Benefits Advisory Committee issues final report

Document includes key findings, recommendations primarily focused on health care-related offerings

The university Benefits Advisory Committee has weighed in.

The committee, formed in 2011, has completed its final report, a document that includes key findings and recommendations primarily focused on health care- related offerings at Johns Hopkins. The report was recently submitted to senior university leadership, who will announce any formal changes to the university's benefits package later this month.

The committee found that JHU employees valued strongly the overall benefits package, and that the contribution to retirement plans was the most valued benefit, followed by time off.

The 14-member committee conducted a comprehensive review of the university's benefits program in 2011, before setting out on a series of town hall meetings earlier this year to solicit feedback from the university community.

The goal of the original review was to evaluate ways of reducing benefits program expenses by $10 million to $15 million annually. The proposed recommendations, if implemented fully, will save an estimated $13.2 million. Johns Hopkins' senior administration says that the reductions are necessary in light of increased pressure on the university's financial position and the rising costs of health care.

The recommendations target JHU's health care plans and suggest changes to be consistent with those of peer higher education institutions and large employers, while staying below peer average.

In crafting the report, the committee members benchmarked peer institutions and used information provided by Mercer, a human resources consulting firm hired to gather data from an employee survey, conducted in June 2011.

In its key findings, the committee found that JHU employees valued strongly the overall benefits package, and that the contribution to retirement plans was the most valued benefit, followed by time off. For employees with dependents, the tuition grant and remission programs eclipsed all but contributions to retirement plans in terms of importance.

The committee recommended that no changes be made in retirement plans and the tuition grant program.

The list of recommendations includes: - Eliminate the concept of Benefit Dollars and capture 50 percent of the value of these dollars for benefits savings. The university currently offers $900 to $1,200 (depending on household income) in Benefit Dollars to help cover expenses such as medical insurance and life insurance. - Increase the average employee share of health insurance premiums over time to 25 percent from the current 23 percent. - Employee contributions toward the health insurance premiums should vary with salary level to ensure affordability. Lower-paid employees should pay a lower share of premium cost and higher-paid employees a higher share. - Increase health insurance co-pays and deductibles but track the market of peer higher education institutions to stay below peer average. - Increase cost sharing for branded prescription drugs and provide incentives for employees to use generic and mail-order drugs. - Retain the $500 credit given to employees who do not enroll in Johns Hopkins health insurance and who certify that they have health insurance through a spouse or other source.

Recommendations not related to health insurance included reducing the vacation carryover limit from 44 to 22 days for all new hires and the creation of a health management initiative charged with developing innovative solutions to health care issues at JHU, such as a program that provides financial incentives to employees or reduces financial barriers for employees to participate in programs and treatments to protect and improve their health.

Any proposed changes would not take effect until Jan. 1, 2013. The university's annual enrollment activities will take place from Oct. 19 to Nov. 12. The Human Resources Office will provide online tools and resources to help employees understand how the changes impact them.

For a full list of recommendations and a copy of the report, go to benefits.jhu.edu/documents/BAC_Final_Report.pdf.

Posted in University News

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