BU Today

Health & Wellness

A Healthier U

University consolidates health-care providers, expands wellness options

In response to a changing health-care marketplace and to an employee survey conducted over the summer, Boston University is revamping its health benefits options for faculty and staff. A letter explaining the changes in the 2008 offerings, which include a consolidation of providers, more choice of coverage levels, and additional wellness benefits, was mailed to faculty and staff this week.

The most significant change for most employees will be the new single-provider system with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, a shift from the previous benefit options, which allowed employees to choose between two Blue Cross Blue Shield plans, the Boston Medical Center Preferred plan, the Tufts Health Plan Premium, or the Bostonia Advantage preferred provider organization (PPO).

The University will still offer the BMC Preferred plan, but the other options will be consolidated to the current Blue Cross Blue Shield health maintenance organization (HMO) plan and a new Blue Cross PPO called Network Blue New England, which will replace the current Blue Choice New England plan.

Nimet Gundogan, executive director of employee benefits at the University’s Office of Human Resources, emphasizes that Blue Cross was chosen in part because of its extensive network of physicians. As a result, she says, most of those enrolled in the Tufts or Bostonia plans will not have to switch doctors.

“In most cases, this change of vendors will mean that instead of using one card when you visit the doctor’s office or hospital, you’ll use another,” she says. “But your benefits will be the same, and we’ve made every effort to make sure that our faculty and staff will continue to be able to use the doctors they’re currently seeing.”

Gundogan says that using a single vendor will simplify the benefits process, facilitate wellness initiatives, and cut administrative costs, and University Executive Vice President Joseph Mercurio says that these savings will be used for new benefits crafted in response to feedback from the recent employee survey. These benefits include increasing the number of covered outpatient mental health visits to 40 per calendar year (up from between 20 and 24, depending on the plan), a $150 annual reimbursement toward membership in a health and fitness program (including membership at BU’s Fitness and Recreation Center), and a $150 annual reimbursement of fees for approved weight-loss programs.

In addition, every health plan will now have four tiers of coverage — employee only, employee plus children, employee plus spouse, and family.

“These changes are a response to what our employees told us through the survey process,” Mercurio says. “By going with a single health-care provider, BU gets to put out a better plan and the employees get to save a little bit of money. It’s a win-win.”

“We feel this is a very positive change at a time when most employers are cutting back on health benefits to their employees,” adds Gundogan.

The open enrollment period for faculty and staff to choose or amend their benefits package runs from November 5 through the end of the month. There will no longer be a spring enrollment period. Gundogan encourages BU employees to attend one of the nine informational meetings on the health benefits changes that will be held throughout November on both the Charles River Campus and the Medical Campus. Employees can find more information and also enroll in a plan by going to BU’s Human Resources Web site and clicking on “open enrollment.”
   
Chris Berdik can be reached at cberdik@bu.edu.