As part of a review of University of Iowa health benefits, University Human Resources (UHR) invited all faculty and staff who are eligible for university health benefits to provide feedback via survey on their satisfaction with and preferences regarding health benefit offerings.
The survey was conducted via email from Sept. 5 to 19, 2018, and was delivered to 18,352 UI faculty and staff who were regular employees at 50 percent FTE or greater. Respondents were anonymous but were grouped by employment type: Faculty, Professional and Scientific (P&S), Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and Merit.
The survey received a strong participation rate with a 37.1 percent completion rate. P&S staff responded at the highest rate (48.6 percent) and Merit staff at the lowest (26.0 percent).
Overall, survey results indicate very high participation in and satisfaction with the university offered health plans, UIChoice and Dental II. Ninety-four percent of those surveyed participate in both plans and 95 percent expressed satisfaction with them.
Survey respondents also indicate high regard for the plans, with 79 percent rating UI Choice above average relative to plans provided by other large employers and 69 percent rating Dental II above average.
The top three most selected reasons for participating in UIChoice are the full coverage of generic prescription drugs, a reasonable premium cost, and a lower total out-of-pocket cost. The majority of eligible employees consider the $90 monthly general credit for benefit-related expenses important.
Survey respondents also indicate that they understand their benefit coverage (more than 80 percent), and about 80 percent indicate that the health providers covered by university plans are accessible. Seventy-four percent report that they see UI providers for plan covered health care.
While survey respondents indicate high satisfaction with current offerings, they also report an interest in the ability to choose between multiple health benefit plans. About 75 percent of respondents report a preference for a choice between multiple plan options for medical and dental plan coverage, and 48 percent indicate both a preference for current plan options as well as for multiple plans.
The survey asked employees about their preferences regarding higher premiums or higher out-of-pocket expenses should healthcare costs continue to rise. While a slight majority (58 percent) reported a preference for a higher monthly premium with the potential for similar or lower out-of-pocket costs, nearly half (44 percent) report that they would prefer higher out-of-pocket costs. When cross referenced, about 20 percent of respondents indicate both a preference for a higher premium and lower out-of-pocket costs.
Some differences in responses could be detected between employee classifications. P&S staff report the highest ratings for UIChoice; 85 percent consider UIChoice above average, 6 percentage points above the total. Merit staff, who had been plan members for about nine months at the time of the survey, express lower satisfaction with UIChoice than the survey total by 10 percentage points, and less understanding of UIChoice by 9 percentage points and Dental II by 6 points. Merit staff also indicate the greatest interest (85 percent) in the ability to choose between multiple health benefit plans.
Faculty indicate the greatest preference for higher monthly premiums with the potential for similar or lower out-of-pocket costs; 67 percent reported at least a slight preference for higher monthly premiums, 9 points above the total. Faculty also expressed the lowest interest (65 percent) in the ability to choose between multiple health benefit plans.
Several events prompted the UI to conduct a health benefit review. Recent and ongoing changes in federal and state law affect the economics of health insurance both nationally and on campus. Changes in Iowa’s Chapter 20 code led the university to offer about 4,200 AFSCME covered Merit staff the option of joining UI medical and dental plans in January 2018.
The health benefit review’s focus is to develop a UI benefits philosophy, guiding principles, and a health benefit plan design that provides high-quality benefits to support recruitment and retention of faculty and staff and is financially sustainable for the institution.
UHR assembled a stakeholder advisory committee of faculty and staff to lead the review, the members of which are listed on the UHR website. The review began in Nov. 2017 and the advisory committee expects to deliver recommendations to executive leadership in spring 2019. The earliest any plan changes may be implemented is 2020.
For more information, read about the Health Benefits Review.