Sunday, March 18, 2007

Not Entirely in the Dark, But Close.

When the CDT originally reported on Penn State's recently announced deal with Highmark it quoted Joanna Floros, chairwoman of the UFS, on the deal.

[She] said the plan sounds good at face value... [and] Highmark's parent -- the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association -- is strong.

But Floros, a professor in the College of Medicine, is not yet familiar with details of the new arrangement, she said. She said the Faculty Senate was not consulted as the university pursued an agreement with Highmark.

This week in a letter to the CDT Floros expanded on what the Faculty knew prior to the deal.
A recent Centre Daily Times story covered quite well Penn State's new partnership with Highmark, which will invest $20 million in a new Penn State Children's Hospital, $5 million to expand clinical research throughout the region and lead to the joint development and study of health-and-wellness programs.

However, one element in the story may have left readers with the incorrect impression.

The article indicated that I said the Faculty Senate was not consulted as the university pursued an agreement with Highmark. This is correct with regard to the specific provider and the specific details of this particular agreement.

As the Faculty Senate's meeting minutes demonstrate, however, the university administration has presented details of its proposal to move the administration of our health-care benefits to a single provider and its reasons for wanting to do so to the Faculty Senate's Joint Committee on Insurance Matters and the Faculty Senate Benefits Committee on multiple occasions over the past two years.

You can find one of the presentations to which she refers here. It is the most detailed one that I could find. This is the slide from that presentation which covers the subject of a single payer system.

Based on this can one genuinely say that the Faculty Senate was adequately informed about the Highmark deal? I would have to say no. The devil, as always, is in the details and the UFS was not informed about the details of this particular deal prior to the deal being struck. Nor is it likely that they will ever know the details since, according to the CDT Spanier said that figures that show how much money Penn State may save under the arrangement are proprietary. Therefore it is unlikely that the deal's inner working will ever be fully known. Only after the deal goes into effect and it is too late to do anything about it will the faculty learn through experience what the deal means to them.

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