Like most U.S. employers, Lincoln University's health insurance costs are going up. LU curators on Friday OK'd a new contract with United Healthcare to provide employees with three different insurance options. And the curators agreed to pay an additional $38.63 per employee, per month, for all employees' basic premium costs - which will be $420.63 for each employee, each month. "Employees who want more (coverage) would pay the difference," James Marcantonio, LU's director of human resources, told the board.
A premium increase was not a complete surprise, he said: "They paid out more (in expenses) than we paid in in premiums."
LU employees made insurance claims at a higher-than-expected rate, and the policies also covered "seven high-claims risks."
That's "something that you can't control," Marcantonio said.
But curators don't know yet how they'll pay for their increased expenses.
Vice President Curtis Creagh asked the board to approve the insurance changes, then give administrators time to find money to cover the increased costs.
"My cabinet colleagues will have to get busy and find the money," he said.
Curator Iris Ferguson worried students would have to pay higher costs to meet the need.
LU President Carolyn Mahoney told a reporter Lincoln will join the University of Missouri and other state schools in considering tuition increases for the 2011-12 school year, but not because of the insurance changes.
For the past two years, budget agreements with Gov. Jay Nixon resulted in tuition freezes in exchange for steady or near-steady state funding.
But, Mahoney said, the schools can't continue the tuition freezes - especially if the state's continuing budget crunch means less state money to the higher education budget.
"We are certainly, right now, very busily assessing what we can expect in revenues, and what we can expect in expenses over and above the current year," she explained, "and trying to wonder about what the support will be from the General Assembly - and then conjecture what the size of that tuition increase might be.
"And we are not ready to make any guesses about the magnitude."
A state law restricts tuition increases to just the cost-of-living, but allows schools an opportunity to seek waivers from that law.
"We certainly need to be concerned about the current economic crisis that still visits this country," Mahoney said. "The (LU) Budget Committee will begin meeting next week.