Role of UBAB under review

Restructure, disbanding among options being considered for advisory board

Amid an upcoming administrative policy statement review and concerns about efficacy of the University Benefits Advisory Board (UBAB), a member of the board defended its role as an employee representative group during the regular Feb. 16 meeting of the University of Colorado Staff Council.

Staff Council has been asked to provide input on whether the current policy defining UBAB should be revised or whether the board should be disbanded. The current administrative policy statement (APS) that restated the role of UBAB and established term limits of board members is being examined as part of a regular review strategy.

During Staff Council’s December meeting, E. Jill Pollock, vice president of employee and information Services, said UBAB was formed more than 10 years ago to provide an opportunity for employee input as the university transitioned from self-funding of health benefits to third-party insurers. She said the formation of the Health and Welfare Trust in 2010, and the transparency of its reports and financials, make the mission and goals of UBAB less clear. (See trust members and other information here.)

But Stuart Schneck, M.D., a retiree member and acting chair of UBAB, said the advisory group is essential because it speaks for employees and acts as a link to other university entities, including the trust.

At present, the trust has no elected employee representation and only meets quarterly in public, Schneck said, adding that because employees participate in funding the trust they should also have a voice in determining funding activities.

UBAB’s role, according to its statement of purpose, is to “represent the collective interests and needs of all university benefit participants while providing strategic advice to the President and University Administration on benefits related issues. UBAB members do this by developing recommendations to the President for benefits policy, reviewing the operational and financial status of the benefits programs, and communicating key issues to the University community.”

Schneck says the board’s role should be revised so that it is in a tripartite relationship with Payroll & Benefit Services (PBS) as the administrator and the trust as provider. “Each entity should work collaboratively to ensure that employee needs and goals are achieved,” he said, adding that UBAB wants to be part of benefits discussions and not become involved after decisions have been made, which he said is currently the case.

Pollock has suggested that there may be other organizational ways to provide the link between employees and the trust, for instance, by involving members of other governance groups, including Staff Council.

In a memo to President Bruce D. Benson, the board said: “UBAB operates in the space between the CU administration, PBS, Faculty Council, four Faculty Assemblies, four Staff Councils and the Exempt Professional Assembly. Coordination between these multiple entities would be almost impossible if all, or many, were asked to take up the issues discussed by UBAB. UBAB’s primary value-added benefit to the governance equation is the commitment and expertise that has developed among UBAB’s members with sustained and frequent in-depth involvement in benefits issues. No other governance group can demonstrate such regular attendance and involvement for more than a decade.”

In the memo, the board also asks that two members of UBAB, one faculty and one staff, be appointed to the trust board with full membership rights, expect for voting rights. Schneck says certain legal issues prevent UBAB members from voting.

Pollock said that since the trust was established, she has not received reports or recommendations from UBAB. “This past year, we went to direct solicitation from employees on any ideas on improving or changing the employee health plan because we were not getting that from UBAB. I’ve received two suggestions (from the board) in the past 2.5 years that were not evidence-based and so costly we couldn’t do them.”

While Colorado Springs council members said they regularly receive updates from UBAB, other council members said the board does not communicate well their actions as employee representatives.

System Staff Council on Feb. 14 passed a resolution saying that while it supports the idea of staff and faculty involvement on the Health and Welfare Trust, it is not convinced that UBAB’s “current structure and function is the most effective for staff and faculty representation at this time.