UHPA Response to President MRC Greenwood’s December 21st Letter

The UH administration’s announcement to unilaterally impose a salary reduction for UH faculty in the new year is disturbing but not surprising.  It is characteristic of the way the faculty have been treated since April 2008, when UHPA first initiated negotiations for a renewed contract.  The UH administration has consistently attempted to circumvent the collective bargaining process, and the UH administration’s latest edict is yet another example of this.  It is important to point out that the UH administration did not directly notify UHPA about their decision to implement the pay cut; we found out when media called about the press release issued by the UH administration.

Our current contract is designed to remain in effect until a new one takes its place.  It was confirmed in July 2009 by former Associate Supreme Court Justice Mario Ramil that the language in our current contract establishes an “evergreen clause.”   It appears the UH administration would like to legally challenge this evergreen clause, and UHPA is fully prepared to go to court to defend this.

For almost two years now, the faculty has offered many different solutions to help the UH address the state’s budget shortfall while being careful not to compromise the quality of education. The UH administration ignored or rejected our ideas.  Restricting funds for the UH – the only revenue-generating state institution — and reducing costs to meet arbitrarily set budget targets only hurts students, our state and our economy even further.  If there are insufficient funds to support the university, despite the faculty generating twice as much in tuition and external grant funding than it receives in state general revenues, then the consequences will be fewer courses, fewer programs, fewer campuses, fewer faculty, and higher costs to the consumers of public higher education.

The faculty has always raised its voice of caution. Attempting to cut UH faculty salaries to meet the budget shortfall will cut our nose to spite our face.  It is short-sighted and self-destructive. We will have more to lose than to gain, and it will be virtually impossible to regain what we have lost in terms of our reputation as a Tier 1 research institution and our ability to attract high-caliber faculty at all campuses.

Our four-year contract proposal would have provided a viable alternative to the UH administration’s “last, best, final” offer, which was actually its first and only formal proposal to the faculty. Although UH President M.R.C. Greenwood claims faculty salaries must be competitive, we have not seen any attempt on her part to keep this promise.  Instead, faculty salaries and contributions for health insurance continue to decline and she has not served as an advocate for the UH system. Ultimately, we need a president with vision, who can set a strong direction for the UH and who is willing to support the faculty in word and deed.

UH President M.R.C. Greenwood praises other state employee unions for agreeing to their contracts, but it’s important to note, unlike the UH faculty, they have not been asked to mentor more students and teach more classes, nor have they brought in significant revenue from external funding sources.  President Greenwood also fails to acknowledge the state is now grappling with the consequences of those other contract settlements.  There must now be a significant investment of time and resources to unravel the chaos and to find appropriate ways to make those settlements work.

November 29th Benefit to Support the Honolulu Symphony Musicians

 

This benefit is in support of the Honolulu Symphony Musicians that have lost their jobs. Proceeds will help to provide emergency loans for unemployed musicians and underwriting the cost of community performances.

Click here for more details.

 

 

HGEA, UHPA, and UPW Call for Delay in EUTF Open Enrollment

Randy Perreira, J. N. Musto, and Dayton Nakanelua have signed a joint letter to the Employer-Union Health Benefits Trust Fund requesting that the current plans and coverage continue for the next six months and that the open enrollment, scheduled to end on November 30th, be cancelled.  The EUTF staff are over burdened and unable to properly carry out the current open enrollment.  Since major changes in the HMSA and HMA plans are being offered, beneficiaries need more information and assistance in making new choices.  The delay that the EUTF administrator foresees in the processing of new applications could lead to employee beneficiaries being unable to utilize their benefits in January.  Many of these problems stem from the Governor’s decision to not release funds or appropriated staff positions to the EUTF, and further, forcing the EUTF employees to also be furloughed despite sufficient administrative fees to cover the costs.

EUTF CHANGES HMSA BENEFIT LEVELS: OPEN ENROLLMENT ENDS NOVEMBER 30TH

If you want to continue coverage under HMSA you will have to:

a)    Accept a lower benefit coverage than you currently have, i.e., 80/20 reimbursements on hospital and doctor costs, and
b)    Also fill out new enrollment forms during the EUTF Open Enrollment ending on November 30th to select HMSA.

If you do nothing, and you are currently covered by HMSA, on December 1st your coverage will continue at the 90/10 benefit level but be administered under HMA.

You also have the option during this open enrollment to switch between indemnity coverage of either HMA or HMSA, to an HMO, either through Kaiser or HMSA.

Those currently covered by Kaiser need to do take no action during the open enrollment if they want to continue with Kaiser coverage, albeit at the new premium rates.

Read further for more details about the change between HMSA and HMA….

The health insurance benefit options and premium amounts for all public employees are determined by the EUTF.  Normally, open enrollments (where you are given the opportunity to change your selection of coverage) occur in the spring, but this year the employers’ contributions to the premium costs remained undermined pending the settlement of contracts.  The HSTA and HGEA contracts were settled without any change in the employer’s contribution rates from July 1, 2008.  This has shifted the burden of the premium to be paid, depending on the coverage chosen, upon the public employees (see the attached premium rates.)

In anticipation of the increase payments that public employees would have to make, the unions recommended that a lower cost option for health insurance be included.  The option would reduce the benefit coverage for the indemnity coverage with a preferred provider, e.g., HMSA, from the current level of benefits where the insurer paid 90% and the beneficiary paid 10% (90/10) to a split of 80% and 20% 80/20) for the covered hospital charges and doctor’s fees.

Currently, EUTF offers the 90/10 plan through two plans; HMA and HMSA.  HMSA is the familiar Blue Cross/Blue Shield, not-for-profit, health insurer.  HMA is an administrative section of the for-profit Summerlin Life & Health Insurance Company.  HMA administers the benefit payments for the EUTF.  The EUTF “self-funds” the insurance, so neither HMSA nor HMA are actually insuring the state against any losses or gains between the premiums collected from public employees and state or county employers and the benefits paid out.  Although the 90/10 benefit coverage was identical, the HMA had a lower administrative fee, thus a lower premium cost.  However, there are differences in the panels of participating physicians between HMA and HMSA.  Further, if you travel to the mainland, the Blue Cross system of the hospitals and physicians will not require any up-front cash payment for services; they’ll accept your HMSA card.  HMA also has a panel of participating hospitals and medical facilities on the mainland, but it is not as extensive.  Hospitals or doctors may be required to get telephone approval for your charges you incur, or you may have to pay for the medical services and then submit them for reimbursement upon returning to the Hawaii.

When the EUTF decided to add a lower cost 80/20 benefit plan, they felt they need to eliminate one of the 90/10 providers; either HMA or HMSA for technical reasons having to do with the number of code spaces on the EUTF computers.  The decision was made to let the 90/10 benefit plan remain with HMA, and have HMSA cover the 80/20 plan.  The unions did not want the 90/10 benefit plan to be eliminated all together, and they wanted it to remain the primary benefit level of coverage.  So, EUTF has made the 90/10 plan the default coverage under HMA Since anyone selecting the indemnity coverage was in a 90/10 plan, those having been covered under HMSA will now have the benefits provided through HMA. HMSA will no longer be granted a 90/10 plan option under the EUTF.

Related Documents:

EUTF General Notice for Distribution to Employees

EUTF Open Enrollment General Notice

EUTF Workload and Service Issues