Students are not the only ones being evaluated at the University of South Dakota — faculty and staff are receiving report cards of their own.
This January university employees were faced with a choice: undergo a graded health evaluation or face an automatic increase in their insurance deductibles — from $500 to $1,000.
According to Diane Zak, director of Human Resources at USD, the health evaluations are part of a larger nationwide trend in institutions attempting to manage the costs of health insurance in the face of “skyrocketing” overhead insurance costs.
“In an effort to manage claims to premiums, USD needs a healthier workforce,” Zak said.
Prior to this year, employee health evaluations were offered, but were not declared an alternative to a raised deductible.
University employees who chose to undergo the health evaluations had their blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes risk and weight management assessed.
Their results were given back to them immediately on a “report card,” where they were given a grade on an A to F scale, and a grade point average ranging from 0.0 to 4.0 in each individual category and as a whole.
Zak said as long as an employee undergoes the health evaluation, he or she will not face an automatic increase in the cost of his or her deductible.
However, Zak said if, year after year an employee’s grades do not improve, he or she may need to be “leveraged into positive action” with a higher deductible cost.
“The F-getters are at a high-cost risk for high medical bills,” Zak said. “If you don’t improve your scores, you could be opted to a different plan because, at the end of the day, the state is paying for it.”
The university’s insurance plan is part of a state-wide health plan governed by the South Dakota Bureau of Human Resources in Pierre.
According to the Bureau of Human Resources Benefits Program, USD employees’ health GPA was not available yet. However, the overall grade of all state employees — including “the university group” — is a B-, or a 2.8 GPA.
Employees ranked highest in the category of smoking risk, earning an A-, but earned a comparatively low C- in weight management.
Zak said there had been different reactions from employees who were told they needed to undergo the health evaluation in order to retain their low deductible.
“No one likes be told they have to do something, but intellectually we understand why we must do it,” Zak said. “Some people saw it as an ‘I needed that’ and took it as a reason for action.”