Feeling the Burn

Kalli Bubb/The News

Story by Jessica Bostick, Assistant News Editor

Kalli Bubb/The News

Kalli Bubb/The News

Employees that smoke can expect to pay an extra $600 in premium costs. This rise in cost is due to rising medical costs, rising medication costs, the costs of health care reform and Affordable Care Act Excise tax, according to the human resources department.

“The Health Care Reform Excise tax … requires that, basically, if by 2018 we [Murray State] have not kept costs affordable, not just in what the university pays, but in what the employee pays, the total cost of the plan, anything that exceeds that threshold will then be taxed as Excise tax at a rate of 40 percent,” said Joyce Gordon, director of human resources said at a benefits town hall meeting Sept. 16.

This decision to redesign the benefits offered by the University was subject to approval from Murray State’s Board of Regents as well as the Insurance and Benefits Committee. Many factors went into this decision such as the rise of health care costs. This is the first change made to the benefits plan in the past five years. These reforms have been in the works since August 2014.

“Since health care reform became the law of the land, Murray State has already spent $600,000 in taxes and administrative fees,” Gordon said.

The former plan held employees responsible for 15 percent of expenses, with the University covering the remaining 85 percent of the cost. With the updated benefits, employees with now pay 20 percent of medical expenses, with Murray State paying the remaining 80 percent.

“Tobacco users traditionally, with medical claims, cost significantly more on the plan,” Susan Spier, benefits manager, said.

The program defines tobacco users as anyone who has partaken in the use of tobacco products within the past 90 days. Tobacco products include cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco, hookah, snuff, chewing tobacco, dipping tobacco, bidis, blunts, clove cigarettes or any other preparation of tobacco.

The new benefits program includes changes through offering a Wellness program for $10 per month, increased contribution to employees Health Savings Accounts, medical premium adjustments and prescription coverage supported by “Know Your Rx.”

“We were charged with looking at how we keep quality health care that is available and affordable to all individuals but also remembering we’re talking about group insurance,” Gordon said. “Our task is to identify, with the input of campus, what is best for the full group, not just segments of the group.”

The Employee Assistance Program, or EAP, will be made available to employees for no additional cost. This program will provide employees with counseling services, financial planning, supervisor assistance and other services.

Additional information on changes to employee insurance benefits can be found on Murray State’s website under human resources. The entirety of the town hall meeting can be found on the university’s YouTube page.