Prof. Files Motion Requesting Health Benefits Changes Reversal

History Professor Mary D. Lewis will make a motion at Tuesday’s meeting of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences requesting that University President Drew G. Faust and the Harvard Corporation reverse a set of controversial changes to non-union employees’ health benefits plans announced earlier this year.

Lewis filed the motion with the Office of the Secretary of the Faculty last Tuesday. Yesterday afternoon, the Faculty Council docket committee, which sets the agenda for monthly Faculty meetings, approved Lewis’s request and placed it on Tuesday’s agenda, according to Classics professor Emma Dench, vice chair of the docket committee.

Lewis said that several other Faculty members have indicated that they will rise to voice their support following the motion. If the motion passes—by a majority vote of the present Faculty members—Faust would not be compelled to make any changes to the benefits plans, but the request would carry the formal support of the full Faculty.

The motion, as filed, asks “that for 2015 the President and Fellows be asked to replace the currently proposed health care benefit plan with an appropriately adjusted version of the 2014 health benefit package, maintaining the 2014 plan design.”

It is the first formal action taken by a group of faculty members critical of the new packages, which are set to take effect next year.

Lewis and several other faculty members have said that they primarily take issue with the introduction of deductibles for non-routine health appointments and the institution of copays up to $4,500 a year for families. They argue that the new plans are “regressive” and will disproportionately burden junior faculty members and faculty members with families.

Citing these grievances, Lewis asked Faust at last month’s Faculty meeting how and when the announced changes would be reversed. Her question drew significant applause from other faculty members in the room and a detailed description changes’ justification from University Provost Alan M. Garber ’76. Lewis subsequently said Garber’s response—which tied the changes to rising healthcare costs nationwide and within the University—did not address the core of her question.

Faust, for her part, indicated that she maintains her support for the new plan in an interview earlier this month. She commended the University Benefits Committee for the care it put into designing the plan, which she said was only finalized after 55 meetings of the committee.

Defending these changes, Faust said that in the past other changes to the policy have been made to mitigate effects on employees, but that in order to sustain a “generous” policy, more visible changes had to be made.

“We've done some adjustments, some very well-devised adjustments, that have not been visible to the faculty and staff, and we've just run out of those options,” she said.

Faust also challenged the assertion that the policy is “regressive,” saying, “we have quite explicit provision for lower-income employees, lower-income reaching quite high actually in what is defined as lower-income to mitigate the impact of these, and I think that prevents it from being regressive.”

—Staff writer Steven R. Watros can be reached at steven.watros@thecrimson.com. Follow him @SteveWatros.

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