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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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NMSU will propose new health plan to the Board of Regents

New Mexico State University will propose a new health insurance program for employees at the upcoming meeting of the Board of Regents on April 13.

ate of New Mexico recently agreed to designate us as a state government agency opening the door for us to move our active employees into the state employee health insurance pool," said James McDonough, senior vice president for business, finance and human resources.

The move by the state completes several years of discussions and a year of negotiations between NMSU and state officials, McDonough said. Earlier attempts to negotiate a move into the state pool were stymied by the state's decision 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 new designation.

If the move into the state pool is approved, the new medical and dental programs for active employees would take effect Sept. 1, 2006, said Diana Quintana, director of human resources.

"The change will result in a reduction in costs for most, but not all, of NMSU employees' medical premiums," Quintana said, adding 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 be covered under this carrier, 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 Acces Plus (PPO) or to a primary care physician in New Mexico, 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.

Once the plans are 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 7, 2006