UPDATED: UVa Employees to See Significant Changes to Health Plan

By: Val Thompson Email
By: Val Thompson Email

Charlottesville, Va. August 21, 2013

The University of Virginia is making some major changes to its health care plan that will require employees to pay higher premiums and will drop coverage for some employee's spouses.

Starting January 1, spouses of U.Va. employees will no longer be eligible for the U.Va. health plan if they can get health coverage from their own employer. The university is also increasing premiums by an average of $40 per month.

"You have the rising cost, the rising high claims, and the influence of the Affordable Care Act," said university spokesman McGregor McCance.

McCance says the new federal health care law "will add about $7 million to the cost of operating (the university's) health plan" each year. A bulk of that cost, McCance says, comes from the requirement to start insuring some part-time employees, and raising the cap on expensive claims.

Linwood Marshall has been on the university's health plan for 18 years. He works as a carpenter, taking care of the university's historic buildings.

He is reaching retirement age later this year, and he says he's likely to choose a different insurer for his Medicare supplemental coverage.

"I probably am going to go with outside insurance companies because it's quite a bit of savings in premiums alone," Marshall said.

Employees can avoid the increased premium by doing an online health assessment and getting a "biometric screening," which includes a check of blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar.

However, several employees who were not comfortable sharing their names said they were skeptical of those screenings. They said they were worried about giving the insurer too much information, and that they might be excluded from coverage in the future if the screenings go poorly.

But McCance says the employees don't have to worry about that.

"The health insurance company primarily keeps this confidential information private," McCance said. "The university only receives unidentifiable data in aggregate."

The University's self-funded health plan covers more than 13,600 employees, plus family members, with annual premiums that have tracked well below the national and state average, according to McCance.

Other changes to the health plan include:

- New plan option: The University is adding a third plan option, featuring low premiums and a high deductible. A "Health Savings Account," included as part of the new option, will receive $1,000 at the start of each year from U.Va. to help pay for eligible medical expenses.

- New dental plans: Beginning in 2014, dental coverage will be separated from the health plan. Employees will have options including no dental coverage, a basic plan, and an enhanced plan that includes some coverage of orthodontia.

- Tobacco-free rewards: This year, employees can earn $10 per month if the employee certifies that all adults in the household are tobacco-free.

Open enrollment also is changing. The process of signing up for benefits or making changes to your plans will occur in October rather than November.

More information can be found on at the link below.

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