Lucas Holter

Yale employee health care premiums — monthly fees paid to insurance or health plans — have risen through the years, reflecting a nationwide trend in employee benefits for universities.

The cost of Yale Health plans have steadily increased over the years and have been matched with increased costs for employees, whether they are single or have families. The Medical, Dental and Vision Plan Contributions for Yale Faculty, Managerial & Professionals and Police Supervisors and Police Command Staff have risen for all salary brackets in the last year. In 2018, Yale Health charged single employees with a $75,000 salary $74.50 per month, employees with a $90,000 salary $109 per month, and employees with a $110,000 salary $155 per month. This year, the monthly contributions of each respective group have risen to $98, $131 and $175 per month, respectively. The increased premiums have also affected postdocs. Between 2017 and 2018, a single postdoc would pay an added $240 over the course of the year for health insurance.

The University maintains a goal of 20 percent employee contribution for health plans. But, according to Spanish lector María de la Paz García, the premium rates have been increasing at a rate higher than some employees’ salaries, meaning that some workers will bring home less in 2019 than they have in years past.

“I would want that if they are raising this, they should be raising salaries to compensate because it’s not fair that you take home a check this year that is less than last year,” García said. “It’s not sustainable … Is there a limit?”

In a 2018 email from Vice President for Human Resources and Administration Janet Lindner to Yale faculty and salaried staff, Lindner acknowledged the stress of increased health care costs on Yale’s budget. Still, she maintained that the University makes “every effort to keep contributions from employees as low as possible,” even in the face of the increased costs of health care. The email added that Yale’s plan surpasses the benefit programs of many peer institutions. According to Lindner, competitors with less generous benefits often only cover 70–75 percent of the total health care cost.

“The cost of providing health care to employees exceeds the funding from the insurance premiums and Yale strives to keep the premiums priced appropriately,” University spokesman Tom Conroy wrote in an email to the News. “Yale welcomes feedback from all employees regarding their personal experience, and takes that into account when determining what the employee share should be in paying for the excellent health care provided by the University.”

For García, her premiums have increased from $20 in 2015 to $98 this year. Though García said the increased premiums mean that her salary has increased overall by $35 per month in the past year,  she says that some people bring home less money than in years past. She said the changes particularly impact employees with children or spouses under the Yale Health Plan. Furthermore, she said that the University’s lack of notice — particularly in the early years of premium increases — concerning the changes has frustrated her. She said the announcements often come buried in large Yale Health Newsletters.

García is currently working with members of her department to draft a letter to send to the Provost’s Office to tell them “it is not viable that we make less money each year.” Early this academic school year, García contacted Director of Benefits Sylvia Bedard and Senior Adviser for Benefits Planning Hugh Penney, but they did not respond to her questions concerning the premiums, she said.

When asked about the correspondence, Bedard told the News she believed Penney would respond to García. She said she never received a follow up, so she assumed the inquiry had been addressed.

“While we ensure all inquiries are addressed, it appears this inquiry fell through the cracks,” Bedard told the News.

Bedard added that she would “be happy to follow up and make sure professor Garcia and Hugh connect.” Penney could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Howard Forman, professor of radiology, public health and management at Yale, said lower-wage employees are often more affected by increased costs of health care. Forman said that he takes a “sympathetic tone to everybody on the issue,” and added that the problem was complex and “not that easy to fix.” According to Forman, Yale’s health care program provides lower costs than many peer institutions, adding that Yale Health often holds down costs for employees. He said that Yale is “very much in the mainstream of health benefit provision.”

Forman explained that Yale finds itself in a competitive marketplace — if they spend more on benefits, it could leave less money available for wages.

“I also come at this by realizing that Yale is at least as good an actor for many of our peers and even a better act in many ways,” Forman said. “I’m certainly not critical of Yale in comparison to the challenges and actions of any number of other universities and large employers.”

Carly Wanna | carly.wanna@yale.edu