President Jim Johnsen addresses UA Scholars Award recipients and their families during a reception at the Eagan library in Juneau. Photo by Monique Musick

News Stories - November 2015

  • Board of Regents Heading to Fairbanks December 10-11
  • 2015 UA Scholars Award Receptions Near Attendance Records
  • Changes in Pay Rate Increases Likelihood of Higher Balance Billing Costs from Out-of-network Providers
  • JHCC Members met with Premera and Health Care Vendors To Review Plan Performance
  • Statewide Transformation Update
  • FY17 Operating and Capital Budget Overviews
  • Regents approve FY17 budget, tuition increase

    Board of Regents Heading to Fairbanks December 10-11

    The December meeting of the University of Alaska Board of Regents will be held in the Butrovich building on the UAF campus Dec. 10-11, with public testimony from 9-10 a.m. Thursday, and 10-11 a.m. Friday.

    President Jim Johnsen will lead a discussion on the contingency budget process which will define a plan for how the university will address reductions should it not receive legislative funding to support the Board of Regents’ full budget request. The revised budget would be in place by the time the legislature adjourns next spring. That budget will target a total reduction of $40.6 million, enough to cover the state’s potential 4.5 percent ($15.8 million) reduction in addition to the expected $24.8 million increase in fixed costs and unfunded mandates.. MORE...

    Statewide Transformation

    Progress Update
    The Statewide Transformation Team, which issued its preliminary report and recommendations Sept. 25, and has gathered input from system leadership and SW staff, will begin the next phase of its work beginning Dec. 4. President Jim Johnsen has appointed working teams to review recommendation, explore and assess various alternatives and refine recommendations.

    Working Teams
    The working teams include SW and campus employees, representing diverse perspectives, and possessing a variety of competencies and experience. They will be facilitated and supported by professionals from Sibson Consulting, under the direction of the President, with ongoing input from the Transformation Team.

    Ongoing Communication
    Staff feedback was important in supporting the need for further examination of alternative service models and reinforced concerns raised about organizational culture. Ongoing communication between the working teams and staff will be will be an important component of the assessment and strategy development work.

    President Johnsen identified team members based on input from Statewide and university leadership as well as the Transformation Team, and invited them to participate in the process. Team meetings will be held monthly December through February with recommendations due to the President March 1. The first meetings will be in December with Administration, Enterprise IT and Human Resources working teams to meet on Dec 3 and the Finance, Academic Affairs and Research, University Relations & Foundation teams to meet on Dec 4 . Johnsen will review the recommendations with the Summit Team in March. Implementation tasks and timelines will be assigned in April with implementation targeted for implementation by July 1.

    UA FY17 Operating Budget

    The BOR Proposal
    The Board of Regents’ FY17 operating budget proposal requests an increment of $26 million to fund fixed cost increases and high priority programs. The reality is that UA’s budget may be reduced by 4.5 percent, or $15.8 million, according to initial guidance from the governor’s office. UA still believes it is important to start by communicating what it will take to sustain the current level of programs and services, recognizing the advances made in a number of high priority areas identified in Shaping Alaska’s Future. We are also preparing for the possibility that our budget may be reduced even further as it goes through the legislative process early next year. 

    Strategic Budget Management
    Following two years of state funding reductions, UA needs the time between now and fiscal year-end to consider carefully how to implement additional expected reductions while continuing to create success for the people of Alaska through wide access to cost-effective and high quality higher education.  UA will soon begin work on an alternate budget proposal that will identify vertical rather than horizontal reductions. Many options will be explored and considered, including the preliminary recommendations from the Statewide Transformation Team report, administrative and academic program consolidation and elimination, and increased partnerships and outsourcing. The Board of Regents has asked University leadership to evaluate e-Learning, general education requirements, developmental education and teacher education during the budget process.

    UA FY17 Capital Budget

    Capital Budget Overview
    The Board of Regents’ Capital Improvement Plan guides decisions to ensure the necessary facilities, equipment and infrastructure are in place to support the academic direction of the university. The FY17 capital budget includes only the top two capital priorities.

    Complete UAF’s Engineering Building
    Funding is requested to complete the UAF engineering facility. UAF is the home of the College of Engineering and Mines (CEM) and the Institute of Northern Engineering (INE). CEM and INE are major centers for engineering education and research in Alaska today. The state has supported this project by providing funding in each of its FY11 through FY15 budgets. Delays in the original schedule, as a result of not having the full funding available, have led to higher costs for completion. The FY17 request for $34.3 million dollars reflects the current cost to complete the building, providing needed space to graduate more engineering students. If the building is fully-funded during this session, the building will open in the spring semester of 2018.

    The Deferred Maintenance Threat
    UA owns and maintains more than 400 buildings across the state, totaling 6.7 million gross square feet and valued at nearly $3 billion. This is a huge portion of the state’s facility infrastructure -- nearly 40 percent of its entire square footage. Over the past six years, UA received significant state funding to support deferred maintenance projects. UA requests $50.0 million for deferred maintenance funding to continue the momentum in decreasing its deferred maintenance backlog and $50 million for renewal and repurposing sustainment funding to keep up with the current facility maintenance needs.

    2015 UA Scholars Award Receptions Near Attendance Records

    The University of Alaska Scholars Program, in partnership with each of the main campuses and the Kodiak campus, hosted more than 300 scholars at UA Scholars Award Receptions, the most since the initial year of the program in 1999. The receptions provide an opportunity for the scholars to hear from university representatives and UA President Jim Johnsen why they should choose to attend UA.

    Approximately 1,000 UA Scholars have been designated by their high school as part of the 17th class invited to receive the $12,000 award. The Scholars Award program was designed with the purpose to inspire Alaska students to attend and graduate from college in their home state. The program draws students from every geographical region in Alaska to learn together, to share meaningful experiences, and eventually to lead Alaska’s workforce together. Since its inception in 1999, over 6,600 Alaska high school graduates have benefited from the scholarship.

    At each event, attendees heard from current UA scholars, the chancellor or provost, and UA President Jim Johnsen.  MORE....

    Changes in Pay Rate Increases Likelihood of Higher Balance Billing Costs from Out-of-network Providers

    When the fiscal year began this July, we changed how UA Health Plan costs are paid to out-of-network providers. Prior to FY16, Premera paid out-of-network health care providers at rates based on Alaska costs. We didn’t pay at the highest rate, but we paid at the 80th percentile of billed charges per service. Under this model there is little incentive for providers to not increase costs in order to receive higher payments. It also offered less incentive to join Premera’s network of providers.

    Under the new model, Premera pays based on 125 percent of what the federal Medicare program pays for these services. This shift saves the plan money, but may catch members unaware when the balance billing, the amount left over after Premera pays the providers, increases, sometimes substantially, when you use out-of-network providers. This is especially surprising for members who have regularly seen a particular provider and are seeing the increased balance billing for the first time under the new payment arrangement.

    The percentage the plan pays has not changed. If it was 80 percent of the allowed amount for in-network and 60 percent for out-of-network providers before, it’s the same now. What’s changed is the allowed amount to which that 80 percent or 60 percent is applied.

    Balance billing is a difficult area for consumers to navigate, and is one of the strongest motivators for using an in-network provider who has agreed not to balance bill members as part of their contract with Premera. If you are using an out-of-network provider it is important to discuss balance billing with them, or to utilize our patient advocacy service PatientCare, 1-866-253-2273, for individualized assistance in health management and care provider research.

    You can also call Best Doctors at 866-904-0910 to find other treatment options or get help finding an expert who is in the Blue Cross network. Getting services from an in-network provider will always be the better deal. Premera has the largest network of providers in Alaska. To find an in-network provider, log in at Premera.com and use the Find a Doctor tool. Or call Customer Service at 1-800-364-2982; you can find the number on your member ID card.

    JHCC Members met with Premera and Health Care Vendors To Review Plan Performance

    The annual Knowledge Management and Vendor Summit meetings between members of the Joint Health Care Committee and UA health plan partners Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield, Best Doctors, VSP, ComPsych, PatientCare and Healthyroads Nov. 11-12 provided insight into factors driving health care cost increases, and intensive discussion on what can be done to improve consumer awareness and utilization of services, smooth integration between vendors, lower overall plan costs and improve wellness.

    Premera processed nearly 200,000 claims for the university last fiscal year. Their annual report evaluates claims history, pharmacy scripts and demographic data to create a storybook highlighting trends and insights into UA Choice plan usage as compared to Alaska norms. The information is utilized by the Joint Health Care Committee and UA management to highlight areas where they can improve communications, promote better consumer activity, improve wellness and target preventive efforts.

    It is also an opportunity for Premera to highlight how changes in their programs, including increased contracted network providers, enhanced utilization management programs for pharmacy, prior authorization program, medical travel support, member health support and their NurseLine service have benefitted the university and members on the plan.  MORE...

    Board of Regents Adopt a Tuition Increase and FY 17 Budget

    November Board of Regents Meeting Recap

    Tuition was the main topic during public testimony presented to the University of Alaska Board of Regents at its November meeting in Anchorage. Representatives from student government organizations across the system presented varying degrees of support for a tuition increase, with some campus student organizations fully supporting the proposed nine percent increase and others wanting to hold that line at five percent.

    Student leaders agreed that students should help the university face the looming budget shortfall. "I personally support the tuition increase to help fund the financial gap,” said Kenai Peninsula College representative Jayce Robertson. “However, the tuition increase should only be a portion of financing the gap. Please keep close to your hearts and minds that the backbone of the university is the students."

    The testimony was reflected in the Board’s final action. After robust discussion, the Board of Regents voted in favor of a five percent across-the-board increase for the academic year beginning Fall 2016.  MORE....

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