UCSB's Town Hall Forum on health care brought unwelcome news of more limited health-care choices for employees.

Peter Vandenbelt

UCSB's Town Hall Forum on health care brought unwelcome news of more limited health-care choices for employees.

UC (Doesn’t) Care

Monday, October 14, 2013
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The Affordable Care Act may be aimed mainly at people not covered by employee insurance, but even those who are covered can’t relax. Imagine if your employer’s “coverage” was only good for doctors and hospitals 40 miles away or more. That’s what many people at UCSB — the largest employer in Santa Barbara County — will face if UC administrators get their way.

The UC Office of the President (UCOP) has recently announced a comprehensive restructuring of health-care options offered to UC employees. The most significant change is that all Anthem plans have been dropped, to be replaced by UC Care, a three-“tier” plan in theory, but not in Santa Barbara. One of the advantages of Anthem PPO was its flexibility; it could be used for both in- and out-of-network providers and internationally as well as locally. Now, neither of the two major physician groups in our area — Sansum Clinic and Santa Barbara Select IPA (Independent Physican Association) — will furnish network providers for Tier 1; Cottage Hospital has not signed on either. The nearest providers will be in Lompoc and Ventura! Using the UC Care plan on Tier 2, which will be available locally, patients will have to pay 20 percent of all costs, including tests and hospitalization. So, depending on the services needed, our medical expenses could be many times greater. Patients will have to pay 50 percent of all costs for out-of-network providers. Originally, four other campuses were in similar situations, but the system-wide UC Faculty Welfare committee protested, and agreements were eventually reached with local providers for those campuses. We now remain the only campus without equal access to UC health-plan options.

At least 750 employees — not just faculty but all levels of support staff, from lab technicians to maintenance workers — and their families will be affected. The result will not just be extreme inconvenience, but hardship, especially for those with small children or for older people with reduced mobility. To those with serious conditions — some of whom I know personally — the new arrangement actually poses an outright and urgent danger.

That UCOP would essentially abandon the employees of UCSB to such an unacceptable set of options is a gross abdication of responsibility. The plans were hatched and developed in the furtive manner typical of large-scale initiatives undertaken during the regime of outgoing President Mark Yudof. Consultation with individual campuses seems to have been minimal, and those in the know were told not to share information with the faculty at large or other employees. Since negotiations with Santa Barbara providers dragged on, the UCSB community did not begin to find out until a few weeks ago, and the official announcement was made only on October 1. Since the new system will take effect on January 1, and the enrollment period, which begins October 28, lasts until the end of November, faculty and staff will have only a few weeks to find new doctors and make other necessary arrangements.

Yet because the negotiations were conducted behind closed doors, it is hard to tell which side bears a greater share of the blame: UCOP claims that the local providers are demanding too much in the way of compensation; the providers insist that UCOP is not offering enough. UCSB Chancellor Henry Yang, who was only informed of the details a few weeks ago, has since gone directly to the new president of the UC system, Janet Napolitano, to insist that health care is now the most urgent and important issue facing our campus; he has also made personal appeals, without success, to the management of the local medical groups and Cottage Hospital, urging them to reach an agreement with the university. The suspicion has even arisen that UCOP does not want negotiations to succeed because its ultimate goal is to have the UCLA Medical Center open a clinic in Santa Barbara: if that is the case, then UCSB employees are being callously — even cruelly — used as pawns in a profit-making venture.

For decades, one of the best things about working at the University of California was the set of options available for health care. These benefits have become increasingly important in the last 20 years or so: Not only have medical costs risen dauntingly, but UC salaries have steadily declined in relation to those at comparable institutions. Many of us have been disappointed that our salaries have not kept pace with those of our colleagues elsewhere — and some have jumped ship, weakening the quality of the teaching the university offers and the research it conducts — but one of our consolations has been that the value of our health-care benefits compensate in some measure for that decline. Now, for those of us at UCSB, those benefits, too, are under attack.

This issue should be of concern to the entire Santa Barbara community: UCSB is not only the largest employer in the area, it is a vital component of the local economy. Neither the UC system, on the one hand, nor the local health-care providers, on the other, should be willing to leave so many of the people they either employ or claim to serve without something as fundamental as accessible health care.


Independent Discussion Guidelines

If you voted for Obama you deserve what you won't get. Yeah the chickens are comin' home to roost.

maximum (anonymous profile)
October 14, 2013 at 1:58 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Welcome to the real world UCSB employees. It is pretty ridiculous with the outrageous tuition they charge that they can't take better care of their own. Oh well as long as those new state of the art buildings keep going up 4 stories, all is good right?

bimboteskie (anonymous profile)
October 14, 2013 at 6:21 a.m. (Suggest removal)

You and your lib-dem brethren are now reaping what you've sewn. Good luck!

After all the group-think nods and agreement over clinking wine glasses, you and your fellow lib-dem faculty members are finally feeling a tiny portion of the chaos and damage that you've voted and spoken support for. Your feel-good and self-serving conversation and ideals have run headlong into reality.

The worst is not the situation you describe in your letter though. Far from it. The worst is the chaos and destruction you have wrought on the working poor who are being fired or having their full time jobs reduced to part time - or the largest tax increase levied on the middle class *in history* to pay for massive government bureaucracy expansion with no fair or viable way to control health care costs.

Congratulations! You've finally done it! Now go back to writing endless essays or scientific study results that no one reads or cares about while student who need you in the classroom pay massive tuition to be taught by your underlings and TAs.

willy88 (anonymous profile)
October 14, 2013 at 7:58 a.m. (Suggest removal)


JohnLocke (anonymous profile)
October 14, 2013 at 8:37 a.m. (Suggest removal)

JohnLocke is Right. I too see a clear nexus between campus building heights and health insurance rates demanded by the Cottage Monopoly.

John_Adams (anonymous profile)
October 14, 2013 at 9:44 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I had no idea some of y'all flunked english 101: comprehension. Story actually has nothing to do with the ACA other than the author's bad judgement of mentioning it at the start. Read the 1st sentence of the 2nd paragraph, hopefully then you will be enlightened. If not, there's always pink skies and flying pigs to go back to.

spacey (anonymous profile)
October 14, 2013 at 1:27 p.m. (Suggest removal)

The Affordable Care Act has no relation to this issue and anyone who thinks it does has a "bumper sticker" view of the world. But that is besides the point as facts seem to interfere with the Tea Party types "righteous anger".

The writer of this opinion piece also shows complete ignorance of how health insurance and health care costs work. Cottage Hospital and Sansum are a monopoly and charge almost 40%-50% more for the same procedures (look it up on any 3rd party health care cost comparison site, even the Centers for Medicare shows it). You cannot have "cheap" health insurance and have expensive services - that is the way the world works. If the true cost were charged in premiums then the UCSB faculty would be up in arms how expensive premiums are - so they have a choice. Drive 25-30 miles to Ventura or even a little further; or take what you call Tier 2 insurance.

For too long people want to pay e.g. $10,000 a year in premiums and demand $20,000 in services. Put pressure on Sansum and Cottage as these 2 "non-profits" is what is making health insurance un-affordable in Santa Barbara. I know how hospitals and places like Sansum work as I have worked on the financial side of this industry for over 30 years

And just throw a little factoid to the the Tea Party types - The Affordable Care Act holds health insurers accountable (all PRIVATE SECTOR companies) to consumers and ensures that subscribers receive value for their health insurance premium dollars . One such mechanism is the 80/20 rule, or Medical Loss Ratio (MLR) rule. This rule requires that the spend $0.80 ($0.85 for large employer plans like UCSB) of every $1 collected, on healthcare. Prior to this there was no law and they could spend 50% on healthcare and 50% on "admin fees". I am sorry that facts sometimes do get in the way of the Fox News slogans.

historypete (anonymous profile)
October 14, 2013 at 2:14 p.m. (Suggest removal)

^^ lol @ the 2 posts above saying ACA has no relation to rising health care costs....

That is entirely incorrect, if you don't think there is a relation between ACA and rising prices in health care then you don't understand how the medical industrial complex works.

We haven't had any competition in our health care industry since the 1970s. In the 1970s congress decided that we needed to have more people with health insurance - so they started at the top and decided to give a HUGE tax incentive to large companies who offered health insurance believing that would put a dent in the 'problem'. Well, what they did was create a much bigger 'problem', which is the one we have today.. If you lose your job, you lose your health insurance and when you re-apply you may have a pre-existing condition. This would never happen if health insurance didn't come along with the job. There is no "market" for health insurance. You choose your job based on your skills and qualifications and the total salary offered, which already includes health care. So you get your job and you get the insurance you get. Then your insurance company gives you a list of doctors and tells you your copay. There is no "market" for doctors and services. You go in and they give you the care you need, fill out any prescriptions and you go down and pick them up and pay the copay. There is no incentive for you to factor in different pricing for different doctors and services, so there is no market and the industry then creates the prices as a monopoly supplier would.

Competition would mean you would first choose your insurance plan that works best for you based on your health, premiums, copays, your choice of doctors, etc. Then you choose your doctor and your treatments based on qualifications and cost. So much is missing from that equation that the medical industrial complex gets to create all of the pricing and the insurance companies pay it. I believe health care is inflated at 3-4 times the cost it would be if we had a market for health care. I believe if we abolished the FDA and got rid of the AMA and physician licensing, the competitiveness of alternative medicine and treatment options would expand and become less expensive, health care may ultimately be 10% of the cost it is today.

loonpt (anonymous profile)
October 14, 2013 at 4:52 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Oh, is that what I wrote? Better read it again to make sure. You been reading too much of that conspiracy stuff loonpt. It's having an effect on your reading comprehension.

spacey (anonymous profile)
October 15, 2013 at 1:41 p.m. (Suggest removal)

loonpt (anonymous profile)
October 15, 2013 at 3:47 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Smoke cigs? Get ready for government agents to force their way into your home and give you a lecture straight from Uncle Sam.

loonpt (anonymous profile)
October 15, 2013 at 3:52 p.m. (Suggest removal)

a) Did you miss this comment:

"Not only can you almost certainly get a better plan through the exchange, you will likely get subsidies that will lower your premiums still further.

What you are experiencing here is not "Obamacare," but private individual health insurance -- which is nearly always the biggest "sucker's game" in the business. "

b) Politifact: Obamacare provision will allow "forced home inspections" by government agents. PANTS ON FIRE
What bloggers describe would be an egregious abuse of the law — not what’s allowed by it. We rate the claim Pants on Fire.

Loonpt - you need a nanny.

tabatha (anonymous profile)
October 15, 2013 at 5:27 p.m. (Suggest removal)

willy -

This medical program was devised by the UC Office of the President (UCOP) - has NOTHING to do with AHA - has NOTHING to do with AHA.


" UCSB Chancellor Henry Yang, who was only informed of the details a few weeks ago, has since gone directly to the new president of the UC system, Janet Napolitano, to insist that health care is now the most urgent and important issue facing our campus; he has also made personal appeals, without success, to the management of the local medical groups and Cottage Hospital, urging them to reach an agreement with the university. The suspicion has even arisen that UCOP does not want negotiations to succeed because its ultimate goal is to have the UCLA Medical Center open a clinic in Santa Barbara: if that is the case, then UCSB employees are being callously — even cruelly — used as pawns in a profit-making venture."

tabatha (anonymous profile)
October 15, 2013 at 5:44 p.m. (Suggest removal)

tabatha, you seem to be operating under the assumption that there are currently no egregious abuses of the law by government.

loonpt (anonymous profile)
October 16, 2013 at 11:24 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Small government advocates have been saying for years that Obamacare was going to raise everybody's health insurance rates drastically. Now that it is happening, it entertains me to no end that some people are literally SCREAMING that the egregious health increases that are coming on the heals of the implementation of Obamacare "have nothing to do with ACA".

loonpt (anonymous profile)
October 16, 2013 at 11:27 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I'm actually lucky, my company's rates were negotiated a few months ago and stayed the same this year - but I'm expecting them to double next year - at which point in time I will be dropping my health insurance. I will refuse to pay the fine as no doubt many other will and will just have to pray to God, Allah and Shiva I don't get injured as I don't expect to get sick and am not a big believer in most of the 'cures' from the medical industrial complex. They do have remarkable care for injuries, but I refuse to participate in this scam.

You used to be able to buy relatively inexpensive catastrophic coverage in case of unexpected major injury or illness. That is no longer available on the private market. Pooooof. Vanished. ACA makes these illegal to sell. Thanks a lot.

loonpt (anonymous profile)
October 16, 2013 at 11:38 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Wow, what a bunch of through-the-looking-glass comments. So many people wearing tin hats, checking for commies under their bed, and taking out the binocs to look for the black helicopters.

The UCSB health situation has absolutely nothing to do with the Affordable Care Act. Most of the UC system does not face the price increases that UCSB is facing. If it were ACA, the whole system would feel it. ACA is a federal law after all.

ACA might well be expensive because it originates in the Republican-leaning Heritage Foundation. If we wanted a fair, affordable health care system we'd do what, say, Germany, France, or Canada does... Canada has way, way, lower overhead (about 1%) than the US system (31%). And the denial of care by bureaucrats is far more frequent in the US system than those systems. And the US has worse health outcomes... infant mortality, life expectancy, etc than those countries.

The US healthcare system is very expensive for really crappy performance.

Who knows why UCSB is getting the shaft in the current UC health care revisions. Could be bad performance on either UC Office of the President or on the part of Cottage or Sansum. It is not ACA, period.

snugspout (anonymous profile)
October 18, 2013 at 7:32 a.m. (Suggest removal)

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