The Chancellor’s representatives repeatedly make specious claims about the System’s contributions to faculty health care. As a public academic institution, PASSHE ought to be more careful about spreading misleading information to our students and the public. Perhaps the most egregious example of misinformation was contained in Vice Chancellor Gary Dent’s Patriot News op-ed.
According to Dent’s misrepresentations, the System presented APSCUF with several proposals to align faculty health care with the plan the Commonwealth provides to most of it employees in the Pennsylvania Employees Benefit Trust Fund (PEBTF). He argues that this “concept has been agreed to by our other unions.” Untrue.
Although the System has made such proposals, Dent ignores that these proposals would substantially increase faculty members’ out-of-pocket costs. Further, Dent makes absolutely no mention of the fact that faculty already pay the highest percentage of premium of any union in the Commonwealth, and he overlooks that the Chancellor’s proposal to cut into retiree health care was never even presented to any of the other unions.
Dent’s claim that other unions have agreed to the concept is downright preposterous. PASSHE did not negotiate health care benefits with AFSCME, SCUPA, or SEIU. Each of these unions is in the PEBTF, and their health care benefits are worked out and negotiated with the Commonwealth, not with the System.
PASSHE has not finalized ANY health care proposal with ANY of its other unions. These unions tied their health care package to management health care. Since managers get the health care APSCUF negotiates, the other unions have, de facto, tied their health care benefits to our negotiation. Even APSCUF coaches’ health care design is tied to the plan the faculty negotiates.
Dent further distorts when he repeats the System position that it “pays more than $15,000 annually for family coverage under the health care plan it administers for active employees.” PASSHE does not pay Highmark any set amount for a family plan. The number he gives is an amount that is calculated as a necessity to comply with COBRA, and it is used to determine the faculty’s premium share.
The reality is that PASSHE pays a per-faculty-member amount calculated by Highmark actuaries, the total of which is $13,572.84. That amount is based on the maximum number of claims that the PASSHE group may make in a given year based on all of those who are covered (including spouses, domestic partners, and dependants). However, PASSHE pays only pays 90 percent of this amount ($12,215.64) during any given year. At the end of the year the claims are calculated to see if PASSHE has reached the maximum number of claims, which it rarely does. Regardless of the number of claims, PASSHE keeps the faculty’s money, even though members always pay a percent of premium based on 100% of the maximum number of claims.
Our faculty contract is the product of multiple negotiations across several decades. Over these years, the faculty sacrificed increased salary to maintain health care benefits. In past contracts, APSCUF agreed to share costs and pay increased percents of premium to maintain the current benefits. Now the Chancellor would like to forget the past and pretend that we should receive fewer benefits. This negotiation position is simply untenable, particularly given that APSCUF has already made concessionary proposals.