Bowdoin fights rising health care expenses
Despite rising health care costs in Maine, Bowdoin refused to give in to skyrocketing expenses without a strong commitment to the interests of all its employees covered by the College health insurance plan. The Human Resources Department, at the helm of the College's benefits coverage decision-making, took into account the over 700 employees who are under the Bowdoin plan when they decided to implement changes.
"It is standard that insurance rates go up each year," said Tama Spoerri, the Director of Human Resources. "We have worked hard to keep the percentage increase below the Maine trend of 18 to 20 percent for our employees. Through the changes we've made in our plan we've been able to keep the increase from last year within the range of 4 to 14 percent," Spoerri said.
"Health care costs are escalating everywhere. It's not unique to Bowdoin but it's particularly bad in Maine" said Bill Torrey, Senior Vice President for Planning and Development and chair of the Benefits Advisory Committee. The high costs in Maine lead many to term the state as gripped by a "health care cost crisis."
"From housekeepers to faculty to President Mills the costs are in essence the same for employees who elect to use the college's medical coverage," Spoerri said. "That's why we do work hard to manage our costs because for lesser paid employees it's a bigger expense."
"The contributing factors to the high costs in Maine are the high aging population and the lack of health care providers which makes prices less competitive," said Catherine Longley, treasurer of the College and former commissioner of the State Department of Professional and Financial regulation under Governor King.
"The college undertook a study by Mercer Human Resources Consulting to take a look at our medical benefits plan for a competitive analysis and advice on long-term management," said Spoerri. "This study found that by making design changes to the plan we would be able to reduce the amount of increase while enhancing the level of coverage."
"The elimination of the HMO aspect for full self-insurance by the college allows for new services to be provided while keeping costs below the state trend," said Professor Michael Jones of the Economics Department and member of the Benefits Advisory Committee.
"The new medical plan referred to as a point of service plan, or POS, replaces the old merger of HMO and PPO," said Spoerri, "and allows for flexibility to go out of network along with managed care through a primary care physician. The new plan maintains the medical and dental coverage of the former plan while enhancing mental health and vision coverage."
Longley said, "With respect to Bowdoin's plan, we've gone to great
lengths to contain costs without losing quality." The plan will be
implemented in January, 2003. "The trick with health insurance is
balancing cost and quality. Hopefully, we have accomplished that balance
for our employees," said Longley.