by Leah Wankum, Assistant News Editor
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is part of a series of articles relating to health insurance and the effects of the Affordable Care Act at UCM.
If it weren’t for the Affordable Care Act, faculty and staff at the University of Central Missouri would find 2014 typical regarding their health insurance under Blue Cross and Blue Shield.
Various departments on campus, and probably the rest of Americans, are still working out the details for the Affordable Care Act, how it will affect businesses, academic institutions, and individuals. The UCM human resources department is no exception.
Joyce Lawson, human resources generalist, said her department is waiting to publish specifics about employee health insurance as they work out details with vendors.
“We had to make some changes to our health insurance plans that we’re offering for next year because of [the Affordable Care Act],” Lawson said. “We’ll be publishing all of that around Oct. 21 for employees because we’re still working on rates and with all of our vendors.”
The information the human resources department is expecting to release covers every aspect of employee benefits, including life insurance, dental care and several other services.
When the university’s health insurance provider Blue Cross and Blue Shield makes changes to the health insurance policy, the human resources department notifies employees months in advance in order to prepare them to make adjustments as needed, which would go into effect the next calendar year.
Employees can make changes to their health insurance plans during open enrollment, typically during the last week of October into November.
“Insurance is available to all full-time, regular employees, so that’s faculty and staff,” Lawson said. “Part-time employees can take our health insurance, but they have to pay the full cost of the insurance.”
Only full-time employees are eligible to receive health insurance through Blue Cross and Blue Shield with the university covering a portion of expenses. However, fhe Affordable Care Act redefined “full-time status,” as 30 hours or more per week. UCM’s definition is 32 hours or more per week.
The human resources department is encouraging departments to reduce part-time hours to avoid the cost of providing full-time health insurance and other benefits.
This year, the university has provided insurance for 1,229 full-time employees who are eligible for benefits, according to the human resources department. The number of full-time employees insured through the university hasn’t changed much since 2009, averaging around 1,263 full-time employees per year, according to statistics provided by an email from Cheryl Trelow, assistant director of employment services.
Trelow said no part-time employees enrolled in health insurance through the university.
“[The changes have] impacted very few part-time employees, if any,” said Lawson.
Lawson said health insurance rates for employees have been fairly consistent.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield offers two plans for UCM employees. Plan A has a deductible of $500 per individual or $1,000 per family and is a basic plan recommended for relatively healthy persons. Plan B has a higher deductible of $1,500 per individual or $3,000 per family and is a catastrophic plan recommended for persons with a history of sickness and injury.
Lawson said Blue Cross and Blue Shield changed the health insurance policy for plan A to coincide with the Affordable Care Act; the out-of-pocket maximum expense, or the maximum amount an insured person would have to pay, is higher next year. The amount is uncertain. The deductible, or the amount an insured person must pay before their insurance provider will cover the remainder of the expense, for plan A will stay the same in 2014.
Dr. Art Rennels, chair of the communication and sociology department, said he is concerned with the Affordable Care Act and how it affects the adjuncts in his department.
“As I understand it, because the human resources department defined a credit hour as three hours’ worth of work, we can only work adjuncts for a total of nine hours, whereas before, we could work them for 11 hours,” Rennels said.
Adjuncts could previously teach up to 11 hours total (constituting 33 hours). Rennels said it’s a tragedy that he will only be able to allow adjuncts to teach three, preferably only two, three-credit-hour classes per semester, taking away potential income from adjuncts.
“So now, not only do [adjuncts] not have the ability to work as much as they used to,” Rennels said, “they now have to actually spend more money to get health care under the Affordable Care Act, or else they have a fine in their income tax at the end of the year.”
Currently, many chairs in other departments said they do not foresee the Affordable Care Act affecting their budgets or adjuncts, including the departments of accountancy and computer information systems; career and technology education; communication disorders and social work; criminal justice; economics, finance, and marketing; and English and philosophy.
The human resources department has made a point of notifying employees of the changes in full-time status so they can prepare accordingly.
“It’s unfortunate, but we are a business and money is very tight,” Lawson said. “Everything is changing, but we have to go by the federal law and do what’s best for our business.”
Rennels said the communication and sociology department has an adequate number of graduate assistants to teach classes as well as a number of potential adjuncts to teach at the university.
For more information on the university’s health insurance policy for faculty and staff, contact Human Resources at 543-4255.