UC Santa Barbara faculty are circulating a petition this week to protest upcoming system-wide health insurance plan changes — deemed a “breach of trust” by employees who are upset with the fast-approaching policy shifts.
The changes will ax all Anthem plans in 2014, along with a Health Net Full HMO, because of the company’s scheduled price increases.
The plans will be replaced with UC Care, a three-tiered system, and a Blue Shield Health Savings Plan.
Hundreds of UCSB employees — most of whom currently have Anthem plans — gathered for a contentious forum last week, after the plans were rolled out to voice their concerns about the first tier of UC Care, which apparently will be offered at nearly all UC campuses except in Santa Barbara.
The less expensive Tier 1 plan, a $20 co-pay PPO plan, is being contracted mainly with UC medical centers, but UC officials were not able to reach an insurance agreement to accept the plan at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital or Sansum Clinic.
Cottage and Sansum will, however, accept the second tier of UC Care, which will charge patients for 20 percent of their services with a $5,000 cap. The facilities will also accept the new Health Net Blue & Gold HMO and two current HMO plans.
UCSB employees are calling for uniform care for all as they near the Oct. 28 start date to enroll in new plans.
“People were really pissed off,” said Nelson Lichtenstein, a history professor and president of the UCSB Faculty Association. “The University of California has eliminated the main insurance company that most people use here. In doing so, they may be saving some money, but they’re leaving Santa Barbara out on a limb.”
Lichtenstein said most employees receive care at Cottage and not at hospitals in Lompoc, Santa Maria and Ventura, where the Tier 1 plan is being accepted.
The faculty petition demands the UC system ensure all faculty have a continuity of health care at roughly the same price as others, Lichtenstein said, adding that political leaders could also write letters of support.
“Yes, you can get covered by health insurance, but it’s much more expensive,” he said. “Basically, they want us to drive to UCLA. Clearly, they sprang this on us. The University of California prides itself on having good benefits. This is a definite erosion of that.”
The UC system will continue looking at plans and rates in the future, but current plans are pretty much set, said Shelly Meron, a spokeswoman for the UC Office of the President.
Meron emphasized that most coverage is still available at Cottage, which so far has failed to negotiate a Tier 1 price that wouldn’t increase premiums for everyone across the UC system.
“We worked really hard to make sure employees still had access to that at a reasonably rate,” she said. “We’re certainly sensitive to people’s concerns. Overall, we really tried to strike a balance.”
Cottage spokeswoman Maria Zate said health plan providers and employers, such as UCSB, decide what insurance will be accepted and at what level, and not the hospital.
UCSB Chancellor Henry Yang issued a statement Tuesday saying that officials are “deeply concerned” that the Tier 1 provider for UC Care does not include local clinic and hospital physicians and services.
“My administrative colleagues and I, in consultation with our faculty, staff and community members, are working intensively with UC system-wide office negotiators and our local providers to bridge this serious gap,” Yang said. “We want to ensure that these negotiations will quickly result in a solution that allows all members of our community access to the care that best fits their needs.”