CU to evaluate employee benefits this summer

University will examine emerging trends in employee health care and retirement offerings
By Staff

The University of Colorado will hire an outside consultant to analyze employee benefits this summer as part of ongoing efforts to improve efficiency across the university's three-campus community and respond to the evolving needs of faculty and staff.

The consultant will analyze the suite of benefits CU currently offers its faculty and staff and benchmark the results against peer institutions and other large Colorado employers. The goal is to offer employees more and better choices for their money, said E. Jill Pollock, senior associate vice president and chief human resources officer for the university.

The study is expected to give CU administrators a better idea of how the university can improve and build on the health care insurance and retirement plans it currently offers its nearly 24,000 employees in Aurora, Boulder, Colorado Springs and Denver. The university spends around $102 million a year on medical insurance alone, with some $85 million of that paid on behalf of CU employees.

"It's a big cost. Are we being efficient? Are we spending those dollars in the wisest way?" Pollock asked. "From time to time any good employer asks that, and it's our time to ask, particularly in this economy. It's time to have our benefits examined for competitiveness."

Pollock noted that health care has once again risen to the top of the federal government's agenda, and CU and other universities across the country are watching the debate closely, especially as it applies to emerging trends, improving how health care is delivered and containing rising health care costs.

Among other national trends, she said the university would again explore long-term nursing home care plans, the ability of employees to pick and choose individual stocks through retirement plans, and health savings accounts, or HSAs.

In the case of long-term nursing home care, employees may be able to contribute to such plans for themselves or their parents, depending on how much they are willing to set aside and depending on whether the university can obtain low-cost group rates.

"It's something we're seeing nationally, particularly as we and our parents are living longer," Pollock said. "We need to explore if we are offering the best benefit options."

In a nod toward the benefits of shared governance and decision making in the academic environment, Pollock noted that the University Benefits Advisory Board has been instrumental in helping to identify demand for certain employee benefits and perceived needs among faculty and staff.

Beyond providing better benefits packages, she said the university would ramp up its efforts to encourage all employees to lead active and more healthful lifestyles to improve their overall quality of life.

"People who feel good generally work better," she said. "The university is dependent on its employees, on their talents and their efforts. It's in everyone's best interests that they are as healthy as possible."