Faculty Fringe Benefits and Welfare Committee
Annual Report, 2003-2004

The Faculty Fringe Benefits and Welfare Committee (FFBWC) met 11 times during the 2003-2004 academic year, nine of those meetings were held jointly with the Employee Benefits Committee (EBC), an administrative committee chaired by Susan Zeiger.

The main activities of the Committees during the year consisted of the following:
1. The Committee began the year with a thorough introduction into Furman’s current benefits, budget, and benefits philosophy provided by Susan Zeiger.  The overview included discussion of current budget as well as recent trends and comparisons with other employers and ACS schools.  The Committee’s analysis of the benefits costs and trends focused especially on medical benefits in anticipation of the fall’s health insurance renewal process.

2. Much of the Committees’ (FFBWC and EBC) energy in Fall 2003 was directed toward the annual review of medical, dental and life insurance in preparation for the 1 January 2004 renewal.  The initial quote from CIGNA for the medical insurance policy renewal reflected an increase of 20% over the 2003 rate.  Furthermore, that figure is consistent with the anticipated range of health insurance increases each of the next several years.  The Committees proposed and considered several potential scenarios and options to try to reduce the anticipated increases while remaining committed to maximize the fairness, balance, affordability, and long-term stability of Furman's health insurance benefits.

Because one of the largest sources of anticipated increase (beyond the national crisis in health-care costs) was in the structure of Furman’s High Plan, the Committees decided to make a change to an Enhanced Core and a Basic Plan (from a High and Core plan).  By enhancing Furman’s Core Plan and eliminating the High Plan, it reduced the overall cost increase in the renewal for both employees and Furman.  Moreover, the Committees decided to make the structural change in Furman’s health plans at this time because this change should also eliminate from future projections an additional on-going increase (beyond our actual expenditures) associated with the High Plan.  Moreover, the University was able this year to absorb most of the impact of the change and set a premium rate that is reduced for former High Plan employees who have to bear the cost of higher deductibles and a larger maximum out-of-pocket level than in previous plans.

3. In Winter 2004 the Committees considered a proposal for a retiree health care benefits plan developed by a Mellon Foundation-sponsored Consortium for Higher Education.  The program, named “Emeriti Retirement Health Solutions,” involves a Medicare-supplementing insurance plan and a career-long funding process that allows for tax-free withdrawal for qualified medical expenses after retirement .  In light of the current level of Furman’s benefits and because the funding of this plan would divert resources from the salary and benefit budget (along with additional administrative costs), the Committees recommended that Furman not join the consortium of universities creating this “Emeriti” program.

4. The FFBWC reviewed three policies.

(a)    Policy 157.93 (Retirement Options) includes proposed new language which is added to provide a minimum standard for assistance with health insurance coverage in early retirement.  The language in the faculty policy was added because the administration was to announce a new policy for staff that provides up to two years of medical assistance to early retirees to help bridge the gap in coverage until they are eligible for Medicare.

(b)    Policy 144.4 (Workmen’s Compensation) came up for periodic review from the Policies and Procedures Committee.  The FFBWC reviewed the PPC’s proposed wording changes and requested additional language to clarify that Furman’s policy goes beyond current South Carolina law.

(c)    Policy 228.1 (Tuition Benefits for Faculty and Staff) came up for periodic review from the Policies and Procedures Committee last year and was forward to the FFBWC in Spring 2004.  A key proposal to add clarity is to break the policy into two components: 228.1 (Tuition Benefits for Faculty and Staff Dependents) and 228.2 (Tuition Benefits for Faculty and Staff).  The FFBWC reviewed and modified the proposed changes and forwarded them to FSC.

5. In preparation for discussions next year the Committees (FFBWC and EBC) met in May for an information briefing on additional CIGNA health insurance disease management programs, the possibility of including a Flex Card option to go along with the current Flex-Spending Account for medical reimbursement, and potential implications of the 8 December 2003 Medicare Reform Act on the development of Health Savings Accounts.

The FFBWC thanks Susan Zeiger (Chair of the EBC and Director of Personnel), Giselle Williams, and Mary Williams in the Personnel Office for their guidance and dedication on behalf of the Committees. The FFBWC is also appreciative of the EBC members Todd Duke, Ray Kuhne, and Kathryn Smoke for their work.  Finally, the chair heartily thanks Committee members Rhett Bryson, Scott Henderson, Cheryl Patterson, Jeff Petty, and Nancy Shell for their diligent work this year.

Respectfully submitted,
Timothy Fehler, Chair

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