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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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NMSU health plan approved by Board of Regents

The New Mexico State University Board of Regents today (Thursday, April 13, 2006) approved a new health insurance program for employees, many of whom will see a reduction in their premiums as a result.

iversity has been offered the opportunity to move all enrolled active employees to the state health care plan administered by the Risk Management Division of the state effective Sept. 1, 2006," Senior Vice President for Business, Finance and Human Relations Jim McDonough told the regents.

The action by the state completes several years of discussions between university administration and state officials and was not accomplished overnight, said Steve Anaya, the new president of the board. Anaya termed the change a "win, win" for all concerned.

Earlier attempts to negotiate a move into the state pool did not work out because the state wanted to designate NMSU a local public body, which would have resulted in higher costs because of the formulas used by the state. Working with Secretary of Finance and Administration James Jimenez and Gov. Bill Richardson, the university was able to obtain the designation as a state government agency.

"The change will result in a reduction in costs for most, but not all, of NMSU employees' medical premiums," Diana Quintana, director of human resources, said in earlier discussions. She added that employees will continue to pay 20 to 40 percent of those premiums depending on their salaries.

In addition, effective Jan. 1, 2007, the new program would include provisions for vision, legal, long-term care insurance and dependent care spending accounts, items currently not available to NMSU employees. There will be an added cost for these services for those employees who elect to take advantage of them. There also will be new provisions for health care flexible spending accounts.

The change also means a change of carriers. The state of New Mexico is covered by the Presbyterian HMO. To participate in this HMO, employees must have a New Mexico-based primary care physician.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Mexico PPO and Cigna Open Access Plus (PPO) are the other two options under the state plan. Thus, for example, employees in El Paso with primary care physicians in El Paso may switch to the BCBSNM PPO/CIGNA Open Access Plus (PPO)or to a primary care physician in New Mexico if they choose the HMO option, said Janet May, assistant director of employee benefits.

Also efforts to ensure all NMSU employees have access to medical care mean changes in policies at the Employee Health Center. Under the proposal, the center would be open to all employees, not just to those with medical insurance. Those without insurance would be charged a fee, but it is expected to be less than that charged by private physicians. Those with insurance would pay nominal co-pay which will be less than the amount paid to an external provider, Quintana said.

Retirees would remain with Blue Cross Blue Shield in a newly negotiated, fully insured plan effective July 1, 2006. Retirees over 70 will see about an 18 percent reduction in their costs, McDonough said.

Now that the plans have been approved by the Board of Regents, the plans will be posted on the NMSU Human Resources Web site at http://www.nmsu.edu/~personel/

Mary A. Benanti
April 13, 2006