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UPDATED: November 10, 2014, at 7:36 p.m.
When our professors speak in one voice, we should take notice. Last week, members of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences approved by unanimous vote a complaint against the University’s new health benefits policy for non-union employees. These changes, which will introduce deductibles and a co-insurance model, were inaugurated with little discussion and scant justification. They have raised serious concerns among professors, who worry about how the policy will affect them, their families, and other staff. The University is more than a corporation, and it should not behave otherwise. Though the open enrollment period for next year’s health plans has already begun, the administration should scrap the changes and respond substantively to FAS concerns.
The University claims its plans are intended to reduce its health-care spending and encourage employees to consume services more wisely. Under the new system, employees would pay deductibles of up to $250 an individual and $750 for a family. They would be responsible for 10 percent of their own expenses–up to a cap of $1,500 for an individual, and $4,500 for a family–for non-routine, non-preventive care. For the first time, the University would also offer health-savings accounts to employees who wanted to opt out of traditional forms of coverage.
History professor Mary D. Lewis, the sponsor of the motion adopted by FAS, has called these measures “regressive.” She and others argue the health benefits change burdens junior faculty and those with pre-existing conditions. While we cannot evaluate those claims, we agree that Harvard must do its best to shield sick and lower-rank employees from the impact of cost-containment. We also think it significant that all the FAS members present at the meeting sided with her. If the University wants to maintain its commitment to put people first–engaging with its employees and treating them with respect–the course of action is clear.
After the vote, President Faust told the Crimson she would be “replying in due course.” So far, the Harvard Corporation, the University’s highest governing body, has said nothing. Our employees and their families deserve better than evasion and silence. Now is the time to make things right. The University should cancel its plans and engage in a dialogue with its non-union workers.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
CORRECTION: November 10, 2014
An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the cap on personal expenses for a family would be $6,000. In fact, it would be $4,500.
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