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USNH Trustees Committee Votes to Present Benefits Changes to Full Board

By Jody Record, Campus Journal Editor
February 9, 2011

The USNH board of trustees’ financial affairs committee approved a slate of recommendations aimed at reducing the system’s budget more than $8 million annually by reducing the benefits of staff and nonunion faculty. The trustee committee met Monday in Concord.

One of the changes, a tiered program for retirement contributions, goes into effect this year on July 1. The $2 million cut to medical benefits will become effective Jan. 1, 2012 as will USNH’s self-funding of medical and prescription drug plans. The specifics of the $2 million reduction in medical benefits are yet to be worked out but will likely include increased contributions from employees or annual deductibles or increased co-pays, or a combination of the three.

The trustees based their recommendations on the results of a survey conducted by Towers Watson, a global human resources consulting firm, to determine which benefits employees valued most. USNH sent 3,500 surveys to the staff and nonunion faculty members at all USNH entities; 54 percent responded.

An earlier survey, known as the Mercer Report, was done to evaluate the competitiveness of USNH’s total employees’ compensation package. It did not look at cost, according to USNH trustee John Small, who presented an overview of the board’s recommended cuts at Monday’s meeting.

Small, who said it was not an option to touch nothing due to the uncertain financial times we are in, noted the changes help to establish a multi-year plan and to set a new benchmark for USNH’s benefits package.

The most significant recommendations that will go before the board of trustees on Feb. 17 include:

  1. USNH self-funding its medical and prescription drug programs. Annual projected savings: $3.3 million.
  2. Redesigning the employees’ medical plan (co-pays, deductibles, i.e.).  Annual projected savings: $2 million.
  3. Eliminating the $500 HRA benefit. Annual projected savings: $1.5 million.
  4. Reducing USNH’s retirement contributions. Annual projected savings: $1.8 million.

Changes to vacation and leave time, and longevity pay will apply only to new hires as will eliminating access to USNH’s medical plan upon retirement. The wellness program will continue as will employee tuition benefits.   A number of other recommendations in the areas of benefit services and voluntary options, and investment in performance management systems, training and flexible work arrangements will be made.

“Unfortunately, the benefit cuts proposed are hurting the Operating Staff the most,” says Monique Couillard, OS chair. “The elimination of the HRA $500 is an actual dollar cut for OS – many who have used the HRA as their only FSA.”

Couillard went on to say the example of a flat $300 single/$600 family upfront deductible used in the Towers Watson report would be financially devastating to many Operating Staff.

The full board of trustees will vote on the recommendations Feb. 17.

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