plans can be cumbersome and cause delays in getting service.

    • The task force has requested information from Humana about the possibility of removing the gatekeeper (referral) requirement for 2008. We don’t yet know whether that is possible, but it’s something we will carefully evaluate.

  • Co-pays are preferable to co-insurance since they represent a cost-certain rather than a percentage of an unknown number.

    • We will evaluate with Humana the possibility of having at least one plan with only co-pays (for office visits, out-patient procedures, etc.). That could cause an increase in co-pay amounts. It’s something we will consider.

  • Waiving co-pays for UM physicians and facilities is helpful, but greater access is needed as well.

    • Senior Vice President for Medical Affairs and Dean of the Miller School of Medicine Pascal J. Goldschmidt and his team are focused on improving and expanding access to UM doctors and facilities.

    • As you know, we are considering the purchase of Cedars Medical Center, a 560-bed facility. We are also addressing the basics at the University of Miami Hospitals and Clinics (UMHC), from ease of scheduling appointments to the time from first call to seeing a doctor.

    • The general public—and UM employees—will be the beneficiaries of changes that are in process at the medical school.

  • The cost of health care, of course, is an issue.

    • That may be our greatest challenge. Health care costs continue to increase at a much greater rate than tuition or our other revenue sources.

    • The total premium cost of health insurance for our employees this year will exceed $70 million, with the University absorbing just over 80 percent.

    • We are approaching health insurance as an important part of our overall total compensation package and attempting to take a holistic view.

    • You may be aware that the pay increase pool for next year is 1 percent greater than last year, with additional funds set aside for market adjustments, where appropriate. That will help.

    • We are also looking at the cost of parking on the Coral Gables and Miller School campuses, with a goal of offering a low-cost option for employees who are most price sensitive.

In addition to the focus groups conducted by Aon in February, the task force recently emailed all eligible faculty and staff an anonymous health care survey.

Please take the time to complete this important survey. You can access the survey until Wednesday, May 2. Your feedback is an important part of the process.

All of the information obtained from the focus groups and the online survey will be reviewed by the task force and taken into consideration in designing the 2008 health care benefit plan.

I thank you in advance for your interest and continued support with this important endeavor. If you have comments or suggestions, please send them to me at umbenefits@miami.edu.

We will continue to 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

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