Well, knock me over with a stethoscope!

My health care premiums aren’t going up in 2011. And, I am not alone. At St. Thomas, the only health care plan with an increase is the high deductible plan, and then it’s only 3 percent.

I don’t know about you, but I have grown to expect an increase in my premiums every year. How did this happen?

Okay, the plan’s coverage is different, but only slightly. People who go to the Mayo Clinic will have to pay a little more out of their own pockets.  (Go to Mayo? That’s in Rochester! I would have to drive!) Also, co-pays for non-generic drugs will increase. (Again, thinking selfishly, this is fine; I take only generics.)

What else? Well, apparently we are healthier. St. Thomas self-insures up to $50,000 per person per year. That means that when we are healthier the university’s budget benefits and we can keep next year’s premiums down.

When I was on the Fringe Benefits Advisory Committee, I learned that almost everyone else in my advanced age group had too much low density (aka, bad cholesterol) and, as we used to say in Arkansas, the high blood. Consequently, they needed expensive drugs to lower cholesterol and blood pressure. I felt so superior about my good blood pressure and fabulous cholesterol numbers that I marched right into my department chair’s office and demanded a raise because I was saving the university so much on medical costs. He reminded me of the time I cost thousands with surgery for my broken foot and sent me on my way.

In case you were wondering about the rationale behind the refundable membership fee for use of the Anderson Athletic and Recreation Complex, this is it – an incentive to maintain a fitness program. Regular exercise keeps us employees healthier and that reduces health care expenses. Of course, being healthier also helps us get to work every day and do a better job while we are here, but right now we are focusing on budget.

For now, I am counting my blessings, filling out my forms right away and heading off to buy chocolate and generic vitamin D with the money I thought I’d have to blow on higher health care premiums.

3 Responses

  1. Karen Jorgensen, Owatonna

    I just wanted to make the comment that for those of us in Owatonna and Faribault who work at the Gainey Conference Center, having the Mayo Clinic and the two hospitals in Rochester out-of-network does make a difference. I know the medical clinics in these two cities which are Mayo affiliated are in-network, but most specialists are from the Mayo Clinic and referrals are most often to the Rochester hospitals. I simply want to point out that at least for a few of us, Mayo is the preferred, if not the only realistic, choice.

  2. UST Staff, St. Paul

    Dear Dr. Alexander:

    I’m happy that your health costs will stay in check more than previous years.

    My personal story differs significantly.

    My costs are going to go up much higher than a premium increase would likely have led to. St. Thomas switched to a formulary that includes fewer drugs, and the daily medicine I have to take to function properly is one of the drugs that isn’t on this formulary.

    The doctor I have found who is very competent in his field and prescribes me this medicine has always been out-of-network, but now the amount I pay for out-of-network visits is going up from 20 percent to 30 percent.

    Between paying $600 a year more for my necessary medicine and $50 to $200 a year more on visiting the doctor who prescribes it, I will certainly have a bigger health cost increase from 2010 to 2011 than I did from 2009 to 2010.

    My well wishes to everyone, no matter whether this year’s decisions were a blessing or a hardship.

    -Anonymous UST Staff

  3. Tom King, West St. Paul

    Susan: I, too, think chocolate is an essential component of my good health.

    Of course, it’s not being on the Rx formulary. The cost comes out of our pockets. Never mind!

    As for any surplus funds, I’d suggest saving them for the inevitable rainy day. It’s a sure thing that one day those rains will come and it’s comforting to know we’ve saved enough to buy an umbrella.