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Lobbyist Money Help  

Senate bill would double UM insurance costs

February 18, 2003
By: Megan McCloskey
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY -UM faculty and staff would pay nearly double their current premium rates for health insurance under a bill presented to the Senate Ways and Means Committee Tuesday.

The bill would create a Division of Community Health, which would combine all health care programs for state workers.

Sen. James Mathewson, R-Sedalia, the bill's sponser, said consolidating the state health care programs would provide increased purchasing power for Missouri.

Consolidation, according to its supporters, is advantageous because it allows state workers to benefit from what is essentially a group discount.

However, Ken Hutchinson, UM vice president of human resources, said bigger is not neccesarily better. At least not for the UM system.

The current state program, Missouri Consolidated Health Care Plan, is 2 1/2 times larger than the UM health care program. Yet, said Hutchinson, UM premium rates are much lower than what the Missouri plan offers.

"The annual costs to the University of Missouri and its faculty, staff, and retirees will increase approximately $55 million," if it is included in the consolidation plan, Hutchinson said.

Mathewson said he was frustrated by the lack of uniformity among state employee health care plans.

The first step of the bill calls for an 11 person commission to meet, discuss, and propose the best plan for state insurance by next December. The consolidation would not happen until July 01, 2004, and only if the commission recommends that action.

"If their report says consolidation is a goofy idea I'll kill everything else in this bill," Mathewson said.

Mathewson said he is anticipating that what is deemed good for one will be good for all. He said he wants all programs to have comparable rates.

These programs are provided by the taxpayers, and Mathewson said he is looking for an overall savings. This may come at the expense of individual entities, like the UM system.

"The proposal has the effect of penalizing the University of Missouri for operating a well conceived and efficiently managed program," said Hutchinson.

For the past twenty years the system has diligently saved money in order to be self-insured, and UM shouldn't be punished in order for other state programs to benefit, said Hutchinson.

Because the UM health benefit plans is a part of the system's overall human resources and employee benefits strategy, the bill would force the UM Board of Curators to relinquish authority to govern its overall compensation program, said Hutchinson.

Mathewson said he has spent the last two years trying to find an answer to the state's health care woes. "I introduced this bill to gain information."

He said the programs affected by the bill, such as MODOT and Highway Patrol, simply fear change.

The bill would also provide small businesses with an option to join in the plan.

Georgia employs a plan like the one presented by Mathewson, and West Virginia and Delaware are considering a similar course of action.