August 5, 2013


Contact Information:
Missy Kline
Managing Editor

CUPA-HR Survey Shows Higher Ed Institutions Making Changes to Benefits Plans Ahead of ACA

Many higher education institutions have been going like gangbusters to determine the impact the Affordable Care Act will have on their benefits plans and health insurance costs. And many are already implementing changes. According to findings from CUPA-HR’s 2013 Employee Health Benefits in Higher Education Survey, two-thirds of respondents indicated that they had already determined the financial impact of the ACA on their health benefits costs. Of those who have already done the math, 60 percent expect costs to increase an average of 8 percent. Forty percent of respondents expect costs to stay the same after the ACA mandate goes into effect, while no respondents indicated that they expected costs to decrease.

More than a quarter of respondents (27 percent) increased the employee share of premium costs in 2013 in preparation for the now-delayed 2014 employer mandate. Twenty-three percent said they had adopted or enhanced a wellness program and 17 percent indicated they had increased the employee share of dependent coverage costs. Other changes being planned or considered in light of the looming ACA requirements include increasing in-network deductibles and adopting or expanding the use of financial incentives to encourage healthy behavior among employees.

Only a quarter of the survey respondents said they have already identified the criteria they will use to determine if part-time or adjunct faculty are working 30 hours or more per week (and therefore must be provided healthcare coverage under the ACA). The majority (67 percent) indicated they are still working on determining that criteria. In response to two open-ended questions, institutions talked about criteria being considered and difficulties they are having making the determination. The majority of institutions surveyed do not plan to alter their use of part-time staff or adjunct faculty as a result of the ACA. On a related note, a substantial number of institutions already offer healthcare benefits to part-time staff and faculty who work at least 20 hours a week (39 percent and 46 percent respectively).

“Making affordable healthcare available to everyone is a lofty and important goal for our country,” says CUPA-HR President and CEO Andy Brantley. “Unfortunately, the uncertainty regarding specific provisions and requirements of the ACA for employers has required an inordinate amount of time and effort by human resources professionals. During the next few years, it will be interesting to see how the provisions of the ACA and/or the regulations attached to it impact the cost of healthcare and the administrative burden associated with compliance.”

Other Findings of Note

Other findings from this year’s benefits survey:

  • Annually, the average median premium for the four major types of health care plans (PPO, HMO, POS and HDHP) combined was $6,249 for employee-only coverage and $16,602 for employee + family coverage.
  • The average percent change in total premium costs from 2012 to 2013 for the four types of plans combined was 3.25 percent for employee-only coverage and 5 percent for employee + family coverage.
  • PPO plans continue to be the plan of choice for most institutions. While 84 percent of institutions surveyed offer PPO plans, only 45 percent offer HMO plans, the second most commonly used plan type.
  • The number of institutions utilizing high-deductible health plans (HDHPs) has more than doubled over the past four years (HDHPs are offered now by 40 percent of the institutions surveyed; in 2009 it was 17 percent).
  • Fifty-seven percent of respondents offer healthcare benefits to same-sex partners (up from 46 percent in 2009 and 40 percent in 2006); the percentage offering benefits to opposite-sex partners has also increased (from 30 percent in 2006 to 42 percent this year).
  • Roughly half of the respondents offer health benefits to retirees, both under and over 65, and half of these also pay part of the premium.

For more information on CUPA-HR’s 2013 Employee Health Benefits in Higher Education Survey, or to order results, visit

About the Survey

The 2013 Employee Health Benefits in Higher Education Survey collected detailed data on healthcare basics, formal wellness programs and four different types of health care plans (PPO, HMO, POS and high deductible health plans). Health plan questions address both “essential” and “non-essential” health benefits. Data were also collected on dental plans. This year, a new section was added to the survey on the impact of the Affordable Care Act. Respondents were asked whether, as a direct result of the ACA, they had made any of 16 specific changes to their 2013 health benefit plans to help control costs, and if (additional) changes were planned for 2014. They were also asked about the impact of the ACA on their use of part-time staff and faculty, and about the criteria they will use to determine if a part-time faculty member is working 30 or more hours a week.

About the Survey Respondents

The 2013 Employee Health Benefits in Higher Education Survey was completed by 453 institutions, including 23 systems reporting in the aggregate for all of their campuses. The survey represents 626 institutions in total. Sixty-five percent of respondents (294) are from private institutions and 35 percent (159) are from public institutions. If the aggregate submissions of the 23 systems are considered, public and private institutions are almost equally represented in the results (51 percent and 49 percent respectively). Thirty-three percent of respondents are from master’s institutions, 23 percent are from bachelor’s institutions, and 19 percent are from doctorate institutions. Associate’s and special focus institutions comprise 15 percent and 11 percent of respondents respectively.


CUPA-HR is higher ed HR. We serve higher education by providing the knowledge, resources, advocacy and connections to achieve organizational and workforce excellence. Headquartered in Knoxville, Tennessee, and serving more than 16,000 HR professionals and other campus leaders at more than 1,900 member organizations around the country and abroad, the association offers learning and professional development programs, higher education salary and benefits data, extensive online resources and just-in-time regulatory and legislative information. Our membership includes 92 percent of all U.S. doctoral institutions, 75 percent of all master’s institutions, 60 percent of all bachelor’s institutions and 600 community colleges and specialized institutions.