With Benefits Open Enrollment for 2017 around the corner, this is a good time to review the impact of health plan changes resulting from the new HUCTW-Harvard Agreement that our Union’s members ratified in February 2016. Health care can be complicated and we want to make sure you get answers to your questions in order to make confident decisions for yourself and your family. Many of you may have already received a mailing from the University with Open Enrollment information – if not, the packet should arrive in the next few days. Open Enrollment will take place November 2-16.
Our Union’s members and leaders had to work long and hard for this health plan, over five years and through two rounds of contract negotiations. The new plan going into effect in January represents a positive set of outcomes for HUCTW members. The agreement to maintain Union health plan options without deductibles or coinsurance is a huge accomplishment, and it settles a long-standing disagreement between HUCTW and Harvard over strategies for managing healthcare costs. Our new plan is a constructive compromise that allows only modest, gradual, and more predictable increases to patient costs in the form of copayments, along with a reduction in employee costs in the form of reduced premium contributions for lower paid members. In alignment with our deeply held values, it is a strong, high-quality health plan that strengthens protections against high patient costs for the lowest paid and those most in need of medical care in our Union community.
LOWER PREMIUMS FOR LOWER-PAID STAFF
We created a new and less expensive premium contribution tier for lower-paid employees. The 2017 premium rates will reflect a new 13% contribution for members whose Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) annual salary is less than $55,000. Approximately 2,000 HUCTW members will be eligible for this new, lower monthly premium—about $400 per year less for a family plan and $150 for individual coverage. (The University has also extended this new tier to non-union employees, which will allow post-doctoral research fellows or “postdocs,” the lowest paid non-union group in the University, to experience some health care cost relief.)
NEW COPAYMENTS AND COPAY CAPS
Beginning January 1, 2017, we will have a new structure for copayments, with accompanying “caps” or limits on patients’ out-of-pocket costs through a reimbursement plan. Office visits and prescription copayments, unchanged for 9 years, will increase in 2017 from $15 to $20. New copays for inpatient and outpatient hospital care as well as high-tech imaging will take effect, emergency room copayments will increase to $100, and all of those hospital copayments will now be covered by a hospital copay cap. We are committed to making these limits on out-of-pocket patient expenses effective by encouraging members to understand and use the reimbursement process. Many HUCTW users of health care will not reach any or all three of the reimbursement thresholds, but for those who do, please learn more about the copay reimbursement benefit here. If you are certain that you will incur copayments, you might also consider contributing to a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) for the amount below the caps to defray that cost.
We are encouraging HUCTW members to take a closer look at the Harvard University Group Health Plan (HUGHP) as an option, and have negotiated a financial incentive to join that health plan. Any HUCTW members who switch into HUGHP at Open Enrollment for 2017 will receive a two-month premium rebate. HUGHP receives high ratings in patient satisfaction and includes a variety of coverage choices. HUGHP enrollees can select primary care physicians at University Health Services or at any of the Atrius Health network locations including Harvard Vanguard clinics, and have access to a broad network of specialists and hospitals through Blue Cross/Blue Shield. Dates and times for upcoming HUGHP Info Sessions will be announced soon. Please attend one to learn more about HUGHP as well the premium rebate for those considering switching plans. You can check to see if your health care providers are part of the HUGHP/Atrius Health network with their Find A Doctor tool.
Although HUGHP is a great opportunity to save, with lower premiums and the negotiated two-month premium rebate incentive, it is important to note that there is no disadvantage in 2017 for those who continue to be enrolled in Harvard Pilgrim Health Care plans, should that be the right choice for you and your family.
As always, please feel welcome to write or call HUCTW with any questions or ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org or 617-661-8289.