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Univ. of Calif. Employees Call New Health Plan ‘Discriminatory’

In the event of a health emergency, Jorge Luis Castillo will soon have a nail-biting choice: Go to the hospital in town and face shouldering as much as 20 percent of the costs, up to several thousand dollars, or spend about an hour in the car to get to a hospital that’s fully covered by his insurance.

Castillo is not alone. At the same time as the Affordable Care Act is being rolled out, providing more access to health coverage for those without it nationwide, the University of California system is unveiling new health plans for employees that some say will unfairly affect those at certain campuses.

The new flagship employee health plan, UC Care, relies heavily on UC Medical Centers, so it may be harder for those who live far from such facilities to get affordable care.

“For those at the Medical Centers, I think it’s probably a very good plan,” said Dan Hare, chairman of the system-wide Academic Senate Committee of Faculty Welfare and a UC Riverside professor of entomology. “The question is, what about the campuses without Medical Centers?”

To try to solve this problem, the health plan administrator, Blue Shield, tried to find providers that offer similar quality for a similar cost in areas without Medical Centers, Hare said.

The system’s Medical Centers are located at UC San Francisco, Davis, Irvine, Los Angeles and San Diego. UC Berkley, Merced, Santa Cruz, Riverside and Santa Barbara don’t have a Medical Center on campus.

UC Care was able to contract with enough providers near Santa Cruz, but offerings at the four other campuses without Medical Centers appear to be thinner, Hare said.

His office has received the most complaints from UCSB employees, as well as a number from those at Riverside. Employees at Berkeley seem to be experiencing a “mixed bag” depending on where they live, and Hare has yet to hear from Merced employees, who may not be aware of the changes yet, he said. . .

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