More than 1,800 University of California faculty have signed a petition opposing potential changes to the UC employee health care plan, which they say would limit options and raise costs for employees.
The potential changes would eliminate insurance plans used by 70 percent of employees and would force employees to switch to a UC Care health maintenance organization insurance plan in which UC medical centers would provide treatment, according to the petition. The Council of University of California Faculty Associations, an umbrella organization for all of the campus faculty associations, is circulating the petition, which also claims that care would be privately contracted at campuses where there are no medical centers.
Under insurance plans provided by Health Net, a Los Angeles-based insurance company that is used by 34 percent of UC employees, faculty and staff do not have to have medical coverage at UC medical centers.
The University has not made any official proposals or decisions yet about health plans and is looking to see how to improve benefits for employees, said Shelly Meron, a UC spokeswoman.
There are currently no major planned changes to health insurance plans in 2016, said Robert May, a philosophy professor at UC Davis and chair of a UC Academic Senate task force on future health plans.
James Vernon, a history professor at UC Berkeley and co-chair of the Berkeley Faculty Association, said he thinks the changes discussed would favor employees at campuses with medical centers.
He said he also opposes the potential changes because he thinks they would benefit the UC at the expense of employees.
“This plan is being constructed without the input of employees and is an attempt by the UC to create a monopoly system around UC medical centers and make them profitable at the expense of employees,” he said.
Vernon added that he thinks the changes, if implemented, would constitute a conflict of interest because the architect of the proposed health insurance plan, Dr. John Stobo, is also in charge of making sure the UC health centers stay profitable. Stobo is the executive vice president of UC Health.
Joe Kiskis, a professor emeritus of physics at UC Davis and vice president for external relations of the Council of UC Faculty Associations, said the council created the petition when University administrators started talking about the potential changes in Academic Senate committees in mid-February.
Kiskis added that he thinks the petition is important for faculty members in comparison to unionized staff because faculty are not represented and do not engage in collective bargaining with the UC.
Patricia Greenfield, a psychology professor at UCLA, said she used to go to the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center for her health care but changed her coverage because she found it difficult to make appointments and see the doctors she wanted.
“I signed this petition because I do not think it is a good idea for other members of the UCLA community to be forced into a system where they might have the same problems that I encountered,” she said.
Some faculty members said they think the petition is an overreaction to a plan that is still being discussed.
“While I do think it is extremely good that people are aware and sensitive about these issues, I think the petition contains misinformation about what is going on,” May said.
May added that he thinks there has been sufficient faculty input in the creation of the plan, though he thinks information could be better circulated for faculty who are not in Academic Senate committees.
“The senate is actively involved and in constant discussion with the UC Office of the President to make sure there is no erosion of health care, and there’s a certain degree where we have to leave it to the professionals,” he said. “Figuring out insurance is not our job.”
While May does not dispute that the discussed changes could constitute a conflict of interest, he said he does not necessarily think that it would be a problem.
“I do think that Dr. Stobo is doing what he thinks is best for the University, and we’re just going to have to evaluate if this conflict of interest is actually detrimental,” he said.
Faculty have until April 6 to sign the petition, after which the council will send the petition to UC President Janet Napolitano.