Paying More for Benefits

Colleges and their employees both paid more for health insurance in the last year.
October 2, 2006

Increases in health insurance costs continue to hit colleges and their employees, according to a survey released Saturday.

Eighty-one percent of colleges reported that they faced increases in medical and dental plan costs during 2005. That figure is slightly higher than last year's -- 78 percent -- in the study conducted by the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources. Selected results were released at CUPA's annual meeting, in San Diego.

The median increase in costs for health coverage was 9 percent, and 11 percent of colleges reported that some health care benefits were reduced during the year.

Employee health insurance continues to become a contentious issue on many campuses. A strike last month at Eastern Michigan University focused on health coverage -- and that strike followed several last-minute contract agreements at other institutions where health insurance was the key issue. On many campuses, administrators say that they want in theory to provide great coverage, but that it costs too much. The median average cost per employee of institutions in the CUPA survey (a cross section of many kinds of colleges and universities) was $5,652.

The CUPA study is quite detailed, but the association only releases small portions of it at the annual meeting each year, leaving the full study for purchase. Some of the figures released this year relate to co-payments on various medical services and prescription drug coverage.

On the former, rates have been relatively stable on average, CUPA officials said.

Median Co-Payments for Selected Services

Primary care physician $15
Specialist $19
Inpatient hospital $211
Outpatient hospital/surgery $88
Emergency room $62

Another issue examined was prescription drug coverage when it is part of a broader health plan. Private religious colleges lag in some coverage areas, but most of their coverage plans do include contraceptives. A relatively new area of coverage -- drugs for erectile dysfunction -- appears to have quickly become the norm in many colleges' plans.

Prescription Drug Plan Coverage

% Covering Public Private religious Private independent
Oral contraceptives 97% 86% 98%
Contraceptive devices 76% 72% 80%
Fertility drugs 50% 57% 58%
Erectile dysfunction drugs 56% 60% 69%
Diabetic supplies 98% 100% 91%


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