May

Minutes from the Health System Academic Research Employee Council meeting on May 17th, 2001

Attendance: Terry Moore, Jane Michael, Stephanie Bingler, Ginny Dean, Trish Reilly, Pat Harlow, Lynn McCutcheon, Nancy Kriigel, John Aufill, David V. Smith, Nancy B. Moore, Ally Mawyer, Della Marsh, Pat Williams, Jim Stork, Susan Tapscott, Melinda Mason, Mary-Leigh Thacker, Leigh Ann Bush, Gina M. Steppe, Monte Parsons, and Catherine Kirby-Smith.

Jackie Cooke (jmc8e@virginia.edu) from Employee Relations was the first to address the council, since Bill Vining is out. Bill is recovering at home and doing fine. The fliers for the next two university sponsored trips are out on the Employee Travel Opportunity web site. The Munich trip is generating a lot of interest so let them know if you are interested. The results of Give Air a Break Day are still being processed. Administrative Services was the department with the most participation from our council. Yoke San Reynolds, the new VP of Finance is beginning on May 25th. The council should consider having her as a guest speaker at a council meeting in the near future. The training for the new evaluation plan as part of the new compensation plan will begin this summer. Linda Way-Smith (law4d), the Director of Benefits, was the next to address the council. The council sent her questions to answer concerning VRS employee benefits.

  • How do you go about buying time back for VRS credit for work done with another state agency (or work done in another state)? There is an application on-line at the VRS link. There is a form for your previous employer and your current employer to fill out, and then you must send the completed form to VRS. The rate of buy back and other details can be found on the VRS FactSheet. Please keep in mind that the rate and eligibility of the buy back is about to change in July of 2001. The VRS is widening the types of previous service that is eligible to be bought back, and they are making the payment calculations easier. For some early details, go to the Memo to Members Newsletter Spring 2001 (state employees edition). On page 3, the purchase of prior service is discussed. What proof of employment do you need? The only proof of employment that is needed is your former employer's signature. Is it worth it? The value of buying back service depends on many factors. It depends on your current salary, health, and number of years you expect to be getting benefits. Look at the previously linked FactSheet for more details.
  • Can we buy back hourly employment with the state effective this July? If you formerly worked for a VRS institution even if your position was not eligible for VRS, you may be able to buy back some of the service. The details are still under investigation, and you need to seek guidance from VRS directly.
  • I would like the issue raised of lobbying for part-time permanent employees who were not covered under the retirement plan to be able to buy service time to add to their retirement. What steps do we need to try to make this available to state employees? If you are currently part-time but were full-time, you probably aren't eligible for the buy back. If you are currently full-time and want to buy back previous service when you were part-time, you may be eligible to buy back some of the service. You need guidance from VRS. If you are interested in lobbying for a change in the current policy, contact Nancy Rivers of the Government Relations Office and your local legislators.
  • Why doesn't VRS come to UVA to do the PREP program (pre-retirement planning)? Linda Way-Smith has called VRS to ask the same thing, and UVA has now been added to the list of organizations that VRS will come to every fall and teach the PREP class.
  • How can we be assured in getting VRS newsletters? VRS sends the Benefits office the newsletters, and as soon as they are received, the newsletters are sent out to the employees. They haven't received a newsletter since the Fall of 2000, even though there is a Spring 2001 newsletter on the web at http://www.state.va.us/vrs/vrs.htm.
  • How is the VRS benefit calculated? 1.7% x your average final salary x years of service. If your final salary is not your highest salary, then the calculation is done from your highest continuous 36 months of service.
  • When you retire and you've been with the state 20 years, when do you start receiving your retirement benefits? Do you receive these benefits until you pass away or do you only receive them until your money runs out? In order to receive the VRS benefits, you must fill out the Application for Service Retirement (VRS-5), have it notarized, completed and signed by your employer, and submitted to the VRS at least 3 months in advance of your retirement. You will get your first check the month following your last day of service. Example: You retire July 24th. Your last check from UVA will be August 1st. Your retirement date is August 1, and you would receive your 1st retirement check on September 1. The benefits are lifetime benefits which you will receive until death, even if they exceed the amount of your personal contributions. When you die, if you still have a portion of your employee- paid benefits remaining, your beneficiaries will receive a check for the remainder of this amount.
  • As VRS retirees, do we get health/medical insurance? If yes, for how long? Till we die? Or for only so many years after retirement? Do we have to pay the full monthly amount for health insurance after we retire or is it at a reduced rate? Until you turn 65, a retiree can remain on the UVA Health Plan (you must pay the premiums), but once the retiree turns 65, you must go on Medicare. VRS does offer supplemental insurance at a group rate. If a retiree has more than 15 years of service, then they are eligible for a health credit of $4/ year of service up to $120/month. Retirees are also offered vision and dental plans as options in the health plan. These must be selected as options a retiree wants (they will not be automatically enrolled in these programs).

Linda Way-Smith also recapped what the TDSP (tax-deferred savings plan) entails. It is a benefit offered to employees whereby they put money aside pre-tax in a retirement account, and the state will make a 50% matching contribution up to $40 a month ($480/year). Details on the plan can be found at (Inside UVA article-NOTE: the amount the state will match has doubled since the article was released) or at the HR website. There is a limit to the amount an employee can contribute which is approximately 25% of your income or $10,500 a year. A maximum exclusion allowance or MEA will be calculated for you to give you the exact amount allowed. There are 3 vendors for the program, TIAA/CREF, Fidelity, and Vanguard. Only accounts with TIAA/CREF and Fidelity are eligible for the state contributed matching funds. In order to be eligible for the fund matching, you must have been an employee at UVA for 12 months (it is possible to have months of service transferred from another state institution). You can contribute to the plan right away; however, your contributions will not be matched during your 1st 12 months of employment. In order to enroll in the plan, you must fill out the vendor application and a wage deduction form. There is also a cash match form at Human Resources. Please make sure that the state contribution is being made by completing the form. Benefits is going to begin a massive PR campaign to promote the TDSP with classes from the vendors, etc. in the coming year. There is a very low level of participation in this plan in the Health System.

A question was also posed concerning the level of customer service being provided by the Benefits Division. Is there a particular process employees should follow to resolve questions in a timely manner? Currently, there are only 3 benefits counselors for about 12,000 employees at UVA. These people are all cross-trained, meaning they can help with any benefits question you may have, but they are overworked. A new person is starting on June 1st, and they are in the process of hiring additional help. The options for reaching benefits are: call 4-4392 and wait for the next available person, or e-mail at benefits@virginia.edu and someone will e-mail you back. Less confusion tends to occur when you e-mail because the questions and responses are in writing but either way is fine. Currently the health plan questions (with 24,000 people represented) are being fielded by one person at benefits but that should be improving with the addition of the Health Plan Ombudsman who will deal with health plan issues such as claims and will have a medical background. A search committee is currently working on filling that position.

A problem/complaint that people have been making to Benefits involves the receipt of completed forms to the office. Employees will call and claim a form was sent in, but Benefits has no record of the form ever being received. Linda Way-Smith has the following suggestions to offer: Please call and double check that a form was received, make copies for yourself, and if at all possible, drop the forms off in person to the Benefits Office. If you do mail in the form, the form is immediately scanned in and logged that it has been received. A card will be sent to you via messenger mail that the form was received (so if you sent a form in and did not receive a confirmation, the form may not have reached the office).

Medical center employees (agency 209) will soon be eligible to obtain the Aetna long term care insurance. The next open enrollment period for health insurance is this fall. Any changes to the plan are being looked into now. QualChoice is making changes to their pharmacy plan (moving over 100 drugs from tier 2 to tier 3 making the co-payments higher for participants) but UVA's Health Plan will NOT include all of these changes. The UVA Health Plan is self-insured by UVA, but administered by QualChoice. UVA determines any changes to the UVA Health Plan, not QualChoice.

Jim Kennan was the next to address the council. Dr. Craig Slingluff is doing some interesting research on human immune therapy which is showing promise on preventing cancer before it happens. Dr. Pamela Cipriano, chief clinical officer for the medical center, is using innovative methods for solving the nursing shortage. The search is international. They have many new nursing graduates coming on board, and they have been hiring travelers to fill in temporarily. The medical center net operating margin is at 2.9% (the goal is 4%). The margin is down due to many factors, some of which are beds being off-line because of the nursing shortage and critical care patients having shorter stays. A new form of web-based medical education is being developed by Dr. Bob Bloodgood and Dr. John Jackson. The presentations are on the web, but are interactive (asks questions as you go along). There is another transition in the medical school administration. The Office of the VP and Provost for Health System is being eliminated in the reorganization; therefore, Jim Kennan will no longer be meeting with us after next month. Dr. Cantrell will be stepping down from his post as of the end of June. It is not known who will be the administrative liaison to our employee council at this time.

The plans for the hospital centennial celebration are ongoing. On June 3rd (Sunday) from 2-4 pm, there will be a University Hospital Community Centennial Celebration in a tent across from the old medical school. We are all invited to attend. There will be light refreshments and live entertainment. Two time capsules will be opened (one from 1958-at the cornerstone of hospital west and the other from the 1980s buried across from the circle at the old hospital) and a new time capsule will be created. The CMC telethon will occur on June 1-3rd. The Walk-a-thon will occur on June 2nd.

Old Business:

  • The web page for the council is up and running. Nikki Mayo from the HS Web Development department was a huge help. If anyone has suggestions on ways to improve the web site, please let Mary-Leigh or Leigh Ann know.
  • The white water rafting trip was cancelled due to lack of participation.

New Business:

  • On Saturday, October 13th, a day trip to DC is planned. The fliers will be distributed as soon as they are made available. There will be options for dinner and/or a play. The bus would probably leave Fontaine at 9 a.m., and return from D.C. about 10:30 p.m. The trip is limited to one bus so, if you are interested, sign up early.
  • The December day trip will be to Colonial Williamsburg to see the Christmas decorations and lights.
  • Jane Michael is the new rep from Plastic Surgery, and she was introduced to the council. Paula Keeney and John Williamson will be co-reps for Neurology, and should alternate attending the council meeting beginning with the June meeting.
  • Thanks to Pat Williams and Jim Stork, we have three people who have expressed an interest in being officers for next year. They are Stephanie Bingler, Psychiatric Medicine; Terry Moore, Emergency Medicine; and Monte Parsons, ENT. Elections will be held at our July meeting, and the new officers will take over beginning in August.
  • We are looking for suggestions for guest speakers in the future. Leonard Sandridge will be attending the September meeting, and HR will present the new evaluation process sometime this summer. Please let us know if you have any ideas.

The minutes from the April meeting were approved, and the meeting was adjourned.