August 4, 2006

Elevate: Answering the Tough Questions

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Medical Center leadership answers the tough questions about what the elevate program is and what it means for the people who work at VUMC.

Question: Why doesn't Vanderbilt extend health care coverage to employees after they retire?

Answer: Many Vanderbilt faculty and staff indicate that they would probably retire earlier if they could only keep the Vanderbilt health care coverage.

In efforts to enhance our benefits program, Vanderbilt has examined the possibility on several occasions. Health care has become such a high cost item in everyone's budget that the increased premiums for someone nearing retirement age are too hefty for the individual to absorb.

The University recognizes that a retiree health plan, at least one that would take someone to Medicare eligibility, would be a very helpful benefit, but a most expensive one.

The cost of retiree health plans continues to grow and fewer employers are offering them. The reason is the same Vanderbilt identified the first time the question was examined: an aging population; research producing more and better drugs; and health care services used more.

Where employers have provided retiree health care, many are finding that the benefit cost undermines the financial stability of the business. Even where businesses want to continue the benefit, the expense in many cases means no salary increases or other reduced benefit offerings.

Given the cost, Vanderbilt has determined that with the current options available, it cannot support introducing such a benefit from a sound business perspective.

Continued review of regulations and benefit structures surrounding retiree health care will position Vanderbilt to possibly offer something in the future, but for now this is not an option to consider.

— Kevin Myatt, associate vice chancellor and chief human resource officer