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 September 1, 1999

CIGNA plan widens choices for CU employee health care

BOULDER — Boulder’s University of Colorado employees will have more health-care options beginning Jan. 1.

Since 1989, the university has provided its own insurance to employees through a group of university physicians and a network of another 1,500 doctors around the state. But CU’s self-insurance program lost $10.2 million in the last three years, the result of more claims than premiums collected.

“There were problems with (physicians’) contractual reimbursements,´ said Liz Kissick, director of CU’s health plan development. “There’s more to managing a plan than just negotiating provider contracts.”

CU has signed up three different health-care providers to replace the self-insurance program: Kaiser Permanente, One Health Plan of Colorado and CIGNA Health Care.

Combined, the three companies will offer seven different plans, including three HMOs and four kinds of managed care.

Beginning in October, CU’s 10,000 employees will be able to enroll in the plan of their choice. The process has set off a frenzy of marketing among the three providers.

CIGNA President and General Manager Daryl Edmonds believes his company has one advantage over the competition, the result of a partnership with University Physicians Inc.

UPI is the administrative arm to the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center’s physicians provider network. CU’s more than 650 full-time faculty physicians have always provided health care for university employees, Kissick said.

This health care is relegated primarily to CU-Denver employees, since Denver is home to the Health Sciences Center and University Hospital. CU-Colorado Springs employees use outside providers, and Boulder employees have a choice of either outside providers or the eight physicians who work at CU’s University Clinic.

When the new CU health-care plan kicks in, employees who choose CIGNA will stick with UPI.

In what Edmonds calls a “pretty unique relationship,” UPI will be CIGNA’s sole provider for CU-Denver employees and University Hospital and Children’s Hospital the sole hospitals.

“We’re driving all volume in metro Denver to University Hospital and Children’s. There’s a smaller network of providers,” Edmonds said.

The result is that CIGNA says it’s the least expensive of the three providers. Edmonds says single CU employees who sign up with CIGNA will save around $30 to $40 a month in premiums over the self-insurance plan.

In Boulder and Colorado Springs, employees also will have the option of the full CIGNA network. CU-Boulder employees will go to Boulder Community or Avista hospitals under the CIGNA plan. Kaiser also will use UPI for certain services, Kissick said, but will rely mainly on its own network of doctors. One Health Plan will use its own physicians.

Edmonds says he likes the CIGNA/UPI partnership so much that CIGNA is looking at other opportunities to work with the university physicians.

“We think we’re onto something good,” he said.

Kissick sees the three-insurer plan as a benefit to CU employees. Not only will the university not have to pay off future self-insurance losses, but private insurers also offer broader benefits and services, she says.

“There’s a benefit in having access to a nationwide insurer. Employees can move their memberships if they move out of the state.”

BOULDER — Boulder’s University of Colorado employees will have more health-care options beginning Jan. 1.

Since 1989, the university has provided its own insurance to employees through a group of university physicians and a network of another 1,500 doctors around the state. But CU’s self-insurance program lost $10.2 million in the last three years, the result of more claims than premiums collected.

“There were problems with (physicians’) contractual reimbursements,´ said Liz Kissick, director of CU’s health plan development. “There’s more to managing a plan than just negotiating provider contracts.”

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