ACU’s Human Resources office finalized health insurance policies with Hendrick Health System which went into affect Feb. 1.
This year the university changed its healthcare plan to a cost plus model and Private Healthcare Systems (PCHS) network. The new system allows ACU to create its own insurance plan by negotiating with healthcare providers.
Chief human resources officer, Wendy Jones, said Hendrick and ACU agreed on up-front percentages that ACU will pay when employees are treated at the hospital. Those negotiations did not take long because Hendrick is locally owned, but Jones said ACU is still negotiating with Abilene Regional Medical Center because the hospital is part of a corporation.
“The process had to be afforded appropriate time for due diligence, but none of the parties involved in this process from hospitals, carriers, outside legal counsel, or our own team internally has caused any delays,” Jones said. “In fact, the timely discussions throughout has contributed to the conversation remaining positive and working toward a favorable result for everyone involved.”
ACU has used three different healthcare providers during the last three years. In 2014, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas was the provided plan. In 2015, ACU used the CIGNA plan but Jones said the university would have had to pay $1 million more to continue using that plan this year.
“There’s nothing to say that wouldn’t happen again in ’17 or ’18,” Jones said. “So that’s why we flipped to doing something so different and some might call it drastic. But our hope is to try to stabilize cost for both the university and our employees.”
In regular health insurance models, healthcare providers set retail prices higher than the actual cost of care then offer discounts. The cost plus methodology flips this order and allows the insurance provider to pay a baseline price plus a negotiated fee.
Jones said this system is controversial for some doctors and hospitals because it changes how they do business. It’s also sometimes difficult for the employees.
“It can be uncomfortable to go to the doctor and have no idea what you’re going to owe,” Jones said.
Jones said at first the new plan created additional steps for those who needed surgery, but now the agreement with Hendrick will alleviate those extra steps in the process.
Employers in 31 cities in the DFW area and the North Texas Co-op already adopted this system, but ACU will be the first employer in Abilene to use the system.
Dena Counts, director of the speaking center, said she went to a doctor’s office on Jan. 1, the day the new insurance program went into effect and she did not have any issues with the new system. She said each time the plan changes she has to learn which doctors and providers are covered by the new plans.
“The human resources office has done an excellent job of communicating how to do things,” Counts said.
Counts also said she understands issues with the economy and rising prices of healthcare can make it hard for ACU to choose a plan.
“Everybody’s going to have higher values in a different area,” Counts said. “You can’t make everybody happy.”