Madam President, Provost Garber, Dean Smith, Members of the Faculty
In urging that we vote resoundingly in favor of this motion I limit myself to asking whether or not the proposed plan is regressive, that is whether it takes a proportionally greater amount from those on lower incomes. I strongly believe Harvard should not opt to introduce regressive plans.
The President and Provost have challenged the view that the plan is regressive, and the op-ed from members of the UBC in today's Crimson sounds a similar note: "we were very concerned about the burden on low-income employees and therefore recommended an expanded reimbursement program that will provide them with additional protections from high out-of-pocket costs."
With due respect I would submit that the words "expanded" an "additional" are specious and deceptive in the extreme, and would seem to suggest the new plan is an improvement, even progressive, a benefit to low-income employees. In reality the new policy is of course a potential pay cut. It institutes a pay cut for all those unlucky enough to need more than routine health care for themselves or their families, and for those choosing to have children.
It institutes a pay cut for all administrators, faculty and non-union staff, from president down through provost, vice-provosts and vice-presidents, tenured, non-tenured, non-ladder faculty, and post-docs, all the way to a Grade 55 staff member with a 2014 starting salary of $51,182, or a post-doc in the sciences getting around $40,000.
The essence of its regressive nature is that the pay cut is minimally proportioned to income. If the Grade 55 staff member incurs medical deductible and co-insurance costs of $900, she suffers an income loss of $900, a more than 2% take-home pay cut, no pay for more than one week. For the starting post-doc, no pay for close to 9 days.
If the President or Provost incurs medical deductible and co-insurance costs of $900, she or he suffers an income loss of $900, a pay cut of between one and two tenths of 1% of take-home pay, no pay for a couple of hours. If we are going effectively to install a pay cut to realize savings for the University, this hardly seems a fair way to cut pay. This indeed seems regressive, and it remains regressive even if the costs incurred go up to $1500, so triggering reimbursement for those under $70,000 or $95,000.
Now we can all plug ourselves in and think about what percentage our $900 cost —or $1500 or $4500 would be. Those of us in good health and confident in our continued good health, and those of us without children or with grown children, may be thinking, “well I guess I’ll be OK, and I even save a couple of bucks on my premium, and I can actually afford the $1500 for my own health care.” That is, we may choose to make an individual, and not a universal, response.
That is not, I would urge, how we should be thinking as members of a great university where we all value the contributions of each other and all work together for the common mission. That is not how we should be responding to this plan. I hope this motion will pass and will persuade the President and Fellows to reverse the plan and revisit the process so as to reinstate a plan where our universal university group, and not unlucky individuals, or those with children or planning to have children, are treated equally.