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The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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Faculty will pay more for health insurance as GW attempts to curb costs

Correction appended

The hundreds of faculty and staff members under GW’s health insurance plan will pay more out of pocket this year as the University tries to balance its health care spending.

Prices of medical plans, including co-payments, deductibles, premiums and coinsurance, will all rise this year, as the University tries to make up last year’s massive increase in health care costs, Vice President for Human Resources Sabrina Ellis said.

Faculty and staff will pay an extra 9.2 percent on average for insurance.

The amount of money an employee can spend each month will increase by 12.5 percent, Ellis said. The increases, which will range from $10 to $90, can be as steep as 43 percent for co-pays under all three faculty programs.

The across-the-board increases were recommended by a committee that spent the summer planning how to control the University’s skyrocketing health care costs. GW saw an 18 percent rise in claims last year, putting a dent in its budget.

But Ellis said she is not sure if this year’s increased costs will help stave off health care costs increase in the future.

“I am hoping that the increases will help to keep our costs constant, but I don’t know how many times people will need to go to the doctor or the hospital and if there will be catastrophic things that will happen,” she said. “Because those are all unknown areas, it’s hard to say what will happen next year.”

About two-thirds of GW’s employees are on the University’s health care plan, with about 2,700 additional dependents, like spouses and children, also signed up for the health insurance.

At least 250 faculty and staffers will join the plan this January, when all individuals will be required to purchase health care coverage or face fines under the Affordable Care Act, Ellis said.

The University will send out letters this week to inform employees not currently on a health plan that they need to join one, she added.

Health care costs make up about $44 million of the $98.5 million that GW spends on all employee benefits for the year.

The University projects to spend 9.2 percent more this year on healthcare than last year.

Staff will also start being allowed a parental leave benefit. If a full-time employee has served for two years, then they are eligible to receive six weeks of paid leave after the birth or adoption of a child.

Employees shelled out an extra 9.7 percent last year for insurance premiums, which outpaces the national increase of about 4 percent last year, according to a study last year by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Christine Eibner, an economist at the RAND corporation, said the 18 percent increase that the University saw last year is an outlier in the national trend, which has been growing at a slower rate than GW. Ellis attributed last year’s cost surge to more people than anticipated filing for high-cost claims.

Eibner said that because more University employees will be jumping onto the school’s health care plan, costs will increase. She added that as the University prepares for increases in health care coverage, salary increases could take a hit.

“Increased enrollment will lead to increased total cost for employers,” she said. “The benefits will become less generous for employees because of the increased co-payments and added deductibles.”

This post was updated on Sept. 16 to reflect the following corrections:
The Hatchet incorrectly the increase in healthcare costs to employees. While the University will incur a 9.2 percent increase, it will be 12.5 percent more for employees. The Hatchet also incorrectly said paid leave will be extended to all full-time, regular staffers for six months when it will be for six weeks.

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