Healthcare costs on the rise at colleges and universities

insurance costs in higher education rise

The College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR) this week published the findings of its 2011 Comprehensive Survey of College and University Benefits Programs.

The survey found that the median total premium costs for PPO, HMO and POS plans increased by 7.3 percent for both employee-only coverage and employee plus family coverage. Last year's increases were 6.7 percent and 7 percent, respectively.

The median annual plan premiums increased to $5,868 for employee-only coverage, and to $16,388 for employee plus family coverage. Both increases were greater this year than in the preceding two years.

"It is frustrating that the cost of healthcare continues to escalate, forcing many higher education institutions to cut benefits or shift more of the cost to employees," CUPA-HR president and chief executive officer Andy Brantley said in a statement. "I strongly encourage leaders at institutions that have not implemented wellness programs and incentives for participating in wellness programs to do so as a way of managing some of their institution's healthcare costs."

More than 60 percent of responding institutions have a wellness program, and about a quarter of responding colleges provide faculty and staff with access to on-campus medical services.

The majority of responding institutions provide health care benefits for retirees under the age of 65, and slightly fewer than half provide health care benefits for retirees aged 65 and over.

The percentage of colleges offering healthcare benefits for same sex and opposite sex partners rose for the fifth straight year, increasing to 56 percent and 43 percent, respectively.

"The findings of the CUPA-HR survey, as well as other recent surveys of higher education and business leaders, make it clear that administrators still see significant uncertainty when it comes to the future of health care benefits," writes Inside Higher Ed's Kevin Kiley. "A combination of rising costs, varying expectations among faculty and staff, and national reforms all present challenges that colleges and universities are trying to figure out how to address."

The 2011 Comprehensive Survey of College and University Benefits Programs was completed by 415 institutions, including 24 systems reporting in the aggregate for all of their campuses--the survey represents 587 institutions in total.