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March 19, 2009

Benefits survey: Satisfaction is high

Pitt employees generally are satisfied with their benefits offerings, according to a recent online survey.

The University-wide survey, which was completed by 999 employees — 75 percent of them staff, 25 percent faculty — showed an overall satisfaction rate as follows: very satisfied, 32 percent; satisfied, 50 percent; somewhat satisfied, 16 percent, and not at all satisfied, 2 percent.

Pitt director of Benefits John Kozar said, “What that tells us is that most employees feel that their benefits package is at least satisfactory, but we can always look for ways to continue our quality improvement — not so much to change the basic benefits we offer necessarily, but to make our service better.”

Results of the survey, which was conducted by Human Resources at the request of the Staff Association Council (SAC), were made public in an executive summary compiled by Kozar. The results have been shared with SAC, the University Senate benefits and welfare committee and the medical advisory committee, which, with advice from independent consultant Mercer Consulting, advises Benefits personnel on Pitt’s medical benefits, Kozar said.

Respondents were surveyed to determine the importance of each benefit; their satisfaction with each benefit, and their perception of customer service offered by the vendor who administers each benefit.

(See related story this issue.)

Other survey questions focused on:

• Communication and information dissemination.

Kozar said 98 percent of respondents rated as high the overall quality of materials mailed to each employee during the benefits open enrollment period. Most employees (65 percent) still prefer to receive an enrollment package mailing (as opposed to a notification that information is available online). Slightly over 80 percent of respondents feel they receive the right amount of benefits information, while 10 percent feel they receive too much information and another 10 percent feel they do not receive enough information, he said.

“You can never please everybody, but we feel this tells us we’re doing a pretty good job in getting the right amount of information to our employees,” Kozar said.

• Fitness for Life program.

The survey solicited perceptions about the Fitness for Life program, now in its fifth year, and about wellness issues at the University in general, Kozar said. The results included:

— 87 percent of respondents believe there is a correlation between healthy lifestyles and insurance premiums;
— 98 percent believe the University should continue to promote and offer wellness activities;
— 95 percent have an overall favorable view of the Fitness for Life program.

Programs that respondents would like to have incorporated into Fitness for Life initiatives include (respondents could identify more than one choice):

— Exercise programs within departments and buildings: 69 percent.
— Nutritional counseling: 58 percent.
— University-wide physical activity programs: 45 percent.
— Wellness incentive programs: 51 percent.
— Health coaches: 46 percent.
— Smoking cessation programs: 27 percent.

• Additional benefits/services.

Respondents indicated they would like to see additional programs offered by the University, although the overall level of interest in them is not very high, Kozar noted. Those included:

— Legal referrals/services: 42 percent.
— ID theft insurance: 23 percent.
— Pet insurance: 20 percent.
— Additional disability coverage: 15 percent.

(Respondents to this question had to choose one of the four proposed additional benefits.)

“The results of the survey will help the Benefits department in their continual effort to improve the services provided to University faculty and staff,” Kozar said. “In cases in which there is a higher level of dissatisfaction, priorities will be established. The department will also take a harder look at communications. Based on some of the survey results, we need to do a better job of promoting the benefits we have.”

As an example, Kozar cited Life Solutions, Pitt’s employee assistance program (formerly the Faculty and Staff Assistance Program). A large majority of survey respondents indicated that they were not aware of the program’s range of services, particularly elder care referrals, child care referrals, debt management and relocation resources, he said.

The University also provides retiree health care benefits to eligible retirees. “However, 27 percent of respondents did not know that benefit exists,” Kozar said. “We need to do a better marketing job in those areas.”

One area of misunderstanding, as revealed in the survey results, involves federal restrictions on the University, Kozar noted. As an example, he cited the Internal Revenue Service code that governs when Pitt employees can change benefits selections. To remain in compliance, Pitt must limit to the open enrollment period each year for its employees to make changes, except in the case of a life-changing event, such as the birth of a child.

A few respondents expressed concerns over rising health care co-payments, Kozar said. “That’s understandable, but we are still competitive — in fact, we’re ahead of the curve — compared with most institutions,” he said.

Some survey respondents at the regional campuses expressed concerns about limited access to network coverage under UPMC Health Plan, Kozar said. “These concerns have already been reviewed. A better job of communicating network access needs to occur. However, as our investigation reveals, in many cases, travel is required to visit certain specialists simply because none [is located] in certain areas,” he maintained.

Kozar would not predict at this point whether Pitt will alter, eliminate or add to any of its benefits offerings as a result of the employee survey. “It’s too early. Nothing has been finalized at this point,” he said.

—Peter Hart

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