UM System employees object to proposed state health care plan

Monday, March 1, 2010 | 8:45 p.m. CST; updated 11:06 a.m. CST, Tuesday, March 2, 2010

*Sen. Ridgeway's first name is Luann. An earlier version of this article misstated her first name.

JEFFERSON CITY — Representatives from the University of Missouri System opposed legislation Monday that would consolidate all the state government employee health care plans.

Betsy Rodriquez, vice president of human resources for the UM System, said one of the system's main reasons for opposing the bill was the legislation's "involuntary nature." The system, along with the Transportation Department and Conservation Department, would be required to merge into the health care plan known as the Missouri Consolidated Health Care Plan.

"We don't want to be forced into a plan that would immediately raise premiums," she said.

Rodriguez said that in order for the four-campus system to remain competitive in attracting prospective employees, it must keep costs low. But if consolidated under the proposed plan, she said, those costs would rise.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau, said he didn't believe the system's claims. He doubted consolidating health care plans would raise costs. Officials from the UM System estimate the increase to be from $55 million to $62 million.

That estimate "defies simple logic," he said, because by merging administrative roles, costs would decrease. He said the UM System doesn't want to concede control. However, he said, because the system gets hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars, they should join the state employee health care plan.

"They want control over their little special systems, with their little special breaks, with their little special packages," he said. "It defies logic that then they should be able to just present to the General Assembly a bill for all of that."

A document presented by the system to the Senate Financial Committee reported that premiums are almost $100 lower for UM System employees than those under the state's health care plan. Rodriquez said they don't know why premiums are lower for the system compared to the state's, but they want to keep them that way.

Sen. Jim Lembke, R-St. Louis County, said the costs for state employees listed by the system's document looked high compared to what he's researched in the past about the current consolidated health care plan used by the state.

Sen. Luann Ridgeway*, R-Smithville, said she has her own doubts about the state's health care plan.

"The Missouri Consolidated Health Care Plan's health savings account is failing miserably," she said.

No one from the state's health care plan was present to testify at Monday's hearing, and no date for a vote on the bill has been set.

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