Health Care Task Force formed

November 18, 2013

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The University Faculty Senate passed a resolution in September that, among other things, called for the formation of a task force to "revise the administration’s ‘Take Care of Your Health’ initiative." After doing careful research to identify individuals that could best inform the group's work, President Rod Erickson and Brent Yarnal, chair of the Faculty Senate, formed the task force.

The task force, which received its official charge today (Nov. 18) consists of 13 people: six faculty, five administrators and two staff members. "Everyone on the committee has deep expertise in issues that are directly relevant to the committee's charge," Yarnal said. "They're all smart, thoughtful people that have shown time and again that they're really big contributors. I feel very positive about the task force and what it's going to accomplish."

Keith Crocker, William Elliott chaired professor of insurance and risk management in the Smeal College of Business, is the committee chair. Crocker is a former chair of the Joint Committee on Insurance and Benefits. One of his research interests has been the role of job attachment in the design of optimal employer-sponsored health insurance policies.

"The Task Force will examine the health-care alternatives facing the Penn State community and, in the process, consider both the costs to employees as well as the benefits to the University," said Crocker. "We will benchmark current practice at Penn State against our academic peers, examine the voluminous literatures on the efficacy of the potential programs, and consider the trends more broadly in the changing health-care landscape. Our goal is to provide a dispassionate analysis of the potential paths forward."

The committee has been charged to:

-- Benchmark health-care benefits programs, including those with wellness components, at peer public and private universities and major corporations, and identify key trends in future directions of healthcare benefits programs and planning.

-- Conduct a data- and science-based assessment of potential ways to reduce the rate of increase in Penn State’s health-care costs; benchmark peer university cost structures to assess the relative contributions of employer and employee, earnings-based contributions; the use and/or promotion of internal or external facilities and services; and possible ways to increase choice in healthcare coverage and price among covered employees and their dependents.

-- Explore the advantages and disadvantages of various kinds of programs, including employee wellness programs that could promote improved health quality of Penn State employees and their dependents.

-- Investigate ways to improve communication, understanding, consultation, transparency, and employee participation for current and future health-care programming and health-care benefits.

In addition, Yarnal said he would hope to see the group develop broad principles that the University can use in any future health-care benefits rollout.

The task force will present its findings to the Faculty Senate and Administration at the Senate’s April 29, 2014, meeting.

In addition to Crocker, the members of the committee are:

Martha Aynardi, director of Academic Support and Projects and senior lecturer at Penn State Berks. Aynardi is responsible for oversight of Career Services, the Learning Center, and Academic Advising. She is a biologist and current chair of the Joint Committee on Insurance and Benefits and former Chair of the Senate Committee on Faculty Benefits.

Jo Anne Carrick, coordinator of the Nursing Program and assistant professor of nursing at Penn State Erie. Carrick is responsible for coordination and management of the associate degree in nursing. She is a registered nurse and current vice chair of the Senate Committee on Faculty Benefits.

Joe Doncsecz, associate vice president for Finance and corporate controller. He is responsible for oversight of the University’s system of internal controls, facilitation of all external financial and accounting control audits, and leadership of the University’s cash, debt and risk management functions.

John Harwood, associate vice provost for Information Technology, and associate professor of information sciences and technology and English. His administrative focus is on strategic planning and the assessment of information technology at Penn State.
Susan Johnson, manager of planning and operations in the College of the Liberal Arts. She has responsibility for strategic planning and a broad range of college operations, and a background in financial services and health-care sectors.

Robin Oswald, director of the Employee Benefits Division in the Office of Human Resources. Her responsibilities include development, recommendation and implementation of University-wide strategic benefit initiatives for faculty and staff including employer-funded and voluntary benefits, retirement, workers' compensation, absence management, health initiatives, educational benefits, and occupational medicine.

Dennis Scanlon, professor of health policy and administration in the College of Health and Human Development. His research interests include consumer information and health care markets, health insurance and HMO plan performance, measurement of quality.

Rachel E. Smith, University budget officer. Her responsibilities include assisting the president and the Budget Task Force in developing, implementing, monitoring and controlling the University’s annual operating budget; support for strategic planning efforts; and presentation of institutional data for various analyses and reports.

S. Shyam Sundar, distinguished professor of communications and communications arts and sciences. He is co-director of the Media Effects Research Laboratory and specializes in advertising, public relations, and media studies. One of his many interests is health communication.

Jeremy Warner, security and facility manager at the Palmer Museum of Art. He is chair of the University’s Staff Advisory Council, which acts in an advisory capacity to the administration; explores issues, policies, and practices that impact staff; suggests revisions to policies and new initiatives, and advocates for staff welfare and development.

Carol Weisman, distinguished professor of public health sciences and obstetrics and gynecology at the College of Medicine, with a joint appointment in the Department of Health Policy and Administration in the College of Health and Human Development. She also is associate dean for faculty affairs in the College of Medicine. She is a sociologist and health services researcher.

Robin Wittenstein, director and chief operating officer of the Penn State Hershey Health System. She oversees Penn State Hershey’s network of clinical and academic affiliate hospitals across central Pennsylvania as well as the Health System’s interests in the Pennsylvania Psychiatric Institute, Penn State Hershey Rehabilitation Hospital, Hershey Outpatient Surgical Center, Hershey Endoscopy Center, and other collaborative, health-related ventures.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated November 18, 2013