MSCA Perspective - February 2001
Dental Coverage Extended One More Year
The current contract with Delta Dental expired at the end of January 2001. After long deliberations, the members of the Health and Welfare Trust decided to seek a renewal of the current benefit plan from our current provider, with the option of a second year extension at an established rate. Trust Co-Chair Nick Minton (UMass/Lowell) explained, "This will enable the Trust to continue to provide the current level of benefits at least for the short term while the Trust will continue its exploration of other options in terms of plan design and plan funding."
The Health and Welfare Trust, established in the late 1980s, is funded by the Commonwealth and pays for the dental insurance for Massachusetts public higher education faculty, librarians, and staff. Members of the Health and Welfare Trust have been working to negotiate a continuation of dental benefits since last summer. A Request for Proposals (RFP) to solicit bids from possible providers was prepared and sent out. The Trust asked bidders to provide cost analysis for the maintenance of our current contract, and to explore other possible options for plan designs.
Minton described some of the complexities of the current renegotiation: "The Trust would like nothing better than to be able to provide a better benefit package. Unfortunately, at least for short run, that seems to be a desire we will have to put on hold. Since the Trust has been in existence, our utilization rate consistently has been very high. Until now in the competitive bidding process we have been successful in negotiating a premium rate which over the life of the contract provided little, if any, profit to our providers. Indeed, most of our negotiations suggest the consistently high utilization of benefits by our members and their dependents has led to a loss, or at best a break even status, for our providers in each of the contracts negotiated by the Trust up to now. The Trust hoped that our favorable record would continue with the current bidding process. What materialized, however, was a sizable increase in premium rates by all the bidders, for the benefit package we currently have. We were faced with a rate increase from 26% to 36% just to maintain what we have now. Though the trust has been able to maintain a good level of reserves for the past few years, a premium increase of this magnitude will immediately set us on the road of deficit spending, and over the next three years, even with the likely anticipation of an additional $2.00 [per week, per employee] contribution by the state being offered in the next round of contract negotiations with the Trust member MTA units, the Trust reserves will dwindle rather seriously."
Minton continued, "Clearly the best way to be able to provide a dental plan which is more satisfying and more satisfactory to the majority of our unit members and their families is to negotiate successfully greater contributions by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. In the current and prospective rounds of negotiation we definitely need to be more assertive in pressing for greater support for the Health and Welfare Trust."
David Twiss (Worcester) is our state college representative to the Health and Welfare Trust and its Treasurer. You may direct your questions and comments on what you would like to see in our dental plan to him at Dtwiss@worcester.edu or call him at (508) 791-3399.