UVA Dropping Spouses from Health Insurance

The University of Virginia will no longer offer health insurance to spouses of employees who can otherwise get coverage through their employer, Derek Quizon reports for the Daily Progress. Citing rising healthcare costs, the university will only continue to offer coverage to spouses who don’t have a job that provides them with insurance that meets a minimum federal standard. The planned change sparked angry discussion in offices, break rooms, and mailing lists across the university today.

Other changes are coming, too, as documented on the university’s website about the benefits changes. Premiums are going up by $480/year unless employees submit to a medical screening, with required tests including weight, height, BMI, and a series of blood screenings. They’re also dropping dental coverage, although they’ll allow employees to buy it back. (08/24 Update: Ricky Patterson points out that dental coverage isn’t being dropped, per se—it’s being broken out as its own thing, and everybody will get a basic plan, capped at $1,000/year in benefits, unless they pay more for an enhanced plan.) The changes take effect on January 1.

23 thoughts on “UVA Dropping Spouses from Health Insurance”

  1. In all the discussions, I had missed the point about dental insurance. Thanks for bringing this to my attention, Waldo.

  2. Yes, we discussed this at my department’s staff meeting and the didn’t tell us that our dental coverage will be cut.

    Here is what is the most insidious thing about this to me: when you sign up for the wellness screening, there is an option to allow them to contact you in the future with health information, etc–there’s the standard note about unchecking the box if you don’t want to hear from them. If you want to qualify for the $480 discount, you MUST allow them to contact you. The Hoos Well screenings have hardly begun and my colleagues have mentioned they are getting phone calls.

  3. And another thing–surely they have been planning this for a long time, but took care to announce it well AFTER the conclusion of the employee engagement survey, over which the Health System has been wringing its hands. The survey was in June, and in the months leading up to it, we were required to sit through meeting after meeting in which the survey questions were explained and we were all but ordered how to answer them. The Health System’s “U team” has provided nice little perks such as the Thursday farmer’s market for UVA employees (which coincidentally was started at around the same time as the Employee Engagement Survey). They pretend to care about employee satisfaction, but then betray a deep disrespect for UVA staff. I appreciate the farmer’s market, but I’d rather have dental coverage.

  4. Anonymous: I took the wellness screening and did indeed uncheck that box. From where did you get the information that we must accede to receiving emails in order to qualify for the discount?

  5. There must be a very good reason (beyond the email marketing) that they are giving such a big discount in order to procure all your health stats. I said that when the program began and will not be participating.

  6. It’s hard to believe UVa would cut the coverage for spouse’s, which will most likely mean a significant cost increase for many families. This certainly isn’t going to improve employee morale and will make recruitment more difficult. Not to mention the fact the university supported Obamacare and now blames it for being the reason they have to make changes. Sort of takes the glow off of Saint Teresa’s halo.

  7. @Sean McCord, the administrator of my department told us all at our staff meeting that we had to check the box to get the discount.

  8. Actually, they aren’t dropping dental coverage. They are splitting it from the health insurance, and you will have the “Basic Dental” coverage if you do nothing. You can opt out of dental entirely (and save the $1/month premium for an individual Basic Dental), or you can opt for the “Enhanced Dental” if you choose (and pay $7/month for an individual). Basic Dental benefits are less than the current plan (currently you have $1500 max benefit per calendar year; Basic Dental drops that to $1000, and you no longer have any orthodontia covered).

    You can see the premiums here (and follow the links for more info on both the Health and Dental plans):

  9. Ricky Patterson thanks for the links they are very helpful and answer a lot of questions

  10. They’re cutting coverage for spouses who have the option of coverage from their own employers. That’s different from “cutting coverage for spouse’s [sic].” Accuracy is important. I’m not so sure this is going to make “recruitment” more difficult. A job at UVa remains a pretty good get; openings don’t go unfilled, and I don’t expect that they will begin to. Moreover, most other places you might want to work have the same health benefits policies. Employee-provided health benefits have been dangerously on edge for years, even before Obama took office. It’s not at all clear to me that if it weren’t for the ACA we’d be rolling in a luxuriant, overflowing sea of generous health benefits.

  11. OK, I’m in the small business private sector & I clicked on the link. My employer’s policy pays for half of an employee: all additions (spouse and/or child(ren)) are paid for by the employee. I’m divorced with one child; the health insurance monthly total cost for just us two is about $650. The monthly dental insurance for just us two is about $35.

    What on earth are UVA employees squawking about? Compare my costs to $259 for premium dental & premium health care per month as a UVA employee.

    Just as a side note, I’d like to complain that I & one child pay the same as I & 19 children (Duggers, anyone?) for health care. I seriously find that a deeply flawed system.

    Oh, and, if you’re lucky enough to have two earners & both earners have health care available through work, but you’ve chosen to lean on UVA because it’s so much less expensive: well, you did the math, but the thing about covering everyone is that doing that costs something. UVA shouldn’t shoulder (subsidize) other people’s (businesses: they’re people, too) costs.

    The real insanity about Obama-care is that we haven’t gone to a single payer system. The rates on the exchanges for insure-yourself folks are already plummeting. We – WE – pay a huge premium for the un- and under-insured. Plus the health insurance folks make a huge profit. Why? Haven’t we yet gotten to the point of deciding that health care is the equivalent of a utility? Everybody gets electricity, that’s what the TVA was about.

    So, city folk pay more to make sure the country folk have an electrical outlet. So, young folk (mostly) pay more than they need to now to ensure older folk (mostly) get what they need. It’s called sharing. I’m pretty sure we all learned about that in kindergarten.

  12. The fact remains uva is forcing spouses off Uva’s insurance and the cost for that family is going up and the coverage for the spouse may very well go down depending on what insurance is available to them. You would think the University would honor its commitment to current employees as part of the agreement with the employee when they were hired. As for Obamacare, uva’s letter to employees states “Provisions of the federal Affordable Care Act are project to add 7.3 million to the cost of the University Heal plan in 2014 alone. In future years, UVa could face millions more in taxes through the act if the cost of its plans passes certain thresholds. Ironically by providing generous benefits the University becomes exposed to a federal excise tax know as the ‘Cadillac tax'”.
    So much for “if you like the insurance you have you can keep it”. He just never said how much of that insurance you could keep.

  13. I know this is an emotional issue and I’d be ticked if my family’s costs were going up because my spouse had to use his/her family’s insurance, but for what it’s worth, most premiums *appear* to be holding steady or dropping slightly for 2014 if you’re willing to engage with the “Wellness” program.

  14. Actually, they aren’t dropping dental coverage. They are splitting it from the health insurance, and you will have the “Basic Dental” coverage if you do nothing.

    Thank you for that correction! I’ve updated the post to reflect that.

    Provisions of the federal Affordable Care Act are project to add 7.3 million to the cost of the University Heal plan in 2014 alone.

    Yeah, even if that’s true, I’m not impressed. As the Progress points out, they had a 28% increase in costs from 2008–12, with $127 million in claims last year, growth of $7M per year. Adding $7.3M is the same as just one more year of growth. That means that if this change is fiscally necessary on January 1, 2014 with ACA, it would have been fiscally necessary on January 1, 2015 without it.

  15. The ACA will make health care coverage available to everyone. So the University doesn’t need to provide this expense to non-employees. Rather than gripe at the University you might want to call your Richmond legislator and tell them to get their act together and stand up a Virginia Health Care Exchange that helps citizens gain coverage and manage this considerable expense.

    I can’t imagine that as Mr. Jefferson sat on his hill looking down at the University he was thinking, “now how do I pay for healthcare for everyone who will work there AND all of their extended family”. I’m thinking he expected that a great nation would create a system for essential affordable universal health care. End the employer mandate; medicare for all!

  16. The fact is when the employee was hired they were given the option to pay for medical plan that covered the entire family. This constituted an agreement between the university and the employee. The university has now decided not to honor that agreement and because the spouse will now have to pay for health care the result is not only the loss of coverage, but what amounts to a reduction in salary.
    As for the suggestion that all would be alright if we just went to a single payer system, the current situation points out the fault in that thinking. UVa employees use to have a choice in health care. Granted, it wasn’t a large selection of options, but you did have a choice. UVa then choose to go to their own single payer system and all choice was eliminated. UVa now dictated all aspects of coverage or in this case the removal of coverage. So what makes anyone think a government single payer system would be any different? As for Mr. Jefferson, I’m sure his vote would be to protect the agreement with the employees and not to centralize more power in the federal government.

  17. HC benefits are not a right or a perpetual agreement. Most employers make that explicit in their employment agreements. I’m sure UVA with it’s legal establishment do the same.

    We used to have many health care coverage options, then Blue Cross / Blue Shield went on a nation-wide buying spree and we ended up with the current 3-4 providers.

    UVA is running an educational business in an increasingly competitive market. If you don’t like their business-making decisions your choice is to take them out of the health care delivery process and hand it off to a non-profit single-payer that can counter the power of the health care industrial process, pay-for-procedure gorillas – with countervaling power to control costs and assure healthy outcomes. That would be the Federal government, and it will be if Virginia does not set up its own health care exchange.

  18. Did someone just use the words “government” and “control costs” and “assure outcomes” in the same sentence with a straight face? Whenever I see the government with a monopoly I see a disaster.,,, USPS…ABC…

    Oh wait, you did not mean “assured positive outcome” I get it now.

  19. One of the things I haven’t seen addressed (here or elsewhere) is the complete lack of a notification or heads-up from UVa to other area employers that this decision was imminent.

    It would have been nice if other health-insurance providers (like the County and City) were notified of this decision, so they could make sure they had resources to deal with the flood of calls they would be getting.

    As we used to say about the one big phone company – “We’re UVa and we don’t have to care”.

  20. Every time Robert responds he gives more evidence why Obamacare is a disaster in the making. He states “HC benefits are not a right or a perpetual agreement” and that UVa had it in the small print that they could do what they want. What the hell does he think the federal government will do if they take over all of health care? The fact that congress has already exempted themselves from Obamacare should tell you something. The unions don’t want any part of it and less than 3% of federal employees want obamacare. Sooner or later the government will ration health care and make the decision who lives and who dies and when.
    If you look at the letter UVa sent out they mention the potential costs of having a “Cadillac health plan”. What they left out is, if a company does right by their employees and provides them a good health plan, Obama and his band of thieves will tax the plan at a rate of 40% if they feel the plan is too good. Somebody should have really spent the time to read this disaster.

  21. Medicare is a proven cost effective way way to deliver universal health care to Americans…as long as they are +65 years old. Let’s expand that to all Americans.

    The postal service is set to generate a profit this year if we can get Darrell Issa’s House government Oversight Committee to stop chasing imaginary demons, and work on the $5.5 Billion/yr. that Congress demanded USPS bankroll for employee pensions. Can we get a brave teabagger to step up and talk common sense to the Issa? Bob Hurt? Bob Goodlatte? yo “leader” Cantor!

  22. 6/10, Bystander. Needs more “death panels”, “fema camps” and “second amendment solutions”.

  23. Here’s the bottom line with regard to all the unpleasant “details” about Obamacare that are now surfacing: From the beginning, the administration’s central goal was to provide health insurance to tens of millions of people who didn’t have it. All the talk about protecting existing insurance, etc. was subordinate to (and a way both to disguise and sell) the central goal.

    Health insurance provided by private insurance companies is a significant mechanism that Obamacare uses to achieve its central goal (with the expansion of Medicaid the other). It’s just not possible to move tens of millions of people into private health insurance plans without the plans’ existing customers seeing large, recurrent premium increases. The process is clearly a wealth transfer. The open question is whether the “wealthy” can afford it.

    I have no objection to certain wealth transfers. (Public schools are a great example of a quite proper one.) When it comes to wealth transfers and healthcare, a single-payer system is to me the only logical choice. Aside from the obvious cost savings and economies of scale, I’d rather address healthcare issues to a government bureaucrat, who might be responsive to political pressure, than to a corporate bureaucrat. As the experience of many people dealing with banks during the housing crisis shows, it can be very difficult to influence the behavior of corporate bureaucrats.

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