The Nevada System of Higher Education task force on the Public Employees Benefits program has met twice this semester to continue our work on making recommendations for short-term and long-term benefits issues to NSHE employees. Representatives of the PEBP Task Force have also presented to the PEBP board regarding major issues pertaining to benefits changes since July 1 and the possibility of expanding supplemental benefits for NSHE employees. In addition, the task force, under the direction of Vice President for Finance and Business, has moved ahead with the hiring of a NSHE Health Care Consultant. The current focus of the task force is to:
- Examine the impact of PEBP changes to NSHE and its employees.
- Further consider alternative plans and supplemental benefits.
- Monitor and provide input on further PEBP plan modifications.
- Gather input from NSHE employees on significant problems they are experiencing with the PEBP plan.
- Work with the new NSHE Health Care Consultant in order to help carry out the specific tasks noted above. (The NSHE Health Care Consultant is expected to be selected by November 2011.)
During the PEBP board meeting of Nov. 3, 2011, representatives of the task force addressed the board to provide a list of priority items that have been identified by NSHE employees, benefits coordinators and task force members. Those issues, briefly, are:
- Improving customer services for NSHE employees. With changes in the health care benefits programs, many employees have raised questions regarding their benefits but have had difficulty in contacting PEBP representatives;
- Lack of information regarding provider contract prices for services. Ranges of prices may be available on the PEBP website, but given the high deductible rates now required by employees, there should be better access for “shopping” health care services;
- Delays in receiving health care benefits information for new hires.
UNLV employees, as well as all NSHE employees, should visit the task for website to provide input in improving PEBP services. The website address is below.
The two most prominent issues being addressed by the task force are the provision of supplemental benefits for the AY13 fiscal year and evaluating options to create an independent health care program for all NSHE employees and retirees. The Task force is also working with PEBP staff to discuss the structure and the creation of a middle tier benefits program for PEBP participants, which would include NSHE employees. The task force is still working to discuss how, if at all, supplemental benefits would be provided. The critical issues for consideration are the amount of supplemental benefits to be provided to employees; flat-rate per employee or sliding-rate based on employee salary; and the qualification of classified employees for the supplemental benefits. Since classified employees are technically state employees with the benefits of transferring to other state agencies, this issue raises the concern that only classified employees working for NSHE would receive the benefits. Another issue is how well the proposal for supplemental benefits will be viewed by other NSHE systems given the cuts that were administered by the legislature during its last session.
The middle tier option must still be worked out, if adopted by PEBP. They have been looking at this option, but support for such an option is still in question. Other issues regarding a middle tier arrangement pertain to the possibility of adverse selection in which healthier beneficiaries may opt out of a middle tier option thereby pushing higher costs on those who would select the option.
The task force will continue to meet over the academic year with the new consultant and will present additional information as it becomes available.
Chris Cochran is an associate professor in the department of Health Care Administration and Policy at the University of Las Vegas, Nevada. He is also a member of the NSHE Task Force on Health Care benefits.