Topic: Administrative

May 14, 2009

The cost of health care nationwide continues to rise at a rate higher than inflation.  According to Randy Howard, associate vice president for finance and assistant treasurer, the university expects a 7.2 percent increase in overall expenses next year.  In order to fund these increased costs, the Board of Trustees approved new rates for health insurance premiums at its May 14 meeting. 

Ball State offers its employees multiple health insurance plans and each offers a robust level of benefits.  In addition, the employee pays only 25 percent of the total premium cost, with the university contributing the remaining 75 percent.  The same percentage changes in rates will apply to both the university's and employees' shares.

Howard explained that around 85 percent of Ball State employees are enrolled in the university's low deductible preferred provider organization (PPO) health plan. With the start of the new fiscal year, 12-month employees in the plan will see their monthly premiums increase by 7.7 percent from $156.20 to $168.22 for single person coverage, and from $405.46 to $436.38 for families. (Employees on 10-month contracts will experience premium increases from $187.44 to $201.86 per month for single coverage and from $486.56 to $524.02 for families.)

On the other hand, for 12-month employees who've opted to participate in Ball State's high deductible wellness option, monthly premiums actually will decrease 7.5 percent from $108.86 to $100.70 for singles and from $282.58 to $261.40 for family coverage. Employees using Ball State's high deductible health savings account (HSA) option also will see monthly premiums decrease by 15 percent from $78.84 to $67.00 for single coverage and from $204.68 to $173.98 for families.

It is the second year in a row that employees in those two plans will experience reductions in their premiums, observed Howard. Stressing that the choice of plans is a personal matter and each individual should consider the costs and benefits of each plan, given nationwide trends in health care costs and the current financial situation, he said the university is pleased to offer options such as the wellness and HSA options with significantly lower premiums.

In related action, the board voted to discontinue the university's "traditional" health care plan, effective July 1. The plan has seen a continual decline in participation and currently fewer than 40 employees and retirees are registered. Its elimination could save the university and the affected employees more than $400,000 annually, Howard said. More importantly, the change will not affect the employees' choice of providers or level of service.

One of the university's existing plans, the low deductible PPO plan, will allow affected employees to access the same providers they currently use at the same or lower overall cost. In addition, those choosing providers that are "in network" can realize further savings.

All current members of the traditional plan are being contacted personally to discuss their options, said Howard, indicating they will automatically be transferred into the low deductible PPO option unless they opt for an alternative plan during the open enrollment period that concludes May 29.

Another significant change impacting all of the university's health plan options is the determination that services and/or supplies related to the treatment of nicotine abuse from tobacco or other sources, which are not currently covered, will be included beginning with the 2009-10 fiscal year.

 The step is the latest in the university's ongoing efforts to help employees who smoke or otherwise use tobacco products to kick the habit, observed President Jo Ann M. Gora. In 2007, at her urging, the board voted to make Ball State smoke-free except for a small number of designated outdoor smoking areas scattered across campus where students and others still may light up.

 "We've made great progress in helping many of our employees who smoke or use other tobacco products make healthier choices," Gora said, noting the university's expanded schedule of smoking cessation classes and additional support measures for employees wanting to quit, including the availability in-person or by phone of smoking intervention coaches. "I applaud our trustees for this latest commitment to improving the overall health and welfare of the campus community, and I hope that any employees still using tobacco but wishing to quit will take advantage of this new opportunity to break free."

Astronaut honored 

The board also approved the granting of an honorary doctor of science degree to NASA astronaut Richard Linnehan at the university's December 2009 Commencement ceremony.

A veteran of four space shuttle flights since 1996, Linnehan — a doctor of veterinary medicine (Ohio State, 1985) — has spent almost 60 days in space while orbiting the Earth nearly 1,000 times. He's also performed six spacewalks, including three during shuttle Columbia's 2002 service mission to the Hubble Space Telescope and another three during his last trip into space in March 2008 aboard Endeavor for an assembly mission to the International Space Station (ISS).

His relationship with Ball State stems from NASA's long collaboration with the Human Performance Laboratory (HPL) on research that has, in the words of Provost Terry King, "resulted in valuable knowledge for the health and well-being of persons involved in space exploration."

Linnehan also has been a guest lecturer, researcher and teacher on campus, observed King.

Also on the agenda

In other business, the board members also

  • voted in favor of tenure for 26 faculty members
  • approved the promotions of faculty members in the Colleges of Applied Sciences and Technology (4), Architecture and Planning (5), Fine Arts (3), Sciences and Humanities (18) and Teachers College (3).
  • approved continuation of the University Endowment Fund for the purpose of receiving, investing and disbursing at the discretion of the president unrestricted gifts made directly to Ball State University
  • authorized the vice president for business affairs to execute the necessary documents providing a loan guaranty for the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity house at Ball State approved citations honoring Kellie Conrad '09, student trustee, for her service on the board from 2007 to 2009, as well as the Ball State women's basketball team for the squad's highly successful 2008-09 campaign, which produced a 26-9 season record, a Mid-American Conference championship and a first-ever appearance in the NCAA tournament, where the team defeated two-time defending national champion Tennessee in the first round.