James Larson

Prompted by concerns from the Yale community, the University will delay implementing office visit copays for Yale Health visits for Yale faculty, postdoctoral associates and professional and managerial staff until July.

This fall, Yale Health announced that it would introduce $20 copays for office visits for these groups starting in January 2019. After the announcement, Rene Almeling — associate professor and director of undergraduate studies in the sociology department –– drafted and circulated a petition opposing the new copays, which had received over 900 signatures as of Monday afternoon. On Dec. 7, Vice President for Human Resources and Administration Janet Lindner sent an email to the affected groups announcing the delay, saying that the change was “too much, too soon for our community.” Still, she added that “copays remain an important part of Yale’s overall healthcare planning strategy.”  The News reached out to University Spokesperson Karen Peart, who referred back to the December email for comment.

A coalition of staff, faculty and postdoctoral representatives also met with Lindner last Friday to discuss their concerns the new copays. While Almeling said it was “a little preliminary” to discuss the meeting’s proposals, she said that the human resource administrators “have been very responsive” to the group’s thoughts.

“Our position as a group is that we are opposed to any new copays across the board,” Almeling said. “I think going forward, we’re going to be able to provide community input on how to address rising healthcare costs.”

The formerly announced update would introduce a $20 copay “for office visits, inside and outside the Yale Health Center, for primary care, specialty care, Acute Care, behavioral health/mental health, and physical therapy” as well as “regular imaging” like X-rays and a $100 copay “for complex imaging outside the Yale Health Center.” Peart said that the new copays would balance the costs between utilization of healthcare services and payroll contributions. She added that Yale is the last of its peers to introduce such copays.

The announcement prompted backlash from healthcare experts and members of the affected group at Yale. Almeling, who holds courtesy appointments in the School of Medicine and the School of Public Health, circulated her petition via change.org and delivered it to University President Peter Salovey along with a personal letter on Dec. 3. She also shared the letter with the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Senate, the Women Faculty Forum, the Postdoctoral Association, the LGBTQ Staff Affinity Group and the Patient and Family Council at Yale Health in hopes that the groups would also support the petition.

While Almeling acknowledged the “difficulties posed by rapidly rising healthcare costs” in the letter, she maintained that “co-pays are not the solution.”

“There’s about five decades of health policy research on copayments, and one of the clearest and most documented findings in the health policy literature is that copayments disproportionately affect people who have lower incomes and chronic conditions,” Almeling said.

In a statement to the News, the Yale Postdoctoral Association said it opposed the copays. In the group’s survey of more than 330 postdocs, the YPA found that copays would have a severe impact on the physical and mental wellbeing of these students and their families. The statement also said that the copays may hinder the group’s financial stability and its long-term ability to stay at Yale.

Claire Bowern, linguistics professor and chair of the Women’s Faculty Forum who signed the petition, echoed concerns raised in Almeling’s petition, saying that public health research shows that copays increase costs for health insurers in the long term by making it more difficult for patients to seek preventative care.

“They are bad policy, and they are unfair,” Bowern said.

Yale Health is located at 55 Lock St.

Carly Wanna | carly.wanna@yale.edu 

Clarification, Jan. 24: In a previous version of this story, the News referred to postdoctoral students. In reality, postdocs are not students, and the term, postdocs, is more inclusive when referring to this group.