President Knapp: University Will Work to Limit Increase to Employee Health Premiums

At Benefits Advisory Committee meeting, GW president responds to short-term recommendations outlined by Benefits Task Force.

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June 11, 2015

George Washington President Steven Knapp discussed the short-term recommendations released last month by the Benefits Task Force at a meeting of the Benefits Advisory Committee (BAC) Tuesday.

“We are committed to acting on the task force’s main short-term recommendation, to keep the premium increase at or close to an average of 3 percent for employees,” Dr. Knapp said. “Our Human Resources and Benefits teams will be working with the Benefits Advisory Committee to figure out how to keep employee health insurance premiums increases as low as possible.”

The BAC is a standing committee of faculty and staff charged with providing ongoing feedback to the university’s Human Resources and Benefits Administration.

Created in January to review the three major categories of GW benefits—health, retirement and tuition—and compare the benefits with those offered by peer institutions, the Benefits Task Force was charged with developing both short- and long-term recommendations to present to the BAC. The short-term report, released May 1, outlined recommendations to limit shifting a disproportionate amount of health insurance premium costs to employees. It also recommended restoring tuition benefits this summer to 2014 levels for employees enrolled in a formal degree or certificate program prior to Jan. 1.

Last year the BAC recommended that the tuition remission benefit be reduced to help lessen premium increases in 2015. In making the change, GW reallocated about $750,000 from its tuition benefit to its health plan benefit.

“The administration accepted the recommendation of the BAC, which was proposed to keep increases at about 4 percent,” Dr. Knapp said. “We believe the tuition benefit as we now offer it remains competitive with similar programs elsewhere. The money we saved by accepting this recommendation has been spent. I now regard this matter as closed, and I propose that we concentrate our efforts on what most affects the employee population namely, the rising cost of health care.”

Dr. Knapp announced that Forrest Maltzman, senior vice provost for academic affairs and planning, would be added to the task force replacing Paula Lantz, chair of the Department of Health Policy in the Milken Institute School of Public Health, who will be returning to the University of Michigan. Dr. Knapp also offered guiding principles for the task force as it completes its long-term recommendations.

The approach, he said, must be sustainable and ensure that the university’s benefits are affordable for all employees. He said he would not support recommendations that discriminate on benefits between faculty and staff.

“Above all, we want our plans to be competitive so that we can attract and retain the best possible faculty and staff,” he said. “In the same way that we have targets for salary based on our percentile standing vis-à-vis comparable institutions, I would like to see us develop similar targets for our benefits program. It would be great if we could use the same institutions for each comparison.”  

Dr. Knapp also highlighted his request that the chairs of the task force work with University Human Resources to develop a peer group to benchmark salary, retirement, tuition, health and per student endowment.

The long-term recommendations, he added, should enable the university to address future increases in health-care costs.

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President Knapp Names Members of Benefits Task Force

January 14, 2015
Group includes six faculty members, six staff representatives and a medical resident.

President Knapp Names Co-Chairs of Benefits Task Force

January 09, 2015
Sara Rosenbaum, Erica Hayton will lead faculty and staff representatives to examine benefits.