Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Health Insurance for Chartwells Workers

On April 15th, a delegation of six faculty members met with President Shalala and Provost LeBlanc in connection with the petition for which we have been collecting signatures.

One subject that was touched on briefly was the sentence in the petition that states that "Chartwells workers... are offered health insurance only at a cost that is prohibitive to many of them." The Administration claims that they are offered free health insurance, comparable to that offered to the UNICCO workers, who are unionized. So, is our claim correct? You decide. Here are the figures as we have been able to establish them.

The Chartwells workers are offered several different plans. The cheapest is called Value Choice. It requires a bi-weekly premium of $57.78, but this is offset by a rebate provided to the workers of $49.11, plus another "Health Assessment Credit" of $8.67 if the worker certifies him/herself as a non-smoker. This means, in effect, zero premiums. Hence the university's claim about free health insurance. However, the plan comes with a $250 deductible and requires the insured to pay for 30% of most further expenses. So, not even counting the deductible, a visit to a specialist, or to the ER, or an MRI, might easily cost hundreds of dollars.

In addition, Vision and Dental plans are available and are not subsidized. The cheapest of each are $0.78 and $14.51 bi-weekly, respectively.

When you are making $10,000 a year, these costs might well be prohibitive.

The Value Choice plan is not really comparable to the plan offered to the unionized UNICCO workers, but the Network Choice plan is. It comes with no deductible and with much lower out-of-pocket expenses for various services. However, it has a bi-weekly premium of $132.88! The language in which the plans are described on the worksheet provided by Chartwells makes it seem as if the subsidies worth $57.78 which are provided to those who select the Value Choice option are not available to anyone who wants the Network Choice plan. (Whether this is an infelicity in the wording or not we cannot say for certain, since we do not know of any workers who have actually selected this better plan.) At roughly $265 per month in premiums, if a worker making $10,000 per year selected this plan, he or she would be paying roughly a third of their entire salary on health insurance premiums! (If the subsidies did still apply, such a worker would "only" be spending between one fifth and one sixth of their entire salary on those premiums.) If your monthly paycheck is around $6,000, imagine having to spend between $1,000 and $2,000 a month on premiums alone. 

Needless to say, all these premiums are for coverage of the employed alone. For an employee to insure their family under the Network Choice plan, they would have to pay nearly $800 a month, in other words, just about their entire salary!


Anonymous said...

Is that a typo in this sentence:

In addition, Vision and Dental plans are available and are not subsidized. The cheapest of each are $0.78 and $14.51 bi-weekly, respectively.

Did you mean: "$78"?

faculty for workplace justice said...

Anonymous, no that is not a misprint. There are two vision plans, one of which, VSP Exam Plus Vision, has a bi-weekly premium of $0.78, and the other of which, VSP Comprehensive Vision, has a bi-weekly premium of $5.20. We have no information on what each plan covers, but given the ultra-low premium, and the name, of the former, I wouldn't be surprised if it covered only a yearly exam at the optometrist and nothing towards glasses or contacts. But this is pure speculation on my part, and I apologize in advance if it is wrong.