May 12, 2018

ASU, UA Consider Leaving State Health Care Plan

Could make care cheaper for higher-ed employees, more expensive for the rest of the state government workers.

This week, Arizona 360 looks at why the University of Arizona and Arizona State University both want to withdraw from the state health insurance program. The two universities have been a part of the program since 2004.

“The U of A could save at least $20 million a year in moving to our own self-insured health insurance model,” said Vice President of UA Business Affairs and Human Resources Allison Vaillancourt.

Today, just under 50,000 UA and ASU employees receive health insurance through the state, making up more than a third of the entire program. Northern Arizona University already has its own self-funded program.

Marie Isaacson is the head of benefits for the State Department of Administration. She says the universities’ withdrawal would have a major impact on the state system.

“The purpose of insurance is to pool our risks,” said Isaacson. “The larger our pool, the more diversified our risk is. If the universities left our pool, then the cost for the state agencies would increase the cost for the remaining state agencies by about $35 million.”

Legislators would have to give their nod or Ducey could allow the universities to leave the health care program through an executive order. The state's health insurance plan runs in five-year cycles and the next bid goes out in 2019.

Reporter Vanessa Barchfield sits down with Susan Stryker, a professor of Gender and Women’s Studies at UA. Stryker says the state system is not working for everyone, namely the transgender community.

Stryker describes what the state health care plan looks like for transgender people, including that hormone treatment is covered but surgery and other related costs are not.

“For transgender faculty in particular, and there are a number of us as well as number of faculty and staff members who have dependents, partners or children who need to access trans-related health care,” said Stryker. “Currently, transgender health care benefits are excluded under the state plan.”

Arizona 360
Arizona 360 airs Fridays at 8:30 p.m. on PBS 6 and Saturdays at 8 p.m. on PBS 6 PLUS. See more from Arizona 360.
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