UI board considers health care changes' impact

UI board considers health care changes' impact

CHICAGO — A contract extension for the president, a new policy on rehiring retirees, a slew of academic appointments and a daylong review of the University of Illinois' $1.2 billion health enterprise are among the items before UI trustees this week in Chicago.

The board's two-day meeting begins Wednesday (July 24) with a retreat that will explore changes in health care and what they mean for academic medical centers such as the UI's. The board's regular business meeting is scheduled for 8 a.m. Thursday.

Trustees will consider a one-year contract extension, through June 2015, for UI President Robert Easter, who was initially appointed to a two-year term in 2012. The UI announced the extension and a new compensation arrangement last week that will make Easter eligible for performance-based incentives for the first time.

Easter currently earns a base salary of $450,000, but that will rise in September in accordance with the universitywide salary plan, which will award raises averaging 2.75 percent.

The full board will conduct its annual review of the president this week, but trustees previously held preliminary discussions in closed session to move toward "mutual agreement" on extending the president's term, Hardy said. According to the board item, the three-person executive committee led by Chairman Chris Kennedy will develop a process for performance bonuses, and the board will likely award the first in September when it approves compensation for all academic personnel, Hardy said.

Easter, 65, who has been on campus as a student, professor or administrator since the 1970s, was appointed president in March 2010 after the forced resignation of former President Michael Hogan. Now on sabbatical, Hogan had run afoul of faculty with proposed changes in enrollment management and the actions of his former chief of staff, Lisa Troyer.

Today's health retreat will examine the structure of the UI medical center and outside forces affecting its future, with help from an consultant who is being paid up to $219,000.

Based in Chicago, the health center includes the UI Hospital and clinics, several health sciences colleges and a large College of Medicine with satellite campuses in Peoria, Rockford and Urbana. The medical school educates one out of every six physicians in the state.

"There's no question that health care obviously is taking center stage in a lot of what's going on in American today," UI spokesman Thomas Hardy said.

The Affordable Care Act and resulting changes in Medicaid reimbursements and health care delivery will have a "huge impact" on the UI's medical enterprise, Hardy said. Changing demographics, technology, pension costs, the state's backlog of unpaid bills and rising health benefit costs will also affect the university's ability to carry out its medical mission of teaching, research and patient care, he said.

Trustees decided to devote two daylong retreats — one today and one in January — to this topic. Hardy said the second will be devoted to potential collaboration between Chicago and the Urbana campus, which has a major basic health sciences research program.

The university has hired the Huron Consulting Group to help review the structure of the UI's medical enterprise. Its charge was to research "the organizational structures of academic medical centers throughout the country; evaluate strengths and weaknesses of different organizational models; and evaluate their applicability to organizational structure for the University of Illinois in the context of changes in the health care environment. Also, advise university leadership and trustees as they examine organizational structure."

Huron's full report is expected in August, but Hardy said the consultants would provide an update today.

Huron is working under a contract with a maximum cost of $219,000 but has billed less than half that amount to date, Hardy said Tuesday.

The review was underway before the recent decision by Dr. Joe G.N. "Skip" Garcia — appointed just over two years ago to be the UI system's first vice president for health affairs — to take a new job as senior vice president for health sciences at the University of Arizona. Jerry Bauman, dean of the UI College of Pharmacy, has been appointed interim vice president for health affairs effective Sept. 1, pending board approval Thursday. Garcia will continue to work with the UI through the end of August.

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