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Mills switches health care plans for faculty and staff

Starting Jan. 1, Blue Shield will be the only health care plan available to Mills College’s staff and faculty.

Throughout the month of October, the Mills administration worked to find a solution to lower health care costs for the College.  On Nov. 2, faculty and staff were informed by email that Kaiser Permanente would be replaced with Blue Cross Blue Shield. Eighty percent of Mills faculty and staff currently use Kaiser as their health insurance.

President Elizabeth Hillman says this decision is meant to address what was unsustainable in the College’s budget. The aim of switching to Blue Cross Blue Shield would be to reduce costs for employees and would reportedly save around $400,000.

“Healthcare costs are a big issue for every organization and they’re definitely an issue in higher education,” Hillman said. “Mills has been looking for some time for different options to our employees so we can continue to offer great benefits and hold down the costs for employees and Mills itself.”

Kaiser, being a not-for-profit healthcare provider, requires that a patient have Kaiser’s health insurance plan in order to have access to their facilities and doctors. The switch to Blue Cross Blue Shield means that faculty and staff who have steady doctors or healthcare at any Kaiser facilities will be unable to continue their original plan and will need to find other options.

Faculty and staff had a variety of reactions to the news, ranging from relief at lower healthcare costs to uncertainty about having to find new care. While the administration says they informed faculty and staff within the same week as the decision to switch healthcare providers, Hillman acknowledges that this was not an easy choice to make.

“Our employees are our greatest asset,” Hillman said. “People’s health care comes first. This is a really intimate, powerful thing to have changed.”

According to Hillman, a session was held on Nov. 3 for staff and faculty to come ask questions about their upcoming healthcare changes.  More sessions will be held in the future to help the transition along.

Andrew Flores, government professor, sympathizes with those who need coverage assistance, but is not necessarily affected by the switch.

“My infrequent use of the benefits makes it less consequential, but the quickness of the decision was shocking,” Flores said.

At an ASMC open forum meeting on Nov. 21, the faculty advisor for ASMC from the Mills Student Health clinic said the administration is looking into possibly changing the student health plans, saying they are hoping to make the healthcare more inclusive for undocumented students in light of the presidential election.

More updates will come from The Campanil as they become available.