Health benefit choices, value-based design offer lower-cost options

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State officials have developed a comprehensive, wellness-focused strategy for employee health care benefits to help stem projected cost increases and improve employee health. As part of the strategy, the University will be providing more options for health care coverage instead of the single health plan option that has been available since 2008. Those options will offer a range of deductibles, coinsurance and employee contributions, as well as provider choice.

Among the new options that will be introduced is a qualified high-deductible health plan for individuals who have a greater tolerance for risk and who want to save for future health care expenses with a Health Savings Account (HSA). “Employees at the University have been asking for a high deductible health plan for several years, and we’re going to provide that option in 2014,” said Robin Oswald, director of employee benefits.

Another plan option will provide high-value services such as office visits, laboratory services and tests at no cost for individuals who are diagnosed with high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes. According to a report of aggregate data on the University’s population, these three conditions are the most prevalent and often can be managed successfully with proactive medical supervision. “Employees interested in this value-based option must voluntarily elect the program,” said Oswald. “By law, the University does not have access to individual employee health records, so employees with one of these three conditions cannot be auto-enrolled; instead, they will need to opt into the program.

“If the appropriate medical protocols for the condition are followed, the employee will have no cost-sharing on many medical services related the management of their condition,” she added. “We want to help eliminate financial barriers for individuals diagnosed with high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes so they can maintain their health, thus avoiding acute episodes that require inpatient hospitalization and high-cost medical procedures.”

University officials also encourage Penn State families to utilize the medical services available through the Penn State Hershey Medical Group, Penn State Hershey Medical Center and other partner providers such as Mount Nittany Medical Center in the Centre Region. Penn State employees and their dependents enrolled in the Penn State health plan currently are not charged a copayment for primary care visits at the Penn State Hershey Medical Group in State College, which will continue in 2014. In addition, the Hershey Medical Group in State College offers a walk-in clinic on evenings and weekends for faculty, staff and their families to receive urgent care to help employees avoid the emergency room after business hours.

“A large part of the health care strategy for the future is a focus on encouraging University employees and their families to receive health care from the Penn State Hershey Medical Group in State College and the Penn State Hershey Medical Center. Although details of the additional health plan options are not finalized, at least one plan will encourage the use of our own Hershey physicians and facilities,” said Susan Basso, vice president for Human Resources.

Complete details about the health plan choices will be released in late August in preparation for benefits open enrollment for 2014. Employees who have questions about this or any of the initiatives are encouraged to contact their human resources representatives, or to contact the Penn State Office of Human Resources at benefits@psu.edu or 814-865-1473.

Employees who are a part of the University’s Teamsters’ collective bargaining agreement will not see any health care benefit changes during the current contract term, which expires June 30, 2014.

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Last Updated August 22, 2013