Friday, October 10, 2014

Professor Mary Lewis's Question at the Faculty Meeting about Health Benefits

As the Crimson reported, Professor Mary Lewis of the History Department asked a question at the October 6 FAS faculty meeting about the recently announced changes in health benefits for nonunion Harvard employees, including faculty and "exempt" staff. (Any changes for unionized employees would, of course, be subject to collective bargaining.) The question was quite succinct and quite powerful. I reprint it below with Professor Lewis's permission. (We are not related.)
My question regards the administration’s recent announcement of changes to the health benefits package for Harvard Faculty, Professional and Administrative Staff not in a Bargaining Unit, effective with the coming “open season.”  Although depicted in the e-mail sent on September 3 as a cost-sharing plan with lower monthly premiums, what the plan actually does is substantially increase the annual expenses of those members of the Harvard community who are most vulnerable to illness or likely to need hospitalization.  By introducing deductibles, much higher co-pays for the emergency room, and very substantial out-of-pocket expenses for hospitalizations, the Harvard administration moves in the opposite direction of nationwide trends to amortize risk across large groups of individuals.  Instead, it places the burden of expenses on those of us with family members who have pre-existing chronic illnesses making them more likely to need hospitalization, to say nothing of individuals who suddenly and unexpectedly face serious illness or a catastrophic accident.  Instead of sharing risk, as the Affordable Care Act reminds us is the best way to lower healthcare costs in the long run, Harvard is asking those most at-risk to pay more.  For these individuals, the change in policy is in essence a pay cut.  I would like to know how and when this policy can be reversed.  


  1. Someone put the following comments in under another Crimson article, which analyzes Harvard's assertions about recent healthcare-cost increases justifying the changes to plan benefits:

    Now look hard at where that sudden "jump" in benefits costs [12 years ago] came from. I wonder if other institutions experienced the exact same thing...See May 2002:

  2. Crimson article title: "Budget Claims Behind Health Plan Changes Don't Add Up."

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