Insurance sign-ups may come before Thanksgiving

Mai Hoang

Open enrollment for faculty and staff health insurance plans may take place before Thanksgiving break.

Len Kogut, chair of Western’s Benefits Committee, said the group is planning to send its recommendations for this year’s coverage to President Gary Ransdell this week.

If Ransdell approves the committee’s recommendations, informational sessions will be held during November and enrollment will begin thereafter, Kogut said.

Faculty and staff health insurance enrollment has traditionally taken place in October, but Kogut said numerous factors, including choosing a new third-party administrator for the insurance program, has caused the delay.

“This is a more complex process than usual,” he said.

A recent lawsuit filed by Western employee Staci Nash and her husband, Brian “Slim” Nash has also caused a delay in insurance enrollment. The family filed suit in August after HCC Life, which handles Western insurance claims over $75,000, refused to cover a bone marrow transplant for their daughter, Presley.

Western has since agreed to pay for the $500,000 procedure. The university is using money from the faculty and staff health insurance reserve fund to pay for the procedure, as well as any legal costs related to the lawsuit.

The expenditure is expected to cause insurance premiums to rise.

Kogut said the committee has met almost daily to determine the best coverage options for university employees.

“You’re trying to provide everything you can for the most reasonable fee,” he said “So we looked under every rock we’re aware of.”

Kogut said he could not reveal details on Western’s insurance plan since the benefits committee hasn’t given its recommendations to Ransdell.

Mathematics professor Claus Ernst, a member of the benefits committee, said the Board of Regents may have to act if there are any major changes to the insurance plan.

Ransdell said he wasn’t concerned about the delay in enrollment.

“I’m much more concerned with making the right decision and keeping the actual cost of our employees as low as we can and sustain a high-quality benefits package,” he said.

Although he has not received any recommendations from the committee, Ransdell said he expects that premiums will increase due to rising health care costs across the country, but is optimistic that employees will see reasonable premium rates.

“They will go up and it will be painful,” he said. “But our university contribution and our rates will be better than other universities.”

Reach Mai Hoang at [email protected]