Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Changing health care landscape puts member engagement plan on hold

The university will not go forward at this time with a new health plan design, called a Member Engagement Health Plan (MEHP). Multiple factors led to the decision, including upcoming facets of U.S. health care reform legislation that may affect the reliability of the projections for the new design.

The MEHP was devised as a way to 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. Those who didn't participate would pay more each month for health coverage.

"The design committee did an extraordinary job crafting a design that maintained our principle of choice, including extensive outreach to the campus community at the outset of their work to help shape the design according to faculty and staff preferences," says Associate Vice President for Human Resources Laurita Thomas.

The implementation committee carefully examined the nuances of operationalizing the design. The findings helped leadership conclude that the added costs to non-participating employees that would be necessary to fund the MEHP would be too significant for some employees at this time, explains Thomas.

Dr. Philip Zazove, professor and interim chair of the Department of Family Medicine, chaired the committee for plan design and also co-chaired the implementation committee with Senior Director for Benefits Ted Makowiec.

Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Phil Hanlon describes the work of both committees as extraordinary.

"Their analyses helped us balance faculty and staff impact, complex health care reform legislation and the projected medical cost savings," says Hanlon. "The combination of these variables made the results less predictable than might be the case in different circumstances, contributing to projected medical claims savings that were minimal for at least five years after implementation."

Although the MEHP will be tabled for now, Thomas and Hanlon both stress that continuing to investigate ways to curb the rate of cost increases by improving health is important.

"The leadership of Dr. Zazove and the broad expertise of the other members of the committees helped us consider the financial, legislative, administrative, clinical and cultural aspects of change. We're deeply appreciative, and we'll be able to apply the lessons learned and the best advice from their work to future efforts," says Thomas.