UNIVERSITY BENEFITS COMMITTEE MINUTES
November 18, 2004

Present: William Baker, Radha Balamuralikrishna, Terry Borg, Virginia Cassidy, Dennis Davito, Michael Duffy, Ray Foster, Deborah Haliczer, Larry Sill representing Jerry Zar

Guests: Nancy Apperson, Shey Lowman, Paul Stoddard

The meeting was called to order by Deborah Haliczer. Guests were introduced to committee members. Minutes and Agenda were approved.

Update from Insurance and Employee Benefits Office:
-Dennis Davito reported that the new Caremark Prescription Maintenance Medication Program has seen some problems throughout the state. NIU employees are reporting that they are confused about the way the program will work. As of November 16, no retail drug stores had yet signed on to participate, though it was reported that a number were in the process of applying to participate. Retail drug stores say that they will lose money if they participate, so there is little incentive to join. CMS is refusing to reveal information about the negotiated rates for reimbursement.

Davito reported that most of the state universities are beginning to offer domestic partner benefits, though most follow the University of Illinois reimbursement model. He informed the committee that according to the recent AFSCME contract, domestic partner benefits will be available to all state employees on July 1, 2006 as part of the state benefit program through CMS. At present, only 2 employees at SIU have enrolled in domestic partner benefits, while ISU, WIU, UIUC and UIC report only a handful of enrollments.

Davito also reported that state “paperless initiatives” will mean that fewer benefits booklets will be printed for employees and universities. Emphasis will be more on electronic availability of information.

Old Business:
-The committee discussed reports that employees are troubled that there are very few physicians who have signed on to the CIGNA PPO physician network, which would provide a 90 / 10 reimbursement rather than the usual 80 / 20 arrangement. Employees have expressed frustration at how few PPO doctors are available to them. The committee discussed reimbursement problems, where hospitals ask for payment, while the insurance claims have not yet been resolved, or reimbursed. Employees have experienced pressure to pay bills before the insurance claim has been reimbursed. Some employees report being threatened with collection. The benefits office suggests that employees pay a minimal payment to prevent collection efforts.

-Committee members suggested that the benefits office offer more guidance and education for employees on how to understand and read their medical bills and explanations of benefits, and more advice on how to file appeals. It was decided to form a subcommittee to discuss how to empower our employees to be more knowledgeable about their benefits, and how to be more effective advocates for themselves in benefits matters. Volunteers for this committee include: Terry Borg, Deborah Haliczer, Paul Stoddard and Nancy Apperson.

-It was reported that the committee reviewing current and potential 403(b) and 457 plans has been meeting, reviewing existing plans and plan documents, and will be putting out bids for contracts. Professor Dick Dowen, chair of the Department of finance, is the designated representative for the University Benefits Committee. Haliczer reported that Professor Dowen is advocating that Human Resources provide more extensive education for employees on financial planning. It was suggested that HR provide educational seminars on financial planning, retirement finances, investment options, guidelines for selecting financial investment opportunities, and that HR call on the expertise of the Finance faculty to assist in this project.

-No progress is reported on plans to survey the faculty and staff on hearing aid issues. Deborah Haliczer and Jerry Zar are the subcommittee designated to follow up on this issue.

-Nancy Apperson, Coordinator of the Employee Assistance and Wellness Program, presented a proposal jointly sponsored by that office as well as the Office of Campus Recreation and the FIT Program. The proposal calls for release time for employees to participate in campus fitness programs, 5 days a week for 30 minutes each day. Employees must receive approval from supervisor, department head, chair or dean. The proposal has the support of the Operating Staff Council and the Supportive
Professional Staff Council. The University Benefits Committee saw this as a proactive means of promoting employee health, and voted unanimously to support this proposal. A letter to that effect will be sent to President Peters and to Steve Cunningham, Associate Vice President for Administration and Human Resource Services.

-The committee discussed at length the domestic partner benefits proposal. The committee agreed that NIU needs to provide these benefits as a social justice principle as well as a recruitment and retention factor, to keep NIU competitive with other similar institutions such as ISU. The committee felt that our policy must provide equity to all employees. The committee discussed several key issues, including: whether to extend domestic partner benefits to same and to opposite sex domestic partners, whether to offer a plan similar to that offered by the University of Illinois (reimbursement for individual insurance plan) or the plan proposed by the ad-hoc committee on domestic partner benefits. The committee discussed at length the proposed affidavit of domestic partnership. The committee voted unanimously to support the need to offer domestic partner benefits, but felt it needed more discussion and more information before voting on the proposal and making its final recommendation. The
committee decided to hold a special meeting on December 2, 2004 to complete the discussion and vote. The committee requested that legal counsel be invited to this discussion.

The Annuitants Association representative, Larry Sill, related that the Chicago Tribune reported that anticipated revenue for the Illinois state budget will become inadequate to cover retirement payments. The Benefits Committee is encouraged to work to recruit more members to the Annuitants Association. Dues are $24/year. For more information, their website is www.niu.edu/annuitants.

-Discussion of SURS issues was tabled until the next meeting due to lack of time.

-The next regular meeting of the Benefits Committee is scheduled for January 27, 2005 at 10:00. Location to be announced.

Respectfully submitted,

Deborah Haliczer