How one university system plans to learn from rising benefits costs

The University System of Georgia plans to use a new report on employee healthcare benefit costs to determine savings opportunities, Online Athens reports.

The organization's higher costs stem in part from the fact that its average employee is older than the average employee of a corporation, and therefore poses more risk for the university's insurance plans for employees, family members and retirees, according to the article. The percentage of women covered under the plan also is higher than for a private plan.

The University System of Georgia cannot discriminate in hiring, but it can use the information in the report to identify high-risk employees and manage their claims before costs become too high. The university's Board of Regents' Committee on Personnel and Benefits sees the report as a useful way of "pinpoint[ing] what the cost drivers are in our plan," Associate Vice Chancellor Karin Elliot told Online Athens.

For example, the report indicates the University System of Georgia plans to pay less for back disorders than private plans, but more for pregnancies. It also found the system was receiving less from other plans to treat people who are covered under multiple policies. This amount, also known as the coordination of benefits amount, has dropped 28 percent in the past year, which may be due to fewer companies allowing dual coverage, according to the article.

The system plans to bring in an analyst to conduct monthly reviews of cost reports, the article states. "If you look at the data and numbers, it raises a lot of questions," Elliott said.

The University System of Georgia isn't alone in scrutinizing its employee benefits packages. Healthcare reform is driving employers to look at health insurance exchanges for future benefit offerings, as well as increasing employee cost-sharing and premium contributions, according to a December report from the educational platform Healthcare Trends Institute.

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