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The Dartmouth
May 28, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

College switches insurance plans

On Jan. 1, the College will formally switch its employee health insurance provider from Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield to CIGNA after the College Benefits Council voted unanimously to make the change earlier this year. Dartmouth employees were informed of the decision via email on Aug. 21.

In spite of the change in providers, employees covered by the College's health insurance plan should expect the same benefits as before, math professor and College Benefits Council member Dana Williams said.

The College plans to increase coverage of vision and hearing benefits and expand employee wellness programs, such as biometric screenings and health coaches, according to Alice Tanguay, benefits manager for the Office of Human Resources.

The College Benefits Council oversaw the search for the new health care plan provider, which started last fall. During the process, the College Benefits Council considered four different vendors, including Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, CIGNA, United Healthcare and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, Office of Human Resources Vice President Myron McCoo said.

CIGNA was selected for its extensive network coverage, quality customer service and innovative care practices, according to McCoo.

"CIGNA has a platform that can provide something important to Dartmouth in promoting health and wellness in the employee population," McCoo said. "Our goal is to have a healthy and well employee base. We think that CIGNA can help augment that goal."

As of now, the College cannot predict how the provider switch will affect Dartmouth's spending on employee health insurance, but McCoo said that the switch will allow the College to save money in the long term.

The College spends about $55 million on medical benefits per year. More than 3,900 employees and their families are covered by the Dartmouth health care plan.

"Our hope is to design a plan that allows for savings and meets employees' needs," McCoo said.

President of Service Employees International Union Local 560 Earl Sweet said, however, he is concerned about the shift to CIGNA.

"The question is why would [the College] feel it needs to change the insurance," he said. "The only thing I can figure is that they are saving money. Where does that savings go?"

The SEIU was not invited to discuss the change with the College Benefits Council and had no input in the selection process, according to Sweet. He said he is worried that the costs of premiums will increase as a result of the new provider. McCoo said, however, that the cost of premiums will not be affected by the shift.

After the change was announced, the SEIU entered formal discussions with the College about the union's concerns with the shift, Sweet said. It is unlikely that the College will reconsider the decision.

Dartmouth employees expressed mixed opinions about the change. While some were skeptical about how the switch would affect their benefits, they did not entirely disapprove of the decision.

Eleanor Cassady, a Dartmouth Dining Services supervisor at Collis Cafe, said she is not concerned about switching to CIGNA.

"The plans are going to be the same," Cassady said. "It's just a different carrier."

Erin Clark, a DDS employee at Novak Cafe who has worked at the College for 12 years, said she wants more information about how the change will affect coverage.

"We don't know with this new provider if it's going to be similar to what we've had or if it's going to be something totally different," she said.

While she said she is pleased that the College will provide information sessions about the switch, Clark said she would prefer if the information were available online.

"I'm not planning on going to the sessions if I don't have to," she said.

Clark said she has been satisfied with the health insurance that Dartmouth provides to its employees.

"It's really good health insurance for the area and for health insurance in general in America today," she said.

Open enrollment for benefits selection will start on Oct. 22 and last until Nov. 5. Information sessions about the shift to CIGNA and the new employee wellness programs will be offered before and during open enrollment. On Oct. 17, employees will have an opportunity to talk to CIGNA representatives about the new plan.