The UI Board of Trustees approved health insurance fees for FY06 at its March 10 meeting in Urbana, but some graduate students were less than pleased with the proposed coverage.
Under the proposal approved by the board, in FY06 the per-semester rates for health insurance at Urbana will be $167 for undergraduate students and $230 for graduate students. Rates for all students at UIC will be $363 and at Springfield, $291. There was a 1 percent increase for undergraduates and a 1 percent decrease for graduate students at Urbana, no rate increase for UIC students and an 8 percent increase for UIS students.
Urbana graduate students can purchase additional coverage for spouses at $327 per semester and dependent coverage for $653 per semester, premiums that reflect the population’s greater age and higher utilization of services, particularly costly maternity care, said P.J. Kale, director of risk management, University Office of Business and Financial Services.
Members of the Graduate Employees Organization picketed outside the Illini Union, where the trustees met, and graduate student Rachel Shulman urged the trustees to vote against the proposed plan during the public comment segment of the meeting, saying the coverage was inferior to that offered by peer institutions and that “an alarming number of grad students and their families go without coverage or don’t seek care at all” because the costs are prohibitive.
Trustee Frances Carroll expressed concern that the students’ interests had not been taken into account and asked if the board could do anything to make the plans more amenable.
Gene Barton, associate vice chancellor for student services, said that student input about covered services and costs was gathered through two town hall meetings and from GEO members who worked with the consulting firm involved in the process.
Kale said that the enhancements to the FY06 plan included reducing the annual out-of-pocket costs from $2,500 to $1,800, adding a prescription drug discount card and better coverage for ambulance and inpatient services.
Doug Beckmann, senior associate vice president of business and finance in the University Office of Business and Financial Services, said that the rates reflected the escalating costs of health care nationwide and that the loss ratio for providing the coverage is more than 100 percent. “We can do more for them, but somebody’s got to pay,” Beckmann said.
Mike Bass, executive assistant vice president for operations and external relations in the University Office of Business and Financial Services said that choosing Mega Life as the carrier for Urbana students’ coverage will allow the university to handle its own claims processing while the carrier assumes the risk. Although Urbana-based Health Alliance Medical Plan had submitted a lower bid, the limited geographic area for covered services was incompatible with students’ needs, Bass said.
Trustee Niranjan Shah commented that the rates were “not really out of line” compared to the marketplace.
Chairman Lawrence Eppley requested that staff members provide more information about the selection process in the future.
Richard Mendola, associate vice president, presented an update on the UI-Integrate Project, a five-year overhaul of the university’s software and business systems. Mendola said that team members completed the project – one of higher education’s most complex software implementations – and the data warehouse deployment on time and more than $6.3 million under budget at $78.5 million. The $6.3 million contingency fund will be used to pay for new systems initiatives and enhancements, and will preclude a need to allocate $1.5 million for that purpose in FY06. Recurring costs will include a $2 million allocation for Decision Support to provide integrated ad-hoc reporting and analysis by means of the data warehouse.
Students are very happy with the new systems, Mendola said, and many of employees’ initial complaints are consistent with those generated by any large and complex systemic change. While some differentiations requested at the college level were infeasible, the team is revising functionality in the human resources module to simplify processing at the unit level, and new organizational structures are being considered to address the variance in workload distribution created by Banner, Mendola said.
“We know there are limitations of the system; we know there are gaps. Our consensus decision was that of all the other products that are out there, this was the best fit for the University of Illinois,” Mendola said.
President Joe White said: “It’s really unfortunate, but the indigestion goes with this territory. The challenge now is to enable people to use it every day without the heartburn they’re getting.”
In response to Shah’s request for objective data verifying the success of the project, Mendola said that a post-hoc review was not done; however, discussions with vendors and staff at peer institutions indicated that the UI used far fewer outside contractors. White said that he and staff members would share with the trustees the benchmarks and indicators available, including those from the Gardner Group consulting firm.
- The board passed a resolution honoring Earl Langdon Neal, the first African-American to serve as president of the board of trustees, who died on Jan. 13. Shah said that Neal had been his “personal mentor, guru and guide” and commended Neal’s kindness. Trustee Kenneth Schmidt, who requested the privilege of presenting the finalized resolution to Neal’s wife, Isobel, said that although Neal had experienced racial discrimination and segregation, he had chosen to work for change.
- The trustees approved a budgetary increase of $12 million, to a total project budget of $124 million, for the South Campus Mixed Use Development at UIC because of significant price escalations in steel and other construction materials since the project’s approval in July. The board also authorized the issuance of up to $285 million in auxiliary facilities system revenue bonds to finance portions of several capital projects, including the South Campus project and several others at UIC and the Campus Recreation renovation and expansion project at Urbana.
- A representative of Mackey-Mitchell Associates, a St. Louis architectural firm, presented preliminary plans for renovating and expanding the Gregory Drive and Peabody Drive residence halls and dining facilities at Urbana. The six residence halls, which were built in the late 1950s, have outdated building systems that will need overhauled within a few years, and many of the rooms are smaller than market standard and do not accommodate current students’ needs. A priority in the project is integrating students with severe physical disabilities, who currently live off campus in Beckwith Hall, and their personal assistants into the student community. The first phase of construction, which could begin in 2005 and is projected to cost $105 million, would include construction of two residence halls to house 840 residents, including the Beckwith students, and demolition of existing dining facilities and Weston Hall to create a new Quad space.
- Thomas Bearrows, university counsel, and Stephen Rugg, vice president for administration and comptroller, presented recommendations to strengthen internal controls and reporting, in compliance with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, a federal law enacted to enhance corporate reporting and accountability. Although the law applies only to publicly traded companies, the university already complies with many provisions, including the use of independent auditors and adoption of an ethics code. Trustee Devon Bruce agreed to review the recommendations with the board’s budget and audit committee.
- The board authorized a proposal to establish an investment contract and allocate $500,000 to the Illinois Emerging Technology Fund to invest in new companies commercializing UI technology. Privately funded, Illinois Emerging Technology Fund is controlled by IllinoisVENTURES, the university’s limited liability company for nurturing startup businesses.
- Protestors chanting anti-Chief Illiniwek slogans disrupted the meeting for a few minutes after Nadine Israel, a representative of the anti-chief group Progressive Resource Action Cooperative, and Stephen Kaufman, a professor of cellular biology, criticized Urbana’s use of the symbol and the trustees’ not providing closure on the issue. At the meeting’s conclusion, Eppley told the trustees to review a draft set of guidelines that was provided in January and submit their input. The six guidelines, which were distributed but not discussed, were titled “focus on why we have the Chief, not the Chief itself,” and stated: (1) seek consensus, (2) preserve tradition and heritage in concert with the board’s heritage resolution, (3) retain the names ‘Illini’ and ‘Fighting Illini,’ (4) recognize the diversity of Illinois’ American Indian culture, past and present, (5) engage American Indian involvement in our efforts and (6) reflect the university’s core values of excellence, integrity and respect.