Nearly three hundred ladder faculty at the University of California, Santa Barbara have signed a petition to Janet Napolitano, the newly selected UC president, declaring that the University’s new health insurance plan “creates serious disruption and expense” for many UC employees who live in or near Santa Barbara.
The petition, sponsored by the UCSB Faculty Association, calls upon President Napolitano and the Regents “to insure that those of us in the UCSB community are treated with equity and fairness when it comes to our health care choices and expenditures.” Another petition, sponsored by the UCSB Academic Senate and also distributed by the UCSB Staff Association, collected 853 faculty and staff signatures. In an e-mail to top UC administrators, Academic Senate Chair Kum-Kum Bhavnani wrote, “it is now evident that the campus faculty and staff are deeply disturbed that the new health plan is not living up to the fundamental principles of access for all and broad coverage.”
The University of California has recently announced a comprehensive restructuring of health care options for its employees. The most significant change is that the University had ended its contract with Anthem Blue Cross and in its place created a new insurance vehicle, UC Care, designed to make better use of UC’s set of five medical hospitals. But Santa Barbara lacks a UC medical facility and University negotiators have been unable to reach an agreement with Santa Barbara’s Cottage Hospital or with either of the two major physician groups on the South Coast, so that UCSB employees can make use of their facilities without paying the much higher costs associated with out of network or “Tier 2” health plans. UC officials claim that the cost of equivalent health insurance in Santa Barbara would be prohibitive.
“Many of us in the UCSB community believe that top University administrators have left us out in the cold when it comes to quality health insurance,” said Nelson Lichtenstein, President of the Faculty Association. “At the heart of all insurance lies the pooling of risk and the relative equalization of premiums and other expenses. The University of California should adhere to these principles in its administration of the new UC Care insurance plan.”
University faculty and staff will have the opportunity to make clear their concerns to top UC officials at a November 7 Town Hall in Corwin Pavilion. There Peter J. Taylor, the Chief Financial Officer in UC’s Office of the President and John D. Stobo, Senior Vice President, Health Sciences and Services are expected to defend the new health care changes and field questions. Sponsored by UCSB’s Human Resources Department and the Staff Assembly, the town hall is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. in Corwin with a second session scheduled for 1 p.m.