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Lincoln University faculty and their union are recoiling at large increases in their out-of-pocket health care costs, while the university pays no more in premiums.

The increases for employees are unavoidable and will take effect Jan. 1, LU spokeswoman Misty Young said.

The university currently pays $548.84 to provider Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield for each employee's "Lumenos Non Embedded Group HSA Plan." Employees pay the remainder of the premium.

Currently, a single employee pays $23.74 a month for health insurance. Employees with a spouse pay $596.48, employees with children pay $453.58, and employees with a family pay $1,025.76.

Under the new plan, a single employee's premium would increase $127.11 per month, an increase of 535 percent. An employee with a spouse would pay $254.26 more per month, an increase of 42.6 percent; an employee with children would pay $222.54 more per month, an increase of 49 percent; and a family would pay $349.56 more per month, an increase of 34 percent.

Employees' deductibles would not be affected — $3,000 for individuals and $6,000 for families, Young said in an email.

"The increases (in premiums) at this time are unavoidable," she said. "The university's Benefits and Compensation Committee worked diligently to find the least cost-prohibitive plan available for employees. Unfortunately, the increase in coverage, which is based on prior years' utilization, was too substantial for the university to carry."

The Benefits and Compensation Committee made its recommendation to administration Oct. 25, and administration responded Oct. 30.

The minutes from the LU Faculty Senate's meeting Oct. 31 show "the Chair of the Comp and Benefits Committee stated that the university plans to have faculty absorb the 22 percent health insurance cost increase."

The 22 percent increase refers to the total amount of premiums — the sum of what the university and its employees pay.

The Lincoln University Missouri National Education Association union that represents LU faculty sent a news release Thursday demanding "the university's administration return to the bargaining table over a plan to increase out-of-pocket healthcare costs for employees."

"The increase in out-of-pocket healthcare costs will place Lincoln University well outside the mainstream of Missouri's other four-year colleges. Most university faculty in Missouri pay hundreds of dollars less per month out-of-pocket for themselves and their families. Employees fear the increased costs, coupled with Lincoln University's low pay scale, will make it challenging to attract and retain educators in high-demand fields," according to LUMNEA's news release.

Michael Scott, an LU biology professor and vice president of LUMNEA, said a letter was also sent Thursday to LU's Board of Curators.

That letter to the Board of Curators from Scott states LUMNEA's demand to collectively bargain and "negotiate compensation following proposed changes to healthcare. Please contact me to advise on your soonest possible availability."

Frank J. Logan Sr., president of the Board of Curators, did not immediately comment Thursday on questions from the News Tribune.

Separately Thursday, LU's Faculty Senate approved a letter addressed to LU President Jerald Jones Woolfolk about faculty's concerns over the health care cost increases.

The letter states the proposed health care coverage cost increases would have "a disproportionate effect on lower-paid employees."

The faculty's letter makes a further declaration and a demand: "Within the context of Lincoln's patently under-compensated faculty and staff, we regard any employee-assumed increase in health care-related costs at this time to be a grossly unjust budgetary decision. The total alleviation or defraying by the university on behalf of its employees of a rise in health care coverage costs is a prime opportunity for your administration to demonstrate that it values and respects its workers."

Based on estimated enrollments, absorbing the increase in premiums for employee-only coverage would cost LU an estimated $470,000 annually, Young said.

Faculty Senate Chairman Bryan Salmons said the faculty's letter to Woolfolk would be sent Thursday or today.

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