Task force to revisit medical benefit change

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    The Task Force on the TCU Promise is looking to revisit aspects of the change in medical benefits. 

    According to the “At A Glance” section of TCU’s website, there are 2,106 people employed by the university, including 588 full-time faculty members. In the past, employees whose age plus years of service were greater than 75 were eligible to participate in TCU’s medical insurance program available to active employees after retirement.

    In June 2013, TCU changed its policies on employee compensation and benefits, resulting in a change in retiree medical benefits. The TCU annual report to the Board of Trustees described the change.

    “As of May 31, 2013, the prior self-insured post-retirement benefits plan was terminated. Effective June 1, 2013, all current and future retirees who are Medicare eligible will be moved to an insured health plan under which the University provides Medicare-eligible retirees with a fixed monthly benefit amount toward the purchase of individual medical and prescription drug coverage through a private Medicare exchange,” the annual report said.

    These changes affect TCU’s present and future retirees.

    In response to these changes, the Faculty Senate Executive Committee appointed the Task Force on the TCU Promise to review the new policy.

    This task force is made up of eight faculty and staff members looking to be included in a frank conversation about what their benefits will look like in the future.  

    “Once we got the details, it was pretty clear that this was a reduction in benefits. Everybody understands that health care costs are rising and a lot of universities have responded to this by eliminating retiree health care benefits, so we are very fortunate that we still have health care retiree benefits even if they are reduced from what it previously was,” said Dr. Robert Vigeland, accounting professor and chair of the Task Force on the TCU Promise.

    The Task Force on the TCU Promise compiled a thorough report, with four charges by the task force to TCU and a number of researched recommendations for how this situation could have been handled better.

    Faculty Senate chair and task force member, Dr. Jan Quesada, said they “know it can’t just go back to the way it was, because there are a lot of costs involved right now and the structure is something we can’t completely undo.” “We need more structures to help what hadn’t been an issue before.”

    This report includes responses from an anonymous survey taken by retirees.

    Answers included:

    – “I’m not at all satisfied by the secrecy surrounding the changes to our medical program— Administrative hubris!”

    – “Co-pays are higher and medical costs would be much higher if we had real health problems and/or hospitalization.”

    – “TCU has sold us out to reduce their long-term liability.”

    – “I’m sure when I go to the doctor I’ll probably be given one or more prescriptions. I live on a tight budget and I no longer trust how much out of pocket expenses will cost since I lost my TCU insurance, so I have not been to my doctor or the dentist. In my heart I will never understand how TCU could do this.”

    – “It took most of this year before I met the deductible. I guess that’s a good problem to have. Filling each prescription is more expensive, however. I am very appreciative of the efforts of the Ad Hoc Committee. While I understand TCU’s reasons for these changes, I cannot help but feel that TCU let us down.”

    Many answers similar to these are available in Appendix 5 of the Task Force’s report.

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    “We take very seriously in the Faculty Senate that our role is representing faculty interests and being a strong voice for the concerns of current and former faculty as well as the broader community, the larger community of staff, current or retired,” Quesada said.

    Administration and the Board of Trustees are working with the Task Force on the TCU Promise to continue conversations.

    “TCU has been highly engaged in conversations with the retiree population since before the task force was formed, and the university will continue in ongoing dialogue with campus groups, including the task force,” said Vice Chancellor of Human Resources Karen Baker.

    Baker also said positive developments were already being made to support retirees and help them to receive the best care possible.

    These programs include the TCU Retiree Connection, Best Doctors and Patient Care programs, regularly scheduled informational sessions with health care retirement benefits specialists, and this month, an external vendor to survey retirees experiences with health care benefits and their TCU retirement experience overall.

    From 5-6 p.m. on Tuesday there will be a round table discussion on TCU retiree medical benefits in Smith Hall, 104B.

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