Insurance premiums to increase 2 percent

Mai Hoang

After premium increases of 17 to 34 percent in 2003, Western employees won’t have to break more than a $10 bill each month to pay for next year’s increases.

President Gary Ransdell announced to faculty and staff on Monday that insurance premiums would only increase 2 percent in 2004.

The increase comes despite health cost increases nationwide of about 15 percent.

“I’ve been tracking this very closely and knew that this program has become financially solvent,” Ransdell said. “This is very good news for our employees.”

Western employees will receive packets that will list the premium rates for the different plans tomorrow. Anthem Blue Cross, Blue Shield, Western’s third-party administrator, offers three insurance plans to cover children, a spouse or a family.

The employee’s individual premium is paid for through the university contribution of $381.

Last year the cost of insurance premiums for a family ranged from $301 on the low end plan to $499 on the high end plan. For a couple – the employee and the spouse – premiums ranged from $135 to $265. For a parent with a child, premiums ranged from $62 to $174.

For Western’s benefits committee, the small increase was welcome after years of double- digit increases.

The lesser increase is the product of a possible surplus for the calendar year. The slight increase in premiums is a way to keep generating revenue. It could go toward a reserve for Western’s health insurance plan to pay for major medical catastrophes.

“After the employees were paying significant increases based on projections, let them have a break,” said Len Kogut, chair of Western’s benefits committee.

Kogut said the goal is to have 10 percent of the plan’s budget go toward a reserve.

The news of a lesser premium increase pleased to Western’s staff employees, Staff Council chair Elizabeth Paris said.

The news also came as a surprise, Paris said. She expected a greater increase.

Paris credits the university budget council for increasing the university contribution by $40.

“I think all staff will consider it very good news,” Paris said. “With insurance you’ll never know, especially since you’re self-insured. You’ll never know how much of an increase the employees will have to take.”

Enrollment for faculty and staff will take place on the first week of November.

Reach Mai Hoang at [email protected]