On January 1, 2022, the College will switch health insurance providers for College employees from Anthem to Cigna. The College has been with Anthem since 2003.
Working in collaboration with outside consultants, the administration sent out a request for a proposal (RFP) this past Spring 2021, comparing plans to see which would be best for the College. Included in this research and decision making process were Vice President for Human Resources Tama Spoerri, Assistant Director of Benefits and Absence Management Mary Cote, along with a team of consultants at Cross Insurance.
“The goal for an RFP is not to find the lowest price, it’s to get the best price possible for the best solution. That was the motivation in the Spring, and we were pleasantly surprised by what Cigna brought to the table,” Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration and Treasurer Matt Orlando said.
This “best solution,” brought to the table by Cigna, was chosen over the many others for four clear differentiators.
“The differentiators for us [were] the interest of Cigna of expanding in Maine, the transition team they assigned to make sure our implementation was going to be smooth, the commitments they made to ensure continuity of care, the technology that our employees will be able to take advantage of, either on the mobile app or on the web and the 24/7 customer care,” Orlando said.
When the College released its decision to make this change to staff and faculty on September 22, some responded with questions about mental health providers along with concerns with the transition between networks.
“Anytime you make a large change like that there’s going to be some feedback,” Orlando said. “We were paying close attention to that throughout the negotiations and made sure we had commitments from Cigna that at least for the first six months, if someone’s mental health provider is not in their network, they will be treated as such, and then [patients can] use that time to enroll the provider into the Cigna network.”
According to Orlando, Cigna is pledging to match the number of mental healthcare providers available through Anthem.
“They’ve more than doubled their healthcare providers in-network nationwide over the last five years, and they are aggressively expanding in Maine,” Orlando said.
Recently, there have been a number of claims that Anthem is downcoding mental health reimbursements, leading to reduced payments for providers and an increase in these providers taking their care out of network.
“We’re catching Cigna going the other way, which is that they’re looking to expand … We’re doing everything that we can to make sure that Cigna’s got a robust network for our employees, and they’re really working closely with us on that,” Orlando said. “I can say very comfortably that we did our homework on this one, and Cigna’s the best solution for the College going forward.”
The College also has a benefits advisory on campus, composed of Associate Professor of History Meghan Roberts and Associate Professor of Economics Matthew Botsch, that aimed to add faculty perspective to the transition process.
Professor Botsch has assumed his position on the committee this fall. While he was not involved in the decision-making around this switch that took place last year, he has been a part of the move toward implementation.
“My role this year has largely been to help HR think about how to communicate changes with all of the College employees so that everybody knows what’s going on,” Botsch said.
Roberts and Botsch met with administrators about the shift to come together and work toward this goal.
“It was a collaborative process where we tried to inform everybody about what was changing this year and how that affects them,” Botsch said.
The College had not originally planned to make the shift, but the choice became clear after its research of various plans and providers.
“I wasn’t expecting to have to make a change. It’s always a good practice once you’ve been with the same provider for a number of years to just refresh and have a competitive bid process so that’s what we did here and we were just pleasantly surprised to see what Cigna was willing to do for Bowdoin,” Orlando said.