Open Enrollment For Benefits Starts Oct. 24

Duke medical plans remain stable for 2012   

Duke has been able to keep premium increases for health insurance below the national average.
Duke has been able to keep premium increases for health insurance below the national average.

During open enrollment for benefits from Oct. 24 to Nov. 5, faculty and staff will find that Duke's medical plans for 2012 look remarkably similar to 2011.

That's an uncommon mark of stability in a national environment where medical care costs are rising faster than inflation and many businesses are revamping healthcare offerings.

In 2012, Duke will continue the four medical plans offered to staff and faculty since 2004, with no changes in co-payments and deductibles and with modest premium increases. Depending on which of Duke's four medical plans selected, the premiums for individual coverage will increase between $2 and $8 per month for individual coverage and between $14 and $35 per month for family coverage. There will be no increase for vision insurance. Dental insurance will rise between 67 cents and $6.50 per month, depending on which plan is chosen and how many dependents are covered. 

"We are pleased that we are able to maintain stability in our plans this year and to keep our premium increases below the national average again," said Kyle Cavanaugh, vice president for administration. "Next year is also relatively quiet with regard to national health care reform, but we can expect more substantive changes in 2013 and 2014, as other elements of the act take effect." 

As the cost of providing health insurance has increased, more colleges and universities have shifted a larger portion of health care costs to employees, according to a survey of benefit programs by the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources. The survey indicated that more than a quarter of institutions changed their health plan last year to include a high-deductible plan, which requires participants to pay more out of pocket before the plan kicks in. 

"Our employees and their families have been great partners in helping contain health care costs by using programs such as DukeWell and moving to generics and mail order for their medications," Cavanaugh said. 

Duke spends approximately $50 million to pay for medications for people covered by its plans. During 2011, Duke expects to save about $2.3 million because employees and their dependents have switched to lower-cost generics.

Celeste Hodges, a web developer in the Computer Science Department, said she appreciates Duke's attention to keeping premiums as low as possible. She and her husband are pleased with affordable out-of-pocket costs for treatments for illness and for routine care. Last year, in addition to maintaining her medical coverage, she enrolled in Duke's vision insurance plan. 

"I couldn't believe how much cheaper my glasses were with insurance," she said. "I saved more than $500 on my glasses compared to what I would have paid without insurance."

Duke covers nearly 60,000 faculty, staff and dependents, up from approximately 51,000 at the end of 2007. With a growing workforce and more dependents, Duke could insure close to 63,000 faculty, staff and dependents by the end of 2012. 

Cavanaugh said health care costs are an ongoing issue, especially with the growing popularity of Duke's plans during the economic downturn. 

"For each person we add, we have additional costs," Cavanaugh said. "This year, we expect to pay $22 million more for our health plans than last year. We have to continue to find ways to focus on improving health and using health care wisely to help contain future costs."