Augsburg Staff Union Fights For Better Healthcare Coverage

Olivia Allery, news editor

Augsburg Staff Union members have recently taken to social media to vocalize their concerns and stories with the healthcare coverage plans for staff and faculty. Staff Union members are hoping that the social media presence will bring more attention to these concerns, considering that administration has made no substantial progress in addressing them since initial concerns were brought up in the Staff Union’s first negotiated contract a year and a half ago. Most of the Staff Union’s concerns are noted by high deductibles and minimal benefits. To combat this, the Staff Union is proposing that Augsburg start paying 75%-100% of the plan premiums.

Assistant Director of Augsburg’s CLASS office and Staff Union member Katie Lane expressed to the Echo how she has sometimes had to compromise receiving care, simply because of the high costs. “My family has always relied on Augsburg’s healthcare plan. I consider myself a judicious health care consumer — I try to use things like Virtuwell or the Minute Clinic most of the time — but I will often put off care because of the high costs. I’m never sure if the huge bill will be worth it in the end.”

Lane continued, “Because of increases in Augsburg’s healthcare premiums and high deductibles, my take home pay is less than when I started at Augsburg nearly eight years ago. Over 1/3 of my paycheck goes towards covering premiums and saving to cover my family’s basic healthcare needs, such as ear infections and routine skin checks.”

Staff or faculty members become eligible for healthcare benefits when they have enough hours for 0.75 full-time equivalent. When they meet this criteria they then have the option of two plans and two healthcare networks, HealthPartners and Curigo, through Augsburg’s healthcare benefits program.

The two plan options are between a low-deductible and a high-deductible health plan. Both plans come with covered preventative care, such as physicals and immunizations. The low-deductible plan allows the recipient to pay less out of pocket for both emergency and inpatient/outpatient care compared to the high-deductible plan, but it has higher co-pays, out-of-pocket costs, on prescription medications. For the low-deductible plan, a single recipient has a yearly deductible limit of $1,250, or $2500 for family coverage, and for the high-deductible plan, a single recipient has a limit of $2800, $5600 for family coverage. Additional benefits, such as dental and vision, are not included in these plans and are an additional cost to staff.

The Staff Union has further pointed out how Augsburg’s healthcare costs are consistently higher than our neighboring colleges and universities, and the high healthcare costs are one of the main reasons for the high staff turnover rates and why many choose to leave Augsburg. [see graph] 

“Expensive health insurance was a big part of the reason I left Augsburg!” said former academic advisor Seth Rueter in a quote from the Staff Union Instagram, regarding Augsburg’s high healthcare costs. “While discussing Augsburg’s health benefits with a previous HR representative, he said ‘yeah, don’t use the healthcare here if you can help it. It’s terrible.’ I laughed, but he wasn’t kidding. I unfortunately had no choice but to use the healthcare, which is what caused me to eventually leave.”

The Augsburg Staff Union is committed to changing and improving Augsburg’s healthcare benefits and support not only for the betterment of staff function but also the betterment of students. “We know that Augsburg can’t solve the nationwide healthcare crisis,” continued Lane, “but we’re asking them to make it possible for their employees to take care of themselves. We can’t effectively support students if we are putting off our own health care needs.”