UCSB employees will see an increase in the cost of their medical benefits in 2002, reflecting the increasing rates for healthcare across the state and nation.

This year the Faculty Welfare Task Force on the Future of UC Health Care Plans Committee has dealt with the national increase in healthcare insurance costs by shifting the bulk of the burden onto the employee seeking coverage, according to Santa Barbara Academic Senate Chair Richard Watts, who has negotiated contracts with insurance companies for the last three years. To do this, the healthcare plans will keep the premium, or monthly payment, at a minimum and increase the co-payment – the payment the patient makes at the time of treatment.

“This is kind of a touchy decision because you want to make sure sick people find their healthcare affordable, but you want to protect healthy people from paying too much,” Watts said.

The cost of medical coverage is still less for University of California employees than for the average federal employee living and working in California, UCSB Benefits Manager Tricia Hiemstra said.

Co-payments for employees’ doctor visits covered under Health Net, Inc., one of multiple providers sponsored by the University, will double from $5 in 2001 to $10 in 2002, but the premium will be $5.04 compared to $62.31 for the average federal employee. The cost to add on family members is also considerably less under the UC plan.

Prescription drug co-payments for generic, brand name and non-formulary drugs – drugs the pharmacy does not keep in stock – along with mail-order drugs, will also double for UC employees.

“We have had many employees telling us frightening stories about how the increased co-payments are going to affect them, particularly those with chronic health problems,” Coalition of University Employees President Debbie Ceder said.

In addition to Health Net, the UC system offers other medical plans such as one from PacifiCare Health Systems which has no monthly premium. In addition, the University covers the entire premium for dental and vision benefits, regardless of which medical provider is chosen.

“We have a very good offering,” Heimstra said. “It’s better than private industry and we make it very attractive to cover family members.”

Employees can add, adjust or opt-out of UC-sponsored insurance programs throughout November, the month designated for open enrollment. UC employees are also eligible for an Accidental Death and Dismemberment plan, which is offered all year except during open enrollment, as well as a legal plan, which is not offered this year.

The details of the benefits of each plan the UC system sponsors are available at <www.ucop.edu/bencom/oe>.