Staff Council: Wellness program could be more inclusive

Eligibility rules for Be Colorado have led to complaints
By Staff

Some members of the university community have expressed concern over the University of Colorado Health and Welfare Trust’s wellness program, Be Colorado, because they feel it isn’t inclusive, members of the University of Colorado Staff Council reported during their Oct. 20 meeting on the Boulder campus.

The perception is that the university only cares about people paying into the trust, said Stephanie Hanenberg from the University of Colorado Colorado Springs. She said she had received complaints from employees who are not eligible. Other campus representatives shared similar concerns about the newly launched program.

University employees who are on the Kaiser and United Health Care plans offered by the state of Colorado are not eligible because Be Colorado is funded by university medical plans. In addition, in the plan’s initial year, only the primary policy holder is eligible to participate in the program. Spouses who work at the university may be ineligible because they are insured through their partner.

E. Jill Pollock, vice president for employee and information services, later said she appreciates the concerns and the feedback on the program, which debuted in September, and will continue to evaluate its scope.

Some 82 percent of benefits-eligible CU employees can participate in Be Colorado (those in plans that are part of the University of Colorado Health and Welfare Trust, established in 2010 when CU and University Physicians Inc. joined with the University of Colorado Hospital to self-fund and administer medical benefits). Another 5 percent in state Kaiser plans have a similar benefit available through that plan with an online health assessment tool and clinic-based health screenings.

“We are putting this wellness component into our health plans that are part of the trust, but we can only use funds from the trust for the benefit of the people in the trust,” she said. “We believe that Be Colorado will not only significantly help CU employees be healthier individuals, but also help the university keep health care costs in check.

“The university does not now offer a systemwide wellness program. Be Colorado is the most cost-effective way in this economy to ensure that a vital aspect of health promotion – our own initiatives – can occur,” Pollock said. “Wellness and prevention are key aspects of an effective health plan.”

One council member was recruited to be in the program’s launch video but isn’t eligible for the program.

While council members agreed the program is a good one, they said timing and implementation of Be Colorado was unfortunate and has created animosity for some. Council members said raises for nonclassified employees are being processed now; that fact, combined with Be Colorado ineligibility, has left many people feeling disenfranchised.

One council member questioned whether it wouldn’t be better to have a campuswide initiative that focuses on wellness for everyone and uses resources available on each campus if funding isn’t available.

In other matters, Staff Council:

  • Continued to discuss how to improve participation in governance activities by staff members. One issue continues to be supervisory approval, which is required to run for a post on governance boards. Some staff members report that supervisors will not approve the time away from their jobs to attend meetings or other activities. Council members discussed making phone calls or sending letters to supervisors who may not be aware of the benefits of staff participation. They also discussed drawing up a consent form, similar to what the University of Colorado Colorado Springs uses, that defines duties and hours needed for service so supervisors will know exactly what is required of an employee.
  • Discussed resolutions drafted by the Boulder Staff Council and whether they will be presented to the University of Colorado Board of Regents. One resolution, first drafted earlier this year, opposes any extension of the 2.5 percent additional employee contribution to the Public Employees Retirement Association. A second asks the regents to expand the employee tuition program to allow employees to enroll in courses simultaneously with students, or allow dependents to use credit hours. A third recommends that the university allow employees to purchase surplus equipment; the university is no longer bound by a state law that prohibits employees from such purchases. Council also will seek legal advice from the university to determine whether it has the right as a group to contact legislators about issues that concern university staff, including pay issues.
  • Continued to discuss a speaker’s bureau that would present topics of interest and provide professional development opportunities to the university community as a whole. Some topics might include financial management or CUMarketplace (the university’s procurement software) secondary training, and would be beneficial to the university community. Council discussed using webinars and other electronic media to disseminate the information to a wider audience.

Two guests also attended the Thursday meeting. Jay Dedrick, internal communications manager in University Relations, discussed CU Connections, the revamped faculty and staff newsletter. Dedrick discussed improvements, including story commenting, as well as the planned addition of more multimedia elements. He said the goals of the newsletter are to engage more people, create an improved tool for readers and build community.

“We want to provide good information that is going to help you do your work and connect with colleagues and peers,” he said. “This also is a great forum for you to take advantage of.”

Sean Clark, University of Colorado Denver security principal and manager of IT Security Operations, discussed the characteristics of passwords and how to use them to improve protection of personal information.

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