As if it weren't already hard enough to get good health insurance.

Finding affordable health insurance has never been easy for part-time workers — especially when benefits for even full-time employees get scarcer by the hour. The logic is pretty simple: With premiums rising, it just isn't cost-effective to insure workers who don't put in a full work week.

Turns out, however, that part-time faculty members at IUPUI (Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis) aren't allowed to provide themselves with their own group insurance either — even when it doesn't cost the school a dime in shared premiums, or in costs associated with administering payroll deductions.

Tracy Donhardt, president of the Associate Faculty Advisory Board (AFAB) at the IUPUI School of Liberal Arts, told NUVO that the board's attempt to secure an independent group insurance plan for part-time Liberal Arts faculty had been scuttled by Indiana University in Bloomington, which said group insurance plans of any kind had to come directly from IUB.

"They said that us doing that violated IU policy because all benefits come from the top, and have to be initiated and managed by IU Bloomington," Donhardt said. "That means no individual group within the university system at all can get their own policy."

According to an email to Donhardt from IUB's Human Resource Services (HRS), "limited medical plans have very limited value for most individuals" — a notion Donhardt contests on behalf of part-timers who have no insurance at all.

The alternative — that each part-time faculty member purchase an individual plan — tends to be more expensive than a group plan, because the risk is not pooled among multiple members, Donhardt noted.

The IUPUI School of Liberal Arts alone employs 168 part-time teachers; a popular group plan could bring down premiums significantly for its members.

By the time they were rejected, the Liberal Arts AFAB had already secured an agreement on a group plan through a broker and carrier outside of IUPUI. The plan would have been a voluntary, affordable, minimum coverage plan — paid in full by its members, requiring no employer premium share.

Still the school maintains that payment questions are irrelevant.

"Regardless of who pays or how the premium is collected, the university still has fiduciary and legal responsibility for oversight and compliance of any group plan," an HRS administrator wrote to Donhardt. "Review of plans for vendor selection and plan provisions, and then ongoing oversight, requires a meaningful amount of resources."

Why, exactly, IU is obligated to provide so much review and oversight for an outside, independent plan remains unclear.


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