Purdue University is joining a trend among large employers by limiting health care coverage for working spouses of the school's faculty and staff.
The university's newly-approved health care plan includes an exemption for spouses of Purdue employees who are employed by a business that covers 50 percent or more of medical premiums, the Journal & Courier of Lafayette reported. Those who meet the criteria won't be eligible to receive primary health insurance through the university starting Jan. 1, but the exemption doesn't apply to spouses who also work at the university.
The health plan, which was approved Oct. 12 by Purdue's trustees and includes increased premiums and deductibles, was met with opposition from campus employees, including Alice Pawley, an associate professor in the School of Engineering Education.
"To me, this amounts to a cut in pay for employees who are in dual-earner families," she said. "Benefits are not 'gravy' — they are compensation."
Pawley said school employees in service or clerical jobs may already be underpaid or have partners working in similar hourly positions. She said "the benefits compensation makes up for the shortfall."
Purdue's senior vice president of strategic initiatives, Chris Ruhl, said the spousal exemption was part of a package designed to cut health care costs that have increased by $30 million since 2014.
He said there are more than 26,230 employees and family members covered by Purdue's health care plan, and roughly 4,800 were spouses. Ruhl didn't have data on how many of those spouses were covered by other employers.
"Purdue is behind the curve on this," he said.
The Society for Human Resources Management reported in August that 33 percent of large employers planned to impose a surcharge in 2019 for spouses who can get coverage through another employer. About 6 percent of respondents planned to exclude spouses entirely when similar coverage is available through another employer, the survey found.