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After Criticism, Harvard Offers Additional Health Benefits Plan

Harvard revises its health benefits policy to offer a plan without deductibles for 2016

Harvard has revised its health insurance options for nonunion faculty and staff members to offer an additional plan without deductibles or coinsurance, remove coinsurance on diagnostic tests, and adjust salary tiers upward, roughly a year after previous University health benefits restructuring prompted broad pushback from professors.

The benefits policy revision, outlined Thursday by Provost Alan M. Garber ’76 in an email to affected employees, is the administration’s response to months of heated faculty criticism after the University restructured its benefits plan by introducing an out-of-pocket deductible and coinsurance last year. Administrators cited the burden of rising healthcare costs as their reason for the changes, but they nonetheless caused an uproar from members of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, who unanimously passed a motion asking the Harvard Corporation—the University’s highest governing body—to reverse the benefits changes last November.

Provost Alan Garber
Provost Alan M. Garber '76.

The Corporation did not strike the plans, but University President Drew G. Faust did establish a fund to mitigate cost increases for highly affected employees and commit to revisiting the benefits issue in the future. The University Benefits Committee then heard from faculty at information sessions in the spring, and members considered offering more benefits options.

In his email, Garber, who has been the point person on the health benefit changes, wrote that he has “heard the views of many members of our community” and hopes his outline of the new plan—based on UBC recommendations—will mollify concerned employees.

For 2016, the University will now offer an alternative Point of Service plan with a higher premium but no deductible or coinsurance for in-network care, which Garber said might appeal to “those who seek more predictable out-of-pocket costs at the point of care.” The out-of-pocket maximum—the most an insured patient or family is required to pay each year—will be $2,000 for individuals and $6,000 for families. Out-of-network care will carry the same deductible, coinsurance, and out-of-pocket maximums as the 2015 plan.

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Harvard will continue to offer the same Point of Service plan that it offered last fall, which includes a $250 deductible for individuals and $750 for families. After the deductible, coinsurance kicks in, with Harvard covering 90 percent of costs and the patients 10 percent of costs up until the out-of-pocket maximum of $1,500 for individuals and $4,500 for families.

Copayments for office visits will be higher for employees—$30 instead of $20—and will require a copayment of $100 for emergency room visits.

The University has also altered the health benefits policy to remove deductibles and coinsurance for diagnostic labs and x-rays after some staff members expressed concern that the added costs would discourage employees from seeking preventative care.

After faculty raised concerns that the 2015 plan places an unfair burden on lower-salary faculty and staff members, Harvard is also shifting the plan’s salary tiers and upward and restructuring the reimbursement plans. Employees with an annual salary of less than $75,000, up from $70,000, will be part of the first tier, eligible for lower premiums. Employees with an annual salary of less than $90,000 for individuals and $110,000 for families will qualify for a reimbursement program intended to provide more benefits to lower-salary workers.

Garber added that combined health insurance premium rates will increase for all plans as Harvard expects an overall rise in health expenditures based on inflation and an increase in claims.

Harvard Human Resources will provide more information about specific costs and coverage before the open enrollment opens in early November.

—Check thecrimson.com and follow @thecrimson on Twitter for updates.

—Staff writer Mariel A. Klein can be reached at mariel.klein@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @mariel_klein.

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