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Faculty, staff speak on insurance rates

Faculty+Senate+executive+board+member%2C+Annemarie+Butler%2C+asks+a+question+regarding+faculty+salary+during+the+meeting+on+Oct.+10%2C+2023.
Brielle Tuttle
Faculty Senate executive board member, Annemarie Butler, asks a question regarding faculty salary during the meeting on Oct. 10, 2023.

Faculty spoke up about their concerns regarding their insurance rates rising during the Faculty Senate meeting Tuesday, just weeks after the Board of Regents approved a change to university insurance plans. Iowa State University’s medical plan is “self-insured,” meaning each year, the university pays for the medical and pharmacy claims of its plan members.

“In 2024, the deductible rate required by the IRS in a high-deductible plan is $1,600 for single coverage and $3,200 for a family plan,” said Ed Holland, the director of the Department of Human Resources. “These required deductibles levels are more than our HMO (Health Maintenance Organization) out-of-pocket maximum for 2023.”

Faculty voiced concerns before the regents approved changes to the plans, with one petition garnering more than 1,000 staff and faculty signatures. 

The changes approved by the Board of Regents increased coinsurance 10%, which bumped two plans up more than $40 a month. The regents also voted to remove a waiver for mental health and substance abuse treatment.

For coinsurance to begin, faculty must meet their deductible. Once coinsurance kicks in, staff will have to pay coinsurance, with a couple of exceptions. The first is if a co-pay is made, employees will not put money toward a deductible. The second, when someone under family coverage meets the $250 deductible under family coverage, coinsurance is paid. Lastly, an individual in a family plan doesn’t have to meet the $500 family deductible. 

“The IRS oversees Health Care Flex Spending accounts,” Holland said. “We have absolutely no control over the deferral or rollovers.” 

The current max Flex Spending accounts deferrals are set to $3,050 per year with a max of $610 able to roll over to the next year if faculty don’t use their entire amount. 

“There have been some estimates given where we believe the IRS may increase the rollover to $3,200 next year,” Holland said. “But I have also heard that they may not increase the $610 figure.” 

Concerns were brought up throughout the meeting by faculty and staff around the constant change in insurance plans and rates.

“Do you plan on making more changes in the future with our insurance rates, especially with inflation increasing everything around us?” Annemarie Butler, a professor in philosophy & religious studies, said. 

Holland responded, saying changes are always necessary as time passes, but he hopes only incremental changes will be made in the future. Holland said faculty and staff are no longer in a period where the university can let the same insurance plan sit for seven years. 

Name Changes

Unanimous votes were cast to change the name of the department of geological and atmospheric sciences to the department of the earth, atmosphere and climate, sending the measure to the Board of Regents for final approval. 

“The proposed name change better reflects the work of the department and updates the name in ways consistent with national trends in the earth sciences,” said Sarah Bennett-George, the faculty senate president. “It also helps the department position itself as part of the leading edge of departments featuring climate science as a key part of its identity.”

Unanimous votes were cast again, allowing the Board of Regrets to change the current title of the following programs:

  • BFA in integrated studio arts to BFA in art
  • BA in art and design (art and culture option—studio art focused) to BA in art
  • BA in art and design (visual culture studies option—art history focused) to BA in art history

“Last year, a university-wide committee was convened by the Provost’s Office to identify and review names of majors to determine if program names continue to reflect industry needs and are easily identifiable and discoverable by students,” Teresa Paschke, an art and visual culture professor, said. “The department of art and visual culture learned that our majors were on the institutional short-list for urgent change.” 

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