Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Faculty governance pursuing more input on employee health incentives

The governing body of U-M's faculty is seeking to add its input to the discussion of how the university can create incentives for employees to pursue healthy behaviors.

The Senate Assembly on Monday accepted a report from the Advisory Task Force on Faculty Involvement in Health Plan Incentives and referred it to the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs (SACUA) for more specific recommendations on how to implement its goals.

"We're just trying to be part of the discussion," said Senate Assembly Chair Kate Barald, who also chairs SACUA, the executive arm of the faculty governance structure. Barald is a professor of cell and developmental biology, and biomedical engineering.

The task force was created to identify principles to guide the university's use of incentives in the management of health costs, and to develop examples and possible options for the implementation of these incentives.

The administration is considering a proposal that would offer incentives, in the form of lower health care premiums, for employees and their enrolled spouses and Other Qualified Adults to actively manage and improve their health.

In its report, the task force put forth 12 principles and 11 recommendations to further encourage employee wellness.

Among the recommendations was a call for a five-year capital construction plan to replace existing intramural buildings on Central and North campuses, and to augment and add to the recreational space and services for faculty, staff, students and retirees at all of the university's campuses.

"We're looking for a real partnership by the university administration in terms of an investment," said Dr. Charles Koopman, professor of otolaryngology, and pediatrics and communicable diseases, who chaired the task force.

The task force supported the university's effort to establish a health promotion program, and said the program should incorporate the principles laid out in its report. The task force also recommended that any incentive program be designed to optimize employee participation, and not be tied to individual outcomes or health status.

The university's Member Engagement Health Plan (MEHP) Design Committee has proposed a health plan design that would reward healthy behaviors with lower health care premiums. To earn the incentive, employees would need to participate in annual health questionnaires and ongoing health-improvement activities to minimize certain health risks and manage chronic conditions.

Employees who participate in the questionnaires and health screenings would pay less, and those with health risks who are willing to work on them would get a further premium reduction. Those without any of the targeted health risks automatically would pay the lowest premium after participating in the health questionnaire and a biometric screening for health risks.

The university's executive vice presidents have formed a committee to offer advice and recommendations on implementation of the health plan design. Its report is due in January 2012.

In other action, the Senate Assembly also endorsed a resolution supporting current university policy regarding the provision of benefits to faculty, staff and eligible dependents.

The resolution approved Monday comes as the state Senate considers a pair of bills — already passed by the House — that would prohibit public employers from providing certain health benefits to an unrelated adult or their child living with an employee.

U-M offers benefits to those persons who meet the criteria of Other Qualified Adults. The university's position is that its health care policies comply with state law, and it does not plan to alter them.