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GSS referendum

Notice of Referendum

RESULTS:

Extended Health Plan Ballot

Total ballots cast: 280 out of 2705 voters = 10.4% voter participation. (Quorum requirement of 5% is met)

  For the GSS Extended Health Plan, which option do you prefer?

 A – Increase the Extended Health Plan fee by $4.08/month, and maintain current coverage. (This would increase the annual Extended Health Plan Fee from $328/year to $377/year)   

 B –  Maintain the Extended Health Plan fee at $328/year and reduce coverage. (This would reduce coverage as follows: increase the calendar year deductible from $10 to $50 per family; AND reduce the per-service maximum for paramedical services from $250 to $200 per calendar year; AND reduce the maximum reimbursement for prescription lenses from $200 every second year to $100 every second year).   

RESULT

OPTION A:   214 votes (76.4%) PASSED

OPTION B:   66 votes (23.6%)

Dental Plan Ballot:

 

Total ballots cast: 280 out of 2705 voters = 10.4% voter participation. (Quorum requirement of 5% is met)

 

For the GSS Dental Plan, which option do you prefer?

 A – Increase the Dental Plan fee by $1.00 per month, and maintain current coverage. (This would increase the annual Dental Plan Fee from $214/year to $226/year). 

 B – Maintain the Dental Plan fee at $214/year and reduce coverage. (This would reduce the maximum calendar year reimbursement from $750 to $650 per person).       

 

OPTION A:   201 votes (71.8%) PASSED

OPTION B:   79 votes (28.2%)

 ---------------------------------

 

The UVIC Graduate Students' Society will be holding a referendum on a proposed fee increase to the society's Extended Health and Dental insurance plans.    

The Extended Health and Dental Plan fee is a mandatory fee for all full time on-campus graduate students.   

Who can vote? All currently registered graduate students    

How to vote? Vote online at https://webvote.uvic.ca using your UVIC Netlink ID  

 

More information:

  1. Voting basics: who, where, and when?
  2. Ballot questions
  3. If the fee increases option does not pass, what do the plan changes mean for me as a user?
  4. Why are we having a referendum on the health and dental fees?
  5. Health and dental plan fee history
  6. How did the GSS decide on the amount of the proposed fee increase?
  7. Why doesn't the ballot give more detailed information about what could change if the fee stays the same?
  8. What steps are taken to keep the plan affordable?
  9. Why is this happening in summer term?

 

Voting basics: Who, where, and when?

Who can vote? All currently registered graduate students    

How to vote? Vote online at https://webvote.uvic.ca using your UVIC Netlink ID  

When to vote?

Polling opens: 9 am Wednesday, June 28, 2017     

Polling closes: 4pm Thursday, June 29, 2017  

The GSS electoral officer is Adar Anisman, votegss@uvic.ca

 

 

 

Referendum Questions:

Extended Health Plan Ballot

 For the GSS Extended Health Plan, which option do you prefer?

 A – Increase the Extended Health Plan fee by $4.08/month, and maintain current coverage. (This would increase the annual Extended Health Plan Fee from $328/year to $377/year)   

 B –  Maintain the Extended Health Plan fee at $328/year and reduce coverage. (This would reduce coverage as follows: increase the calendar year deductible from $10 to $50 per family; AND reduce the per-service maximum for paramedical services from $250 to $200 per calendar year; AND reduce the maximum reimbursement for prescription lenses from $200 every second year to $100 every second year).   

 

Dental Plan Ballot:

For the GSS Dental Plan, which option do you prefer?

 A – Increase the Dental Plan fee by $1.00 per month, and maintain current coverage. (This would increase the annual Dental Plan Fee from $214/year to $226/year). 

 B – Maintain the Dental Plan fee at $214/year and reduce coverage. (This would reduce the maximum calendar year reimbursement from $750 to $650 per person).           

 

 

What would these changes mean for me as a plan user?

Health plan change details:

A deductible defined by Blue Cross as "the initial portion of the Eligible expenses which you must pay before we will reimburse charges for any Eligible expense." Currently the per family deductible is $10 per calendar year. E.g. A member has a recurring prescription that costs $100. The eligible expense is calculated at 70% of the prescription cost. The eligible expense is $70. The first time the member fills that prescription in each calendar year, the deductible applies ($50). So the first reimbursement they would receive would be $20. For the rest of that calendar year, each time the member filled the prescription the reimbursement would be $70. If the member has family on the plan, the deductible is applied ONCE for the whole family each calendar year. A calendar year is January 1 - December 31.

Note that this is a change to the Overall Deductible, which does not apply to vision care, eye examinations and tutorial services. It is also not the same as the Practitioners Deductible, wich is $10 per visit to paramedical services.

Paramedical services are the services of the following practitioners covered in our plan: Acupuncturist, athletic therapist, chiropractor, massage practitioner, naturopath, physiotherapist, podiatrist and chiropodist, psychologist and clinical counsellor, speech language pathologist.

The per-service maximum for this paramedical practitioners would be reduced from $250 to $200 per calendar year if Option B is chosen by the members in this referendum.

Vision care has two components: the eye exam, which will not change regardless of referendum result, and prescription lens benefits, which would see the maximum reimbursement reduced to $100 in a two-year calendar period.

 

Dental plan change details:

Currently, the maximum reimbursement is the maximum amount a plan member can receive in claims reimbursement in a calendar year. The GSS dental plan covers basic preventative and restorative services at 70%. Thus, if a plan member has a dental bill for eligible services that is $300, they would be reimbursed $210. If option B is selected in this referendum, a plan member could be reimbursed up to a maximum of $650 in a calendar year.

 

 

 

 

Why is this happening?

GSS health and dental plan fees have not increased for students since 2011. The renewal offer from Pacific Blue Cross calls for an increase in the plan fees in order to renew the plan with the current level of coverage. Renewal offers from the insurer are based on claims experience (i.e. the amount the GSS paid blue cross for coverage, vs. the amount Pacific Blue Cross paid out to members of the plan in claims). This year, the claims experience showed a sharp increase in prescription drug claim paid. The GSS is not alone in seeing an upward trend in drug costs, and such changes are affecting many plan holders in Canada.

In accordance with GSS Bylaws and the University Act, all changes to GSS fees must be approved by a member referendum.

 

 

Fee History

There are two aspects to the health and dental plan fee. The members pay a member fee to the GSS (usually with their tuition), and the GSS pays a fee premium to the insurer. The premium is lower than the member fee, and the difference makes up the funds the GSS uses for administering the plan.

While the GSS has not increased the fee paid by our members for the plan since 2011, the GSS has paid higher fee premiums each year since 2013. This was made possible by a one-time drop in the premium in 2012.

 

Timeline

2005 - June Referendum increases fees while reducing coverage for paramedicals.

2006 - GSS reviews brokerage service and changes brokerage provider

2007 - May Referendum increases health plan fee and adds acupuncture coverage and vision exam coverage

2009 - May referendum on dental plan opts against fee increase, and reduces maximum dental claim

2010 - March referendum raises both and dental plan fees. Dental referendum reverses 2009 reduction to dental claim maximum, returns maximum claim to 2008 levels.

2011 - Referendum increases health plan fee (to maintain coverage) and increases dental fee to increase benefit from $500 to $750 max reimbursement per calendar year. Clinical counsellor services were added to options for paramedicals based on member feedback with no change to fee.

2012 - Plan realizes a surplus, and Blue Cross offers a reduced fee. At the March 2012 Semi-Annual General Meeting, the Director of Finance recommends the fees are kept stead and Executive Board be directed to create a stabilization fund [3] to reserve surpluses to address any future losses.

2013 - The GSS change contract to Retention Accounting [1] and create Health Plan Stabilization Fund.

2016 - GSS's broker went to market for competing bids on our insurance contract renewal. Pacific Blue Cross remained the best option for the GSS plan renewal. Plan usage showed an increase in drug claim costs. To prevent a fee increase the GSS Executive Board choose to cap pharmacy dispensing fees, apply a Lowest cost alternative drug requirement (except where doctor requires other options) [2], and cap markup on drugs  that are not in the lowest cost alternative formulary to the standard markup of 15%. Student fees for the health and dental plan are not changed.

 

 

How did the Executive Board decide on the amount of the proposed fee increase?

The Executive Board decided on the fee increase amount using three factors:

1. Projecting plan cost based on the renewal offer

The Executive Director projected the plan cost using current enrolment and the proposed rate, and then calculated what fee increases would ensure the GSS met the budget requirement with the new rate. 

2. Reviewing plan usage and adjusting accordingly

In 2016, the GSS introduced an Employee Assistance Plan to our coverage. This service offered advice to students by phone on a wide range of issues. Despite circulating information on this option to members and campus service providers, it had very low usage rates. As a result the Executive Board has opted to eliminate this service to save costs for this renewal period, and consult with members over the coming year about whether such a service would be of interest in the future.

3. Using the Health Plan Stabilization Fund to mitigate the increase

The Executive has decided to mitigate the increase of the plan fees this year by using half of the Health Plan Stabilization Fund reserve. In making this decision, the Executive Board considered two factors. First, the Stabilization Fund is built with fees paid by students for the health plan, and can only be used to cover health plan costs. Second, the proposed fee increase was atypically high when compared to past years. The use of the stabilization fund is intended to ensure that a single group of students does not pay for an extraordinary change in fees, and instead the fee increase trend is smoothed out over several years.

 

Why did the final ballot wording get issued later than the original notice?

The GSS was still negotiating plan change options that would be implemented in order to keep the fees the same. This ballot information currently posted on this website is now finalized. We appreciate members' patience as we worked with the broker for the best options possible.

 

What steps are taken by the GSS to keep the plan affordable?

The GSS regularly reviews the plan and explores way to reduce costs. Our broker (who negotiates with the insurer on our behalf) takes our plan to market every few years. In 2016 we went to market and reviewed 10 competitor bids, but none of them offered a significant reduction in our premiums.

Members may be interested to know that Blue Cross is a not-for-profit insurer, and while the GSS always considers all bids when going to market, we have historically been insured by a non-profit organization. Since 2013, the GSS has been insured under a retention accounting [1] contract, which means that should the plan realize any profit, these profits will be shared between the GSS and the insurer.

Built into our plan are some methods to ensure costs are contained.

First, we have a lowest cost drug alternative requirement [2], which requires plan members to use the lowest cost version of any drug option unless their doctor specifies they must use the more expensive option.

Second, we use the BC Drug Formulary to determine drug eligibility, and students who want to use drugs not on the formulary provide a doctor note to Blue Cross in order to have extra-to-list drugs covered.

Finally, the GSS carries coverage for "catastrophic claims". This means that if a member has a condition for which the medication costs more than $10,000 in a year, or a travel claim that involves something very expensive like a helicopter trip, this claim is insured separately and will not affect our renewal price. 

With the current renewal process, the Executive is taking steps to reducing plan costs in other ways. For example, we have learned in our renewal process that the "Employee Assistance Plan" introduced in 2016 is not well used by our members and we have decided to eliminate this [product as a cost savings for the coming year. Additionally, in 2011-2015 our claims experience was relatively flat, and Blue Cross offered us lower rates during that period. With the consent of members at the SAGMs, the GSS used surpluses earned in those years to create a Health Plan Stabilization Fund [3]. The Executive has decided to make use of a portion (50%) of that reserve fund to smooth out the spike in fees.

 

 


Why is this happening in summer term?

Members sometimes express concern about referenda held in the summer term. The GSS strives to hold referenda in March, at the same time as our Executive Board elections.

However, we often find that our health plan renewal options are not available early enough for a March referendum. This is because our brokers have advised that the Ffll term is generally the most expensive period of use for the plan -- not surprising as it is also the first few months of coverage for many of our members each year. The concern with an earlier renewal process is that the plan usage data would skew higher if we renewed based on data available in February because it would include only fall usage data. This year, as in the past, the GSS waited and obtained renewal quotes based on usage in May. This choice resulted in a June referendum.

 

 

 

 

 

 

NOTES

[1] Briefing submitted to members March 2013 Semi-Annual General Meeting proposal for retention accounting.

[2] For more on the low cost alternative drug rider, see: http://www.pac.bluecross.ca/advicecentre/story/low-cost-alt-drugs

[3] Health Plan Stabilization Fund: As of March 31, 2017, the GSS has ~$25,000 held in reserve in the Health Plan Stabilization Fund. The existence of a small annual surplus in the Health Plan Fund over the past five years has made it possible for the GSS to avoid increases to fees paid by students while setting aside a small sum to assist in reducing the risk of managing the plan that can be caused by changes to enrolment or administrative costs.