High-Deductible Plans Rise in Higher Ed

Colleges and universities increasingly offered high-deductible health plans, health-care benefits for part-time employees and stand-alone vision plans in 2017, according to a new survey. They continued to offer health-care benefits to domestic partners at high rates.

But in a move that some employees probably won’t like, colleges and universities also demonstrated more interest in wellness programs.

Those are key points in a report released this month by the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources. The report covers survey responses from 358 institutions of different classifications and affiliations from across the country.

High-deductible health plans were offered by sharply more institutions in 2017 — 62 percent of institutions offered the plans, which cost employees less than low-deductible policies but require users to pay more up front for procedures. That’s up 16 points from 2015.

High-deductible plans were the second most popular type of plan to offer, behind more traditional preferred provider organization plans, which were offered by 84 percent of institutions. Those PPO plans were far and away the most likely type of plan to be offered in cases when an institution only offered one health plan option, however.

The rise of high-deductible plans could be popular with at least some employees because they come with lower premiums. What is less likely to be popular is a rebound in support for wellness programs in 2017.

The portion of colleges and universities with wellness programs in place has held relatively steady at about 59 percent over the past three years. But among institutions that don’t have a wellness program in place, almost a third, 29 percent, plan to institute one next year. That’s up drastically from about 10 percent last year, when interest had dropped dramatically.

Wellness programs, which attempt to encourage employees to adopt healthy lifestyles and get preventive care in order to head off…

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