University Benefits Committee
Meeting Minutes - March 25, 2004
Approved May 14, 2004

Present: Virginia Cassidy, Abby Chemers, Dennis Davito, Ray Foster, Deborah Haliczer, Judith Malen, Pam Rosenberg, and Jerry Zar

Guests: John Butler, Norden Gilbert, Amy Levin

  1. CALL TO ORDER

    The meeting was called to order at 10:00 a.m.

  2. ADOPTION OF THE AGENDA

    The proposed agenda was approved.

  3. APPROVAL OF JANUARY MINUTES

    The minutes were approved.

  4. OLD BUSINESS

    Domestic Partner Benefits – Presentation
    Members of the Ad hoc Committee on Domestic Partner Benefits came to the UBC to request support of their proposal for NIU to implement a Domestic Partner Insurance Reimbursement Policy. In 1993, the President’s Task Force on Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation released the Community Building report, which included a recommendation that “domestic partners” be added to the existing provision granting benefits to “spouses.” Most of the benefits recommended in the 1993 report have been implemented except for health insurance and tuition waivers. Three documents were distributed: Domestic Partnership Benefits at NIU: A Ten-Year History, a proposed Domestic Partner Insurance Reimbursement Policy and University of Illinois Same-Sex Domestic Partner Health Insurance Premium Reimbursement Procedures.

    The guests indicated their displeasure of the recent policy implemented at U of I because it addresses just same sex couples. Also, they stated the American family is changing and they hoped that NIU’s policy would provide insurance benefits for heterosexual couples too. Implementation of a health insurance program for “domestic partners” regardless of sex would be congruent with NIU’s employment policy that follows:

    Northern Illinois University is an equal opportunity institution and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, age, marital status, national origin, disability, or status as a disabled or Vietnam-era veteran. The Constitution and Bylaws of Northern Illinois University afford equal treatment regardless of political views or affiliation, and sexual orientation. NIU recognizes Dual Career issues.

    HRS is frequently asked what domestic partner benefits are offered at this time of year, when departments are involved in the hiring process. The lack of health insurance benefits to “domestic partners” puts NIU at a disadvantage when competing with other employers who do provide these benefits.

    The UBC discussed whether to endorse the proposed policy. Deborah stated that she had received emails from both Michael Duffy and Lynette Chandler stating their regret they couldn’t be present at today’s meeting but that they were in favor of providing health insurance benefits for domestic partners. Some wording changes were recommended to the proposed policy. The UBC unanimously agreed to “approve in principle” the ad hoc committee’s proposal that would provide insurance benefits to domestic partners, regardless of sex. However, the UBC members unanimously agreed they needed to see the final wording of the policy proposal before endorsing it. The UBC members agreed to get recommended changes/issues to the guests by the end of next week.

    Concerns about insurance reimbursement
    Deborah drafted a letter from John Peters that she shared with the committee members. Several members sent her back comments. She will be considering the comments and revising the draft letter.

    The Insurance Office has been receiving fewer complaints from employees regarding claims.

    403(b) and 457 Plans
    Professor Dick Dowen, Department of Finance Chair, agreed to be the UBC’s representative on the committee that will evaluate current and potential 403(b) and 457 plans at NIU.

    Retirement Planning Programs
    An all day presentation on retirement issues will be held on-campus on March 31, 2004.

    Hearing aid Reimbursement Research
    The Wellness Office’s intern started to research this topic but more work has to be completed before a report can be given.

    Bereavement Leave Policy
    The State Officials and Employees Ethics Act required that the IBHE adopt personnel policies for public universities and its staff. Accordingly, the IBHE approved Personnel Policies for Public Universities and the IBHE at its February 2, 3004 meeting. Among the policies for the IBHE is a Funeral Leave policy that authorizes paid leave to an employee of up to three workdays for the death of the employee’s immediate family, household, in-laws, and/or grandparents of the immediate family. Steve Cunningham indicated that public universities are expected to use the IBHE policy as a standard. NIU’s policy is consistent with the IBHE policy.

    “Committees of the University” listing
    The University Council, with guidance from the Rules and Governance Committee, amended the Bylaws so that the HRS Director, a voting member of the UBC, can designate a person to serve in his/her capacity on the UBC. This change is effective immediately.

    Technology Surcharge and tuition wavier
    The Executive Committee decided late last Fall not to charge employees the technology surcharge. The Bursar’s staff manually processed the technology surcharge refunds. All refunds have been processed for those who had paid the fee. If an employee owed funds to the university, the refund may have been applied to the employee’s outstanding debt. If an employee did not get a waiver but believes he/she is entitled to one, the employee should contact the Bursar’s Office.

  5. NEW BUSINESS

    Benefits Choice Period
    The Benefit Open Enrollment period is scheduled for May 1, 2004 through May 31, 2004. CMS sets the schedule.

    Report from NIU Annuitants Association
    There continues to be concern by the NIU Annuitants Association that the state is under funding future annuity obligations. All employees/retirees can join the Annuitants Association. There is no age requirement. The annual membership fee for employees/retirees is $24. Spouses may join too. Their annual fee is also $24. Membership forms are available on the web. Current employees can have their dues paid via payroll deduction. It was suggested that HRS write a letter to employees notifying them that they are eligible to join the Annuitants Association.

    Domestic partner dependent tuition waiver request
    Due to time constraints, discussion of this item was table until the next meeting.

  6. INSURANCE AND BENEFITS OFFICE UPDATE
    • CMS has announced clarification on their Medicare policy for retirees. If a retiree or his/her covered family members are eligible for Medicare Part B, they are required to take the Medicare Part B, making CMS the supplemental insurance carrier.
    • New appeal procedures for medical claims denials are to be implemented effective April 14, 2003.
    • As of July 1, 2003, part-time employees received full life insurance so these employees can no longer opt out of health insurance.
    • Group Insurance Representatives will be meeting all day in Springfield on April 27, 2004, to find out about changes for the new fiscal year.
  7. ADJOURN

The meeting adjourned at 11:30 a.m.


NEXT MEETING: May 13, 2004, Founders Library, Room 55,at 10:00 a.m.