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Comments, Questions, and Suggestions on Proposed Benefits Changes

A peer comparison of costs of health plan features is available here

As of April 21, 2010, nearly 300 comments and questions were submitted to the Proposed Benefits Changes comments site.

The following is a sampling and summary of comments, questions, and suggestions.

Health Premium and Plans

  • “We are doing more work, without increased compensation, and now increased costs.”
  • “Instead of totally eliminating the opt-out payment, why not reduce it to $400, thereby still providing some incentive to use an outside plan?”
  • “Rather then have rates for single, employee plus one and family, base rates on a per person basis.”
  • “I believe that the deductibles that are being proposed 'being all the same 250/500/750' is very unfair. Someone here at Dartmouth that makes over $100,000 pays the same as someone making $35,000.”
  • “Last year's salary freeze and this benefit cut amount to a personal salary cut of several thousand dollars.”
  • “I do not have any complaints. I must applaud the college for doing all it can to prevent unnecessary layoffs. If telling me to pitch in and pay more toward my health care premiums and reduce the amount going into my retirement is going to help save jobs, then it's a small favor to ask.”
  • “What aren't the highest paid being asked to make more of a sacrifice?”
  • “There is a tacit and incorrect operating assumption that 'higher paid' Dartmouth employees can afford to absorb increased costs of premiums and out-of-pocket expenses better than 'lower paid' employees."
  • “I am strongly opposed to the elimination of the $800 opt-out reimbursement on health insurance. This is an overtly inequitable change in policy.”
  • It is not fair that employees who are on our insurance don’t get $800 to buy life insurance, dental, etc. On fairness alone it should be eliminated.
  • “The additional amount of out of pocket expenses is significant, at least for those in lower salary ranges.”
  • “The cost that we pay for health care now is a lot, and if we have to increase what we pay for premiums plus a higher deductible and a higher co-pay, I am not sure we could afford to do this.”
  • “Have you considered applying the $250 annual Crosby benefit for prescriptions, doctor visits, eye glasses, etc. toward the proposed monthly increases?”
  • “Salary level and FTE shouldn't be the only criteria. How about factoring in how many dependents have to be supported on that salary?”
  • Phase in the higher deductibles over two years.
  • “Have healthy lifestyle premium discounts been considered?”
  • “Instead of charging a $250 deductible for hourly employees who choose the Blue Choice option, have you thought about just taking away the $250 reimbursement account.”
  • “Why not adopt the same plans as available to hospital employees?”
  • Consider eliminating the annual $250 contribution to hourly employees’ FSA’s in order to minimize premium increases.
  • Freezing wages is more acceptable than increasing health care costs thru a changed plan design.
  • Higher out of pocket costs will discourage employees from seeking necessary medical care.
  • “The cost difference of the plan itself isn't a big change so its something that I think people could live with. The part that bothers me in the deductible amounts changing.”
  • The new plan design creates unfair financial burden for people with chronic conditions.
  • Can we get discounts on prescriptions filled at the DHMC pharmacy?
  • Consider adding a high deductible plan with a HSA.
  • “It would be greatly cost saving to include alternative health care providers in the plan. Acupuncture, homeopath, and naturopathic medicine are all far cheaper than office visits to traditional practitioners, and very often more effective.”
  • “Why are the proposed prescription drug co-pays substantially higher for mail order than retail under the new plan? Will one co-pay continue to cover a 3 month supply?”
  • “The increase was far smaller than I had feared, and I'm very grateful. That said, the increase in co-pays, particularly for prescriptions, is going to be a significant burden for me and presumably for many others.”
  • "To reduce benefits means that Dartmouth loses its advantage to attract and keep staff.”
  • “I am more in favor of expanded cost sharing and incremental co-pay increases, and wary of higher emergency room co-pay and the co-insurance element. I believe they can both be regrettable deterrents to accessing appropriate care. I favor expansive preventative care, as a benefit to health and long term cost containment.”
  • “The increases in premiums are tiny compared to the increased co-pays and deductibles in the Blue Choice Plan (in which I am currently enrolled).”
  • “I would be more willing to pay more out of my pay, pre-tax dollars, than higher co-pays and deductibles.”
  • “I think the CBC benefit proposal is very fair, and they should be commended for a terrific job.”
  • “How about providing an HSA so that we can save pre-tax money for the deductibles without losing it every year like we would in an FSA. Also, some college contribution to the HSA might help offset this huge price increase.”
  • “In at least one of the plans, might it not be better to raise the premiums and reduce (or eliminate) the deductible amount? Better to give us a choice or paying a higher premium or higher deductible.”
  • “Despite the added costs and reduced benefits, I believe the proposals are quite reasonable overall, given the gravity of the budget situation. The cuts are not huge, and they do seem equitable.”
  • “My preference would be to help Dartmouth's bottom line by taking a straight-up pay cut (from current levels) rather than a reduction in benefits.”
  • “I do not think it is fair that if I choose not to purchase medical benefits from Dartmouth you take away all of my flexdollars. I use that additional money to buy life insurance for my family, additional long term disability and to cover medical costs not covered by my other insurance coverage.”
  • “I think that people would be willing to pay a little more per month to avoid having a deductible, or if we have to have a deductible, pay a little more per month to keep the co-pays the same.”
  • “I am concerned about the increase in cost for name brand prescription medication.”
  • Much of the reason you wanted to work at Dartmouth was because of good benefits and generous vacation time including special break days. If we now have the low salary in addition to poorer benefits and vacations, it makes it more compelling to look elsewhere.
  • “Given that increased costs of the premium and co-pay, it would be nice if we could cash a portion (say a week or so) of our vacation time to help defer the additional costs.”
  • I fear that by cutting back on benefits, including retirement, the college will find themselves losing good and talented faculty and staff.
  • I think cutting employee benefits is a pretty stupid idea. It would be much better to continue to freeze salaries and/or to make layoffs than to cut benefits, especially retirement benefits. This is nickel and diming, and ultimately will likely erode our competitiveness and quality.

Retirement

  • Consider reducing contribution for employees age 35-39 to 9% rather than 7%. It is difficult for people in that age group to save money.
  • Consider leaving the retirement contribution for age 40+ at 10%. It is difficult for people in that age group to save for retirement.
  • Consider leaving the retirement contribution at 10% for age 60+.
  • “I would like to see a bell curve in which less money is put into the accounts of employees in their 20's, increased in the 30's and 40's and mildly declining in the 50's and 60's.”
  • I am uncomfortable with the change to 9% retirement, but at least can live with it knowing that it is being applied equally to all.
  • Lower the contribution for younger staff who will stay in the workforce longer and have longer to develop their retirement portfolio.
  • I would find it more affordable (especially given the past 2 years of little to no pay raise) to have a larger cut in the retirement contribution rather than such a substantial increase in the cost of medical benefits. Why not keep the 3% retirement contribution up to age 40 and then increase it to 5% for ages 40-55 and then increase to 7% max. That is still very generous, and employees can use an SRA to increase their retirement contributions.
  • ELIMINATE or reduce the 7% Special Benefit for Exempt Staff entirely--their salaries already generate higher retirement contributions.
  • Cap the salary (i.e. $125K) on which the college would make a retirement contribution.
  • The 7% benefit should be eliminated.
  • The 7% benefit should NOT be eliminated.
  • The College should keep the retirement contribution at 10% for faculty over 35.
  • Consider larger cut in retirement contributions in order to avoid some health care cost shifting.
  • No benefits changes should be made for employees over age 55.
  • Please do not assume that higher paid employees can afford these benefits changes.
  • “Perhaps the extra 7% given to exempt employees should be reduced or done away with completely.”
  • “I urge the CBC to consider leaving retirement contributions alone, and concentrate all of the necessary cuts on the health plan contributions.”
  • “Consider maintaining the 10% level for staff aged 60 and older as they will be on the payroll fewer years than younger employees.”
  • “Will retirement benefits return to present contributions once the economy and Dartmouth's economic situation recovers?”
  • “How about opening up some more investment options?”
  • Cut the 7% by 1% instead of the retirement contribution.
  • Generally many of us tolerate lower incomes at the college because there are other benefits that make up for it.
  • “I know that cuts have to be made. But I consider the 7% benefit to be a contractual obligation. It is something that I count on for the long-term and upon which I have been basing retirement planning.”
  • “I think there should be a grandfather clause instituted for long term employees.”
  • “Replacing a 1% of income retirement cut with a 1% of income increase in health care contributions would impose less harm on employees and save Dartmouth more money, due to being more payroll tax efficient.”
  • “By reducing retirement contributions, I fear you will not only reduce morale of current employees, but also make Dartmouth a less attractive place for future potential new employees to consider joining.”
  • These proposed benefits changes amount to a pay cut.
  • Will we remain competitive with peers?
  • Why are people on grants having to bear the same cost changes?
  • Consider instituting performance raises to help offset these new costs.

Other

  • “I would rather the college eliminate the 'winter break' than alter the current health care plans.”
  • “With the health care increases, it seems we should get raises? How can we absorb more costs for Dartmouth if Dartmouth continues to take more 'money' away from us.”
  • While minimizing layoffs is an admirable goal, the institution is better off, in the long run, eliminating the appropriate number of positions to achieve budget targets to avoid cutting the benefits and pay of those who might remain. It is better to lay off as required, enhance severance packages to accommodate those affected, and keep pay and benefits as level as possible.
  • “I understand your decision to eliminate the $800 payment to those who opt out of purchasing insurance was in part due to the fact that many of these payments were made to couples who BOTH work at Dartmouth... so they were 'double dipping'... getting the $800 AND getting their insurance through Dartmouth…did you consider eliminating this benefit ONLY for Dartmouth couples?”
  • “Are all of these measures temporary? If the endowment recovers, and the College regains its fiscal position, will these benefits be reinstated? Or is this seen as a permanent change?”
  • “Why not just forego salary increases for another year or two?"
  • “It would be much better to continue to freeze salaries and/or to make layoffs than to cut benefits, especially retirement benefits.”
  • “Maybe the college should put every employee at 37.5 hours across the board.”
  • “Please do not tamper with the 7% benefit. I, and many others I suspect, could not continue to live in the Upper Valley without it.”

Last Updated: 7/11/12