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Letter to the Editor

April 30, 2008

In February we were informed of a decision agreed to by the USNH Board of Trustees regarding the offering of a HRA (Heath Reimbursement Account) for employees.

Sounds like a pretty good deal on the surface... $500 every year into an account that rolls over year to year, for spending on non-premium related health costs. Since I wear glasses, and we have no insurance that covers the cost of glasses (I'm not talking about the little discounts on glasses we get here and there), this would be easily spent by me, assuming that would be a qualifying expense. But combined with an HMO or POS health plan, and if one has a FSA, it may only be of value to a small percentage of staff.

I have since learned something about HRA's. They're like this new innovative way to handle our crazy rising health care costs and are especially useful at containing costs for employers when combined with a HDHP (High Deductible Health Plan).

Also, from what I understand, there is a lot of flexibility for the employer in regards to what it covers; it sounds like they can pretty well pick and choose what they can put in the plan (within IRS rules of course), and can even make it so a retiree can use it for medical costs once they retire -- but I think that's up to the employer. Sounds pretty exciting if what's put in place is to my advantage.

A question pops into my mind though: Could it possibly mean that our current selection of health care choices, specifically the HMO and POS plans, will no longer be offered in the future? Wow, that's a little scary.

But we don't really know. We (staff) just don't know what to expect or what we'll get, or how it will help us as individual workers. We don't know from one year to the next what will be presented to us for salary or benefits. And when it is given to us, that’s exactly how it happens.

There is a way we could know. There is a way that we could affect how this comes down the pike in the future, as well as any other new and innovated ideas that come along to contain costs, because keeping costs down is in everyone's best interest.

We could be immediately In-The-Know, as well as have a real affect on the outcome of future decisions. We could partner with the university, working as the law allows, as a team with our administration, to make the decisions that affect our lives. Not in an advisory capacity.

If you haven't already, I urge you to sign a card to bring the AFSCME (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees) to UNH. Do it today.

And when you sign a card, if you haven't already, you will be among others who are your co-workers, colleagues, friends, family, and neighbors; our community. We can gain the security that comes by standing together, organizing together, and having a say in the decisions being made because the law allows us to have a voice. The law allows us to join together for an employment contract that suits us all.

Marilyn Qua

Office of Sponsored Research

17+ years at UNH

P.S. The HRA issue above is just one example of what our local union, composed of unh staff, would have a say in, by working directly with the decision making bodies of USNH.


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