ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Health care coverage at the University of New Mexico was the No. 1 topic at Tuesday’s Board of Regents meeting, with the panel significantly raising costs in insurance coverage and approving changes to the student health plan.
The increases – one of which would triple medical deductibles to $600 for individuals – will help pay for salary increases for faculty and staff members that take effect July 1.
The board’s changes to the student plan is expected to save almost $750,000, which will also be applied to the pay raises. The savings will come from including international students in an insurance pool, unless they opt out, and ending the voluntary enrollment of 440 students. Instead, those students will be required to stay with their parents’ health plans until the age of 26 – a provision of the Affordable Care Act – or the university will help them enroll in an ACA exchange or Medicaid.
UNM’s pay raises are expected to cost more than $6 million.
The employees’ health plan will also see increased deductibles for couples and families – currently $400 and $600 respectively – to $1,200. Out-of-pocket maximum expenditures will also rise. For individuals whose limit is currently $1,750, the new maximum will be $2,250. Couples who pay $3,500 and families who pay $5,250 will see their maximum set at $4,500.
The cost of LoboCare, a co-insurance plan offered by the university, will go down, but the cost of co-insurance offered by Blue Cross/Blue Shield and Presbyterian will rise. Moreover, for the first time, a $5 co-pay will be imposed that will include prescription drugs.
The vote was close, 4-3, with Conrad James, Suzanne Quillen and Heidi Overton voting against Jamie Koch’s motion. All three said they preferred a “more modest” proposal that would have increased deductibles to $400 for individuals. Board President Jack Fortner, Gen. Bradley Hosmer and Gene Gallegos voted with Koch.
But it was another health care issue that took up much of the overall discussion – what to do about nearly 600 employees who retired before reaching 65. In 2013, they were removed from the health care insurance pool when it was learned that their inclusion caused higher premiums for all enrollees. Because they now face skyrocketing premiums, the “pre-65 retirees” have demanded reinstatement in the pool. That would cost the university more than $1 million and raise premiums for thousands of employees, however.
Koch tossed the retirees an olive branch of sorts when he presented a blueprint for a new plan that might ease their financial burden. Some retirees said their premiums have risen by about two-thirds in the past year.
Both Koch and David Harris, executive vice president for administration, said the proposal should be seen as an opening, not a done deal. President Bob Frank said the administration would sit down with the retirees and go over the blueprint in an effort to reach an accord.