Health care costs have been a major topic of conversation and concern on our campus for more than a year. When you consider the fact that nationally, according to an article last week in the New York Times, people in employer-sponsored health plans are contributing 48% more out of their pockets for care than they did three years ago, it is certainly understandable that Ohio University employees have been worried about the future of health care costs here.
I am delighted to report to you that because of our ability to limit health care benefit expenditures in FY03, we have saved approximately 10% of what we had budgeted for this past year. As a result, you will not have to pay a higher fee for your health insurance benefits in the coming year of FY04. Projections lead us to believe that our existing resources will prove sufficient to cover the anticipated rise in health-care costs between now and June 30, 2004.
Moreover, be assured that it is our intent in future years to place any positive variances in the health care budget into reserves, thus providing a cushion for future years in which expenditures exceed projections.
We also have been able to implement several desired changes to our health coverage. Beginning in January, preventive colonoscopies for those over 50 will be covered, well-child benefits will be increased, and employees will have the opportunity to select alternative health care options if they wish.
While we are able to meet the challenge of rising health-care costs for the short term with the one-time savings in the health care budget, we know that we will have to continue to work hard – and work together – to keep our health-care costs manageable. Toward that end, two things will happen as of July 1, 2004:
- We will change our health insurance contract from a calendar year to a fiscal year (July to July) to coincide with the rest of University accounting, and
- We will implement any increase in employees' health benefits contributions that will be required for FY 05.
I cannot over-emphasize the importance of all of us working collegially to address the spiraling costs of health care. That is why we will continue to work through the Benefits Advisory Committee and in conjunction with Faculty, Administrative, and Classified senates to monitor and evaluate health care costs both nationally, and at Ohio University.
You can do your part by giving careful thought to the approach to health care that makes the best sense for you and your family. Our Human Resources staff has prepared a variety of materials designed to answer the most frequently asked questions along with some important updates that you may find helpful. For more information, visit www.uhr.ohiou.edu/benefits/ or contact an HR staff person to discuss your personal situation.
Throughout the past few months I have asked for your patience and your cooperation as we have sought to meet each new financial challenge. Our efforts to cope with shrinking state support are now matched by our need to confront exploding health care costs in the future. We have worked together to produce viable alternatives and new approaches designed to maintain the special nature of Ohio University, and I believe we are a stronger institution than when we began this process. I am sincerely grateful to all of you for your creativity and commitment in meeting the demands of difficult times.