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UNM employee health costs rising an average 4.5 percent

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Health care costs for the roughly 6,000 people on the University of New Mexico’s health care package will increase on average 4.5 percent come July 1.

Administrators introduced the plan in a regent subcommittee last week, and the full board on Monday approved the new package, which includes increases in prescription costs and in-network out-of-pocket maximums.

“It’s a no-win situation on this medical stuff,” said Regent Jack Fortner.

Dorothy Anderson, the vice president of human resources for UNM, said she expected the changes to be poorly received.

Out-of-pocket maximums will rise to $3,000 for individuals and $6,000 for families. Previously they were $2,250 for individuals and $4,500 for families.

Most brand-name drugs will now cost anywhere from $35 to $110, depending on the prescription. Currently, there’s a flat cost of $35 or $55, depending on the drug.

The cost of 90-day prescriptions also will increase.

The previous plan called for charging for diabetes prescriptions, but regents struck that proposal from the final measure.

Some UNM employees spoke against the changes Monday during the meeting’s public forum.

Francesca Tobias said she makes about $2,000 a month after taxes and health benefits. And she said her plan cost will increase when she has her child later this spring.

“We live month-to-month on a salary that has remained stagnant,” she said.

The cost increases come at time when health care is getting more expensive nationwide. And employees say the changes hit hard because their wages have remained largely the same.

Health care is especially complicated at UNM because it offers coverage through three different providers, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Presbyterian and UNM Health. Employees pay different premiums based on their income.

According to a UNM official, faculty received a 3 percent salary increase and a .75 percent increase to their retirement contributions in 2013-2014 and 2014-15. Staff received a 1 percent salary increase in 2013-2014, and a 2.5 percent increase in 2014-2015, and a .75 percent increase in the retirement contribution both years. Faculty and staff didn’t receive a raise this year or increase in retirement contributions. And the university’s upcoming budget has decreased by about $8 million compared to 2015-2016.

On the Blue Cross Blue Shield plan, the most widely used at UNM, a single person making $35,000 to $49,999 pays $133.50 monthly for health benefits. The family rate for the same income bracket is $389 monthly.

Under the new plan, the single employee rate would rise about $6 a month and the family rate would rise about $17.50, based on the university’s average 4.5 percent figure. Anderson said the exact figure could vary depending on the health provider.