Chancellor Blumenthal discusses health care, other issues during staff forum

Chancellor George Blumenthal answered questions about health care costs, UC funding, and the state budget during a Staff Advisory Board Town Hall meeting on Tuesday.

At the meeting, which drew 150 staff and faculty members to Kresge College’s Town Hall, Blumenthal addressed concerns about a pending rate increase for many of UCSC’s HealthNet subscribers.

UC's open enrollment period, in which some HealthNet users may choose to switch plans, started Monday and will end on November 23 at 5 p.m.

The bottom line, he said, is that HealthNet subscribers have a “very difficult choice. You will have to pay more or switch to a new Blue and Gold plan, which may require you to change health-care suppliers.’’

He encouraged UCSC employees to think hard about their options “sooner than later … This is something we’re not happy about but that is how it is.”

Some audience members pushed for pay raises for non-represented UCSC staff members to help make up for the rise in HealthNet costs. He said the recently adopted state budget may provide UC with enough support to fund salary increases this year. "But there’s always the danger that there may be a special session of the [state] legislature with mid-year cuts," Blumenthal cautioned.

The UC system, in spite of the state’s budgetary woes, fared “reasonably well’’ in California's budget, Blumenthal added. He noted that the budget included full funding for Cal Grants, continuing critically important financial aid for students.

UCSC has not yet received its campus allocations but Blumenthal said that the campus will get back 90 percent of the money that student fee increases have generated. “When I started [as chancellor] we were getting back only 67 percent. Exactly what the total will be for the campus, we don’t know yet.”

Blumenthal ended his remarks by describing the changing student body at UCSC, where 44 percent of this year’s frosh could become the first in their families to earn a four-year degree.

He also highlighted the six students who recently won Fulbright scholarships to study abroad this year.  “That is more than half of our pool of applications’’ for the Fulbright, he added.

During the Tuesday meeting, Blumenthal was part of a panel that included staff advisor designate to UC's Board of Regents Penny Herbert and staff advisor to the Regents Juliann Martinez.

Martinez, who is touring all the campuses in the UC system, said she is taking UC community members’ concerns back to the Regents, including the importance of diversity, the need to address pay disparity, and the need to recruit and retain high-quality faculty and staff.

An audio recording of the meeting will be available online soon. The link will be posted on this page when it is available.