By MARTY LEVINE
John Kozar, the University’s benefits department head, told the Senate Benefits and Welfare Committee’s Sept. 29 meeting that TIAA fees are slated for a reduction while fees for retiree health care programs will remain steady.
He and Senate President Chris Bonneau said they were both working with the administration on short-term help for faculty and staff childcare needs, which have been exacerbated by remote work and remote schooling during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Investment fees for TIAA retirement plans should be reduced by almost a third, which will be announced in the next few months. Although “our fees are probably about the lowest in the country,” Kozar said. “The investments have done so well, there’s greater income they can pull from,” allowing these fee reductions.
Post-65 retirees should also see flat rates for health care costs, he said, and the University’s Defined Dollar Benefit credits, which pay costs toward health care apart from Medicare, will remain the same. “So by and large most retirees who are post-65 don’t pay a penny for their health care coverage,” Kozar said.
He noted that 55 faculty had chosen to retire under the early retirement program announced this summer, while 482 staff members had made an initial election for retirement. Speaking on the day before staff would need to make their election official, Kozar said he expected about 460 staff retirements in all.
“We’ve been inundated with calls and there have been slow response times” concerning these retirees’ questions, he allowed, prompting his department soon to implement a toll-free number to make sure callers connect to a person more quickly. “We will be getting more people on board” to answer questions, he added.
Bonneau said he had met with the provost and chancellor two weeks ago to make suggestions for quick improvements in the University’s childcare and eldercare situation. While he could not detail his list of recommendations, “I think it was very well received,” he said. “I think there are things they hadn’t thought about and which they think are possible to do, within budget restraints.” He hopes there will be announcements of such changes in the next few weeks.
Kozar added that he would talk to those at Pitt’s childcare facility, the University Child Development Center, to benchmark what other universities are doing and report to the committee, adding, “We’re looking at some things that will help,” but could not be more specific.
He also announced that, while the Sept. 30 and Oct. 6 flu shot clinics at the Petersen Events Center have already been held, Pitt employees can contact the Falk Pharmacy for a flu shot, or get one at a Giant Eagle of Rite Aid pharmacy by presenting their UPMC health insurance identification card.
Linda Tashbook, head of the committee’s Mental Wellness Task Force, said that their popular mental wellness book club had received University funding to mail out books to members over the summer, but for the immediate future would be switching to the discussion of articles and short stories freely available through Pitt libraries online.
Marty Levine is a staff writer for the University Times. Reach him at email@example.com or 412-758-4859.
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