After considerable opposition from UCSB faculty and staff about impending changes to their health insurance plans, an agreement between the University of California Office of the President and Sansum Clinic has been reached. In a two-day visit to UCSB, UC President Janet Napolitano announced Thursday that UCSB faculty and staff will be able to go to Sansum Clinic through UC Care’s Tier 1 plan.
UC officials announced plans to restructure health care options across the 10-campus system a couple of months ago, eliciting many vocal responses from UCSB employees. The changes eliminate existing Anthem plans and a Health Net HMO Plan and establishes UC Care, a three-tiered PPO plan, which seeks to make use of the five medical centers in the UC system. UCSB staff and faculty came together on two occasions for “town hall” hearings on campus to vocalize frustrations to visiting UC officials.
Employees were angry because UCSB does not have a medical center and negotiations with the two medical giants in Santa Barbara — Cottage Hospital and Sansum — seemed to be going noewhere. Now, after a recent agreement with Sansum, UCSB employees will be able to receive care at Sansum through the Tier 1 plan.
“This was the product of a good deal of pressure that was put on [Napolitano] and Peter Taylor and others at UCOP,” said Nelson Lichtenstein, president of the UCSB Faculty Association. “The chancellor was actively involved.” Nearly 300 faculty signed a petition to Napolitano earlier this month that claimed the new plan “creates serious disruption and expenses” for many UCSB employees who live in the area. Despite the recent agreement, their new policy will not be as good it was in the past, Lichtenstein explained, “but it’s a step in the right direction.”
“I am grateful for President Napolitano’s leadership in helping to ensure that UC Santa Barbara has a local, trusted Tier One provider as part of the UC Care plan option,” UCSB Chancellor Henry Yang said in a statement.
Some faculty and students are not as grateful for Napolitano as dozens gathered to protest during her low-profile visit to UCSB on Thursday and Friday. Close to 100 student and staff members demonstrated outside of the faculty club on Thursday afternoon, and about 40 people continued protesting on Friday.
Though he did not protest Napolitano’s visit, Lichtenstein is still skeptical of good will on the part of UC officials: “Had they failed to consult with Sansum earlier? And in the nature of the compromise, did UC have to put up extra money?”
Lichtenstein also reasoned Napolitano’s former high-profile position at the Department of Homeland Security and tough stance on immigration will ultimately benefit the entire university system. “[Napolitano’s] aware of the burden she carries coming to California,” Lichtenstein said. “Therefore this is the time to make a lot of demands on her.”