Report Offers Overview of Higher Ed Employee Healthcare, Benefits

(Photo: Flickr, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Flickr, Creative Commons)

A new report released by the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources has taken a closer look at employee healthcare in addition to other benefits at a critical time for the sector.

Conducted since 2003, the report, "Overview of the Report of Higher Education Employee Healthcare and Other Benefits," includes additional visual representations of the data for the first time, as well as offering more context in an attempt to make the information presented more accessible and usable. The authors state that changes made to a number of federal policies in the last year have made this a pivotal time to collect baseline information in order to help with future efforts.

For example, the annual salary threshold for exempt employees was increased by the Department of Labor, causing it to go from $23,660 to $47,476. Institutions will be required to be in compliance with this by December 1, 2016, which can be accomplished either through an increase in salaries of exempt employees who are below threshold to the required amount, or else by making them non-exempt through tracking and paying overtime.

As a result of this, the authors suggest that in order to comply some institutions could be forced to cut benefits. Changes made to flex time for employees who were at one time exempt could cause a reduction in wellness activities. They go on to say that as exempt and non-exempt employees experience varying pay schedules, any benefits deductions, leave accruals, or accrual limits for employees who switch exempt status would need to see an immediate change, a process the report refers to as "messy and costly."

In addition, new sex discrimination guidelines were issued by the department in June 2016 for federal contractors and subcontractors. Certain aspects of these guidelines could influence healthcare policies currently in place for certain institutions. For example, contractors are no longer allowed to hold insurance policies that do not cover health services for gender transition. Pregnancy leave must be offered that is similar in nature to other medical conditions affecting an employee's ability to work, and healthcare plans must be changed to reflect these changes by August 16, 2016.

Lastly, the US Supreme Court ruled in 2015 that states cannot deny same-sex couples the right to get married, which has an affect on domestic partner healthcare benefits.

The report found Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) plans remaining the most popularly offered plans, followed by High Deductible Health (HDH), Health Maintenance Organization (HMO), and Point of Service (POS) plans. The number of institutions offering HDH plans has seen significant growth this year.

Doctoral institutions were found to be more likely to offer several plan choices than other types of institutions are. The number of institutions offering a long-term care plan were found to have decreased by 7 percentage points since last year.

Meanwhile, healthcare benefits to both opposite-sex and same-sex domestic partners has seen a steady increase since 2005, with 70% of institutions now offering healthcare for same-sex partners. Private religious institutions were found to be the least likely to offer these benefits.

Wellness programs within higher education have seen a decrease. As budgets and dedicated staff for such programs continue to drop, there are very few institutions who do not already have such a plan in place that said they will be starting one in the future.

08 14, 2016
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