University's health, dental insurance providers to change in 2019

by Melissa Lee, University of Nebraska | May 16, 2018

Following a comprehensive review of its benefits plan and vendors, the University of Nebraska has selected new carriers for health and dental insurance beginning Jan. 1, 2019.

Pending approval of the Board of Regents at its June 28 meeting, the university's health insurance carrier will change from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska to UMR, a United Healthcare company. The university's dental insurance carrier will change from Blue Cross to Ameritas. CVS Health will continue to provide pharmacy insurance.

The changes are expected to cause minimal disruption, NU Associate Vice President for Human Resources Bruce Currin said in an email message to all faculty and staff Tuesday. Employee health and dental premiums will not go up in 2019, and no significant changes in the university's benefits plan design, including deductibles and copayments, are expected.

Additionally, the new networks of health and dental providers are virtually identical to the current networks. About 96 percent of health providers used by university employees and their families last year were in the UMR (United) network, compared to 98 percent for Blue Cross and Blue Shield. Two-thirds of dental providers used last year were in the Ameritas network - the same share that were in the Blue Cross network. Both United and Ameritas will consider adding providers to their network to minimize the chances of any employee having to find a new doctor or dentist, and both would assist employees in finding new providers if necessary.

Currin praised the work of the 15-member committee representing faculty, staff and administration from all four campuses that guided the months-long benefits review process. With the help of an outside consultant, Gallagher, the committee conducted a competitive Request for Proposals, evaluating bids from multiple vendors based on a range of factors.

"Our goal throughout our review was to make certain we had a benefits plan that's both competitive and cost-effective for employees and their families," Currin said, noting that the insurance carriers going forward were unanimously recommended by the benefits committee, and supported by President Hank Bounds and the NU chancellors, for both financial and non-financial reasons.

With the new carriers, the university will save an estimated $12.3 million annually, including $6 million in state-aided savings. Those savings are one reason that employee health and dental premiums will not go up next year. Equally important, he said, the providers were chosen based on factors like excellence in customer care, proximity of network providers, and timeliness of claims processing.

The benefits committee is currently reviewing the university's plan design. While major changes are not planned, any enhancements would be communicated to employees prior to the university's annual NUFlex benefits enrollment period, which begins in October.

The comprehensive benefits review was among the strategies announced last fall as part of the university-wide Budget Response Team process.

Currin noted that NU Human Resources, together with the university's insurance carriers, will host outreach efforts on each campus this fall to provide more information and answer questions. In the meantime, he encouraged faculty and staff to contact their campus benefits office with questions:


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May 17, 2018 at 8:21 AM

I do hope UHC is as easy to work with as BCBS when Nebraska Med consistently sends in claims under workman's comp when the claim should not be - BCBS is very good about getting it fixed right away - I know this is a Nebraska Med issue and not a insurance issue but BCBS has always been very easy to work with. Would also hate to see our insurance turn out to be like Nebraska Med coverage and increase our out of pocket costs to the point they are not affordable. I do understand that the budget is very tight but cost savings should not be the only factor.

May 16, 2018 at 9:01 PM

A better prescription coverage could be needed instead of CVS. CVS deductible is way too high. How much consideration was given for the employees point instead of cost saving measures for the system? Seems like none. No consideration of what this is going to cost the employee for out of pocket expenses was ever given.

Robin Jaeckel
May 16, 2018 at 9:41 AM

Where will the details be posted so we can know our coverage compared to what is covered now? For example procedures, labs; dental - braces, extractions.

May 16, 2018 at 9:26 AM

There is a reason there is 12.3 million dollar savings annually, and I am sure it comes at the expense of the employee and what is covered and what deductibles and out of pocket expenses look like. As the mother of a sick child, this is absolutely terrifying. If it is anything like Nebraska Medicine plans, we wont be able to afford our reasonable house payment after paying the 20% out of pocket that that they have to pay if going to Children's hospital. What a shame that the budget cuts have to come at the expense of the employees who get very minimal yearly raises. Many farming wives in the state of Nebraska or Iowa go to work to provide healthcare for their families, especially since Obamacare is UNAFFORDABLE for them. I am very worried.

May 16, 2018 at 9:19 AM

The reviews are certainly disconcerting. But then, people with complaints are often the ones to take time to post. That being said, the issues covered individuals are identifying are very concerning. I do hope the committee did its due diligence beyond the dollars saved. In the past, United Healthcare at UNMC was less than stellar to the point that employees were directed away from them.

Harold Schultz
May 16, 2018 at 8:20 AM

I guess the committee neglected to search reviews: