Cabrini’s move to shift more healthcare costs to employees sparks controversy

By Pryce Jamison
October 20, 2021

It became apparent months ago that Cabrini needed to make some tough decisions that were deemed necessary for the sustainability of the school’s future, given the toll the pandemic had on businesses and institutions everywhere. 

These decisions didn’t always mean that it’s the end of the road for certain elements of the school that people around campus grew so familiar with. It appears that Cabrini has found, at least for right now, a temporary solution to the health insurance crisis that employees were appearing to face as this school year kicked off.

While major and faculty cuts stirred up mixed emotions last semester, healthcare plans for faculty and staff were something that was anticipated to be also changed significantly. As the topic was discussed throughout faculty meetings, it seemed like putting a halt to these health insurance benefits for a second while figuring out a solution, was at one point the direction Cabrini was moving towards. Overall, the drastic change in healthcare premium costs caught faculty and staff by surprise.

“The burden of the premiums shifted from the employer to employees in ways we found objectionable; this shift left all employees facing anywhere from $1000 to $5000 more out-of-pocket each year which is a significant reduction in salary that many cannot afford, particularly if their families’ healthcare needs are serious,” the faculty assembly chair, Dr. Paul Wright, acknowledged.

This has been a national issue though, as businesses have been trying to keep these benefits for the employees that put the work in day in and day out.

According to the Society for Human Resource Management, the total average employer cost across the nation for healthcare premiums rose this year to an estimated average of $13,360 per employee which was up from $12,501 in 2020.

Employees in universities all across the nation have been most likely facing similar issues. “MORE PhD Meeting” by University of Michigan’s Ford School is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Employee contributions for premiums increased slightly to $3,331 in 2021, up from $3,269 in 2020. This helps paint the visual of the increase that employers have to work with while at the same time, still trying to offer these benefits at a reasonable contribution cost for employees.

When tensions were at its highest, it seemed like there were concerns across campus about the process by which the changes were made and how the “take-home” impacts of the changes were not communicated clearly to all employees, as the open enrollment benefits deadline is looming so soon. 

Wright was fully aware of how sensitive this matter is as he added that “all this was happening in the midst of a pandemic and economic turmoil for working families added to the distress, and we feel that this change was not in keeping with our Catholic and social justice mission.”


The need for medical attention has increased over the past year, but healthcare premium cost has increased? Photo from creative commons licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

He also knows how much of a national problem it is as he stated how “the larger situation of the nation and the global economy are certainly factors here, many of which are beyond Cabrini’s control, but employees remain concerned about decisions that undermine our ability to sustain our families while doing the work we love here.”

Luckily, a current solution to reduce that burden on the employees seems to be in effect now, but seems to have no choice to be temporary at the moment. This is a breath of fresh air for the time being as the solution adopted by the administration reduced the inordinate premium burden on employees compared to the initial plan described above. 

There still seems to be a significant increase in all employee contributions to healthcare premiums regardless of plan, but it is less than the original arrangement that fueled the controversy.

“The larger concern of all employees right now is that the premium burden has been changed for this year, but seemingly not for the long-term; all of this is exacerbated by our ongoing need for real-world cost-of-living increases,” Dr. Wright continued with. “Depending on how this year’s budget processes go, the administration is likely merely deferring this heavier burden on employees to next year, so we continue to ask the administration to reconsider these plans going forward and to involve faculty and other employees more fully in the budget decision-making processes.”

While some faculty served on the Budget Advisory Council last academic year, Wright also stressed how those faculty representatives were not made aware of the healthcare changes and impacts in the way they needed to be. “Transparency in all budget processes and their implications needs to become the norm when all employees and their families are potentially impacted.”

If Cabrini truly adopts this mindset of making sure everyone is on the same page about national issues reaching this institution, and the best ways to accommodate the needs of all employees, decision-making will only continue to be more open minded as this same issue will potentially have to be tackled again next year.

Pryce Jamison

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