Insurance plan needs second look

Health insurance is a necessary evil. You’ve got to have it, but it can be awfully difficult to pay for.

That’s particularly true for Western’s staff employees, who must stretch their paychecks – which are significantly lower than those of the faculty – to cover soaring insurance costs.

To its credit, Western has worked to lessen the strain on its staff. The university regularly ups its contribution to employees’ insurance to the point that Western’s per-employee payout is the highest in the state.

But the $20 monthly increase recently recommended by Western’s budget council, along with a 3.7 percent across-the-board salary raise, worries some staff, who aren’t sure they’ll be able to handle skyrocketing insurance costs.

President Gary Ransdell said he has approved the budget council’s suggestion. But we hope he reconsiders before the plan is brought before the Board of Regents.

Ransdell is partly responsible for the staff concerns. The benefits committee he formed originally suggested that the university contribute $59 per employee.

The budget committee slashed that amount by nearly two-thirds. Ransdell accepted, effectively ignoring the conclusion reached by the benefits council.

Even with the suggested $20 contribution and a 3.7 percent raise, staff with dependents could find that the insurance burden worsens. The better-paid faculty won’t suffer from such a predicament, and that’s not fair.

We think Ransdell should take another look at the budget council’s proposal. Since he’s apparently prepared to sign off on a school-wide raise, there must be enough money lying around to better address the staff concerns.

Problem is, there’s no clear solution. The elimination of the raise and rerouting of funds directly into health insurance contributions would help staff, but this could anger faculty who might prefer to have the extra cash. And we fully believe faculty deserve more money than the university can afford to pay.

Giving faculty and staff a choice to take either a higher insurance contribution or the raise or simply to offer an adjusted combination of both is perhaps the fairest resolution. But either of these options would be cumbersome, complex and likely infeasible.

All we know is that the current plan isn’t acceptable and should not be adopted.

Sometimes it’s easy to spot a wrong, but it can be far more difficult to make it right.

This appears to be one of those times.

This editorial represents the majority opinion of the Herald’s 10-member board of student editors.