Aug 302007
 
Authors: Aaron Hedge, Johnny Hart

Some CSU employees said a proposed change in the university’s employee benefit program wouldn’t be helpful to current employees at a question and answer forum Thursday.

Ben Pay, the current system, hasn’t been effective in recruiting, CSU officials said, so it’s time to update the system.

But some employees said they would rather see the program improve benefits for existing employees.

Anura Jayasumana, a professor of electric and computer engineering and one of four outspoken employees during the meeting, has worked at CSU for 22 years /- longer than Ben Pay has existed.

The proposed program, Jayasumana said, won’t be received well by some current CSU staff.

“At this point, I don’t think it should be implemented,” he said. “It helps recruit new employees, but doesn’t help current employees . I’m trying to understand, and I don’t see a valid reason for it.”

But some employees said they would support the change.

“The cost share plan with a family is much better,” said Charmaine Matheson, assistant director of the Rocky Mountain Regional Center of Excellence, a branch of the microbiology department, after the meeting. “We just couldn’t afford it under Ben Pay.”

Matheson said he plans to add dependants to her benefit plan if the new model is implemented.

As it stands now, Ben Pay allocates money to employees according to their individual salaries, whereas a “cost share” model would provide benefits based on an employee’s family status, said Carol Shirey, director of Human Resources.

Two decades ago, the university considered Ben Pay, which allocates benefit funds based on an individual’s salary, cutting-edge.

Today, CSU is looking to be more competitive.

About 90 percent of universities have systems similar to the proposed program, officials said.

“This will improve recruitment and retention because we will look more like other universities,” Shirey said.

If established, the new model could go into effect as early as January. Employees would have the option to wait up to four years before switching from Ben Pay.

The university is considering implementing a “grandfathering program” designed to cater to the needs of those who are more comfortable with Ben Pay.

Ben Pay vs. cost share

The proposed program would ultimately be most generous to those with higher salaries.

For example, an employee earning $90,000 would benefit more than an employee earning $30,000 under cost share.

With Ben Pay, employees in certain salary ranges earn equal amounts of funds from CSU and allocate the money to benefits as they see fit.

But not every employee in the same salary range has the same financial needs. An employee with a family would receive the same amount of funds as an unmarried employee.

With cost share, the university would evaluate insurance needs of each employee and distribute benefits accordingly.

“In medical insurance, younger people help subsidize the elderly community. . You need this broad risk pool to make insurance affordable,” Shirey said. “It’s a philosophical change.”

“Some employees view Ben Pay as part of their compensation, but it is not salary,” she added.

An online calculator is available for employees to compare the two models in relation to their salaries at http://wsprod.colostate.edu/cwis187/benefits/.

There is another open forum scheduled from 10 to 11 a.m., Wednesday in the Grey Rock Room in LSC.

Staff writers Johnny Hart and Aaron Hedge can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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