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UC updates employee health packages for 2016-2017 academic year

By Daily Bruin Staff

Nov. 3, 2015 12:44 a.m.

The University of California’s updated employee health packages for the next academic year will focus on preventative services for certain diseases, according to a UCLA statement.

Open Enrollment opened Thursday, giving UC employees the ability to review updated health packages and choose one that suits their needs. Next year’s benefit packages will cost up to $6 more per month than previous plans, said Rebecca Trounson, a UC Office of the President spokesperson.

Certain health packages offered for the 2016-2017 academic year will aim to provide preventative measures for those at risk for certain diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease. The current benefits focus more on chiropractic and acupuncture services, as requested by some UC employees.

A new program included in next year’s packages is a hotline for individuals seeking to quit smoking, called “Quit for Life.” Other benefits include support for autism care and immunization coverage for employees who travel. Trounson said the UC aims to control costs of employees’ plans while offering a full range of medical coverage.

In 2015, an employee under the Blue Shield Health Savings Plan whose full-time salary was less than $51,000 had $13.78 deducted from his monthly salary to pay for the benefits, according to a UC website. In 2016, an employee in the same salary bracket and under the same plan will have $15.78 deducted monthly, a 15 percent cost increase from last year. The monthly costs of medical plans depend on employees’ salaries and the plans they choose. Employees can pay extra to extend benefits to family members.

The average cost of U.S. health plans is projected to increase by about 5 percent in 2016, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Part-time employees, including some lecturers, do not qualify for health benefits through the UC, according to a UC website.

Mik Larsen, a history lecturer, said he thinks it’s unfortunate part-time lecturers at such a reputable institution don’t qualify for benefits, but it’s unfair to expect UCLA to offer them because universities rarely do so.

Per Kraus, a physics and astronomy professor, said he thinks the preventative benefits, such as pre-diabetic care, are efficient because they address issues that are costly for the health care system.

Kraus said he hopes more health plans will include on-campus doctor visits, because only the costlier plans currently offer the benefit. He added he would like tasks such as booking appointments to be moved online.

Employees have until 5 p.m. on Nov. 24 to observe all these changes and make any adjustments.

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