Majority of UC health care premiums to increase in 2012

Most University of California employees will be paying slightly more each month for their health care premiums in 2012 depending on factors such income, health care plan and number of dependents.

Seventy percent of all UC employees will pay increases of less than $10 each month into their plans, including virtually everyone who makes $48,000 a year or less, according to Dianne Klein, spokesperson for the UC Office of the President.

UC employees contribute less than the average national employee contribution, in part because the university pays for 87 percent of the cost of premiums. The UC will be spending about $90 million more in the coming year to cover health care for its employees.

“That’s significantly higher than the national average for employer contributions,” Klein said.

Klein added that the raise is not unexpected, as health care costs are going up nationwide.

“While it’s not a surprise that rates are going up, comparatively it’s good news that they have gone up so remarkably little,” Klein said.

Though the difference between this year’s and next year’s costs depends on the employee’s personal situation, those at the higher end of the salary spectrum generally subsidize health care costs of those with lower incomes.

While most of the plans will increase their rates, Anthem PPO and Kaiser Umbrella will reduce their costs. Employees who make less than $48,000 a year will also see decreases in the Anthem PLUS plan.

Employees have the option to change their health care plans for 2012 during the open enrollment period, which begins on Oct. 31 and ends on Nov. 22. Additional changes in premium costs could depend on their choice of health  care plan.

According to Klein, the best plan out of the nine available to UC employees  depends on their personal and family medical needs. For example, employees can choose to go on a less expensive health care plan if they do not feel that they need specialized care.

Furthermore, the pay bands — the division of employees based on salary — for next year have been reconfigured, which could also affect the rates that some employees pay.

Lakesha Harrison — president of American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees Local 3299 — said that the union helped secure raises for lower-paid employees last month, which she believes makes the increases in premium costs less detrimental.

“One of our missions is to make sure that the most vulnerable don’t take that hit,” Harrison said. “But everybody is affected, and we want to try to protect everybody.”

However, Harrison said that for her personally, the cost of health care premiums will increase because her family needs specialists and cannot use one of the less expensive plans.

“Some of those workers will still take a hit, and I’m one of those workers,” Harrison said.

But Hilja New, the human resources administrator for the UC Berkeley Department of History, said she is happy that the increase is so modest.

However, New added that she thinks the UC should reevaluate the designated pay bands, suggesting that the incomes covered by the lowest two bands instead be divided into three, so that the ranges in each category are not as wide.

“There are an awful lot of employees who are at the lower edge of the pay scale,” she said. “When folks are at the  lower edge of the pay scale, they have a harder time paying the premiums.”