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March 6, 1997


Pitt needs to consider employees in making health care provider decisions

To the editor:

I am very pleased to learn that the University Senate meeting on March 19, 1997, will be devoted to employee health benefits at Pitt. The memory of the tumultuous meeting in the fall of 1994 concerning employee health benefits and the events that followed that led to the loss of HealthAmerica as a health benefits option is still fresh in my memory. I am one of the individuals who was adversely affected by the University's decision to drop HealthAmerica. I had just had surgery and was undergoing chemotherapy for a newly diagnosed case of breast cancer, and I encountered many difficulties in securing care and financial coverage for needed treatment. In addition to the great effort I had to expend in dealing with the health insurance issues while fighting a life-threatening disease, I found the University largely unresponsive to my needs.

It is certainly not premature for the faculty and staff to learn more about health policy considerations and the market for health benefits in western Pennsylvania. I assume there will be ample opportunity in the question and discussion period that follows the presentations, for faculty and staff to express their views with regard to how the University should address employee health benefits.

The University's decision made for the three-year period beginning July 1, 1995, ignored the interests of the University's employees as consumers of health services. I sincerely hope that Chancellor Nordenberg and the other University administrators involved with the health benefits decision, as well as the University board, give due consideration to the interests of the University's employees. If anything, the University should be focusing on broadening choice of plans and providers, so individuals can exercise their discretion based on information that they can secure with regard to access, quality and other factors that would affect their decisions. Were the University to treat employee interest as cavalierly in the forthcoming decision-making process as it did during the O'Connor regime, the damage to Chancellor Nordenberg's standing with faculty and staff will be very great, and his ability to gain cooperation on initiatives severely reduced.

Carol L. McAllister

Assistant Professor

Health Services Administration

Graduate School of Public Health


Pitt could copy Clinton's fund-raising techniques

To the editor:

One of the most palpable benefits enjoyed by "retired" professors is that it is no longer necessary to schlep our weary bones in and out of classrooms several times a week, thus freeing us up to think "big" thoughts, as for example, the following.

The University's desperate financial plight is highlighted by the chancellor's "doom and gloom" New Year's memorandum to the inhabitants of the University serfdom and, more recently, by the start of his annual "hat in hand" pilgrimage to Harrisburg and by his and the provost's downsizing of and reallocation of funds for Pitt's academic units. Making matters worse, I understand that the Harrisburg legislators wonder why they should support Pitt since it looks like Pitt has lots of money to buy up hospitals in western Pennsylvania.

A solution or at least an amelioration of our destituteness is at hand, as close as today's news headlines and the bleatings of Republican criticisms — but secretly in awe — of President Clinton's fund-raising activity. The idea, simply, is to induce the region's fat cats to ante up big bucks in exchange for the once-in-a-lifetime privilege to stay overnight in one of the chancellor's mansion legendary bedrooms, the Litchfield bedroom, the Posvar bedroom, the O'Connor bedroom, or even the Nordenberg bedroom (if the Nordenbergs are willing to pitch a tent in one of the mansion's unnamed and unextraordinary guest rooms). A handy-dandy rate schedule could be established so that off-season rates (the summer, for example) would be discounted and daily rates for multiple occupancy (viz., a fat cat and his or her entire family occupying say, the Posvar bedroom) offered at higher than off-the-rack Nordenberg villa rates.

The question arises, for whom and for what purposes would overnight bedroom privileges be offered? Here are some possibilities:

* Hermaphrodites seeking same-hermaphroditic benefits.

* Since there is a shortage of bagel and Chinese food establishments in Allegheny County, bagel and Chinese food entrepreneurs would have access to the chancellor for acquiring bagel and Chinese food franchises on campus.

* Ku Klux Klan, terrorists, and drug warlords petitioning the chancellor and the provost to offer executive management training programs since we are an equal opportunity continuing education institution of higher learning.

* Cloning companies pulling the wool over our eyes were we to be sheepish about such wonderful cloning opportunities as clones for Tony Dorsett, Dan Marino, primus inter pares fund-raiser Thomas Detre, and celebrated professors like Andrew Mellon Professor of Philosophy Adolf Grunbaum.

* Promoters of men's studies programs, seeking parity with women's studies programs.

* Landscape architects seeking access to the chancellor in order to acquaint him with their ideas for landscaping the proposed closing of Bigelow Boulevard.

* Offering shining basketball and football prospects we're trying to recruit the opportunity to stay overnight in one of the chancellor's residence coveted bedrooms.

The possibilities are unlimited and the loot therefrom mind-boggling!

Robert Perloff

Professor Emeritus

Katz Graduate School of Business

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