On July 1, the PSC-CUNY Welfare Fund announced enhancements to dental and hearing benefits, doubling the subsidy for hearing aids, and improvements to the dental benefit, including higher Guardian plan reimbursement rates for certain high-cost dental procedures such as crowns, and an increase in the number of annual dental cleanings for which reimbursement is provided. The enhancements, which come on top of other enhancements made last year, are supported by increased funding for benefits won by the union.
“In spite of austerity in health care nationally, PSC members have fought for and won important health benefit improvements. The secret is union power,” said PSC President Barbara Bowen.
Explaining the enhancements to the Guardian Dental Plan, Steve London, executive officer of the PSC-CUNY Welfare Fund, wrote in a letter to Welfare Fund participants: “The Fund Trustees carefully reviewed the utilization patterns of members and determined that members would receive the greatest benefit if we targeted resources to the most common expensive procedures: dental implants, oral surgery, crowns and orthodontics.” He continued: “We believe that this approach will reduce out-of-pocket expenses for members more consistently than our previous coverage.”
Improved reimbursement rates on these dental procedures apply to services provided by in-network Guardian dentists. The projected reimbursement rates for dental implants will go up by nearly 14 percent, for crowns by 18 percent and orthodontics by more than 20 percent. (Projected rates are based on the average Guardian dentist charge.)
In addition, participants will receive reimbursements for three adult cleanings a year instead of two for both in-network and out-of-network dentists. The Fund recognized the importance of more frequent dental cleanings as a proven way to maintain oral health and prevent serious dental conditions.
The Welfare Fund has also significantly increased the reimbursement level for its hearing benefits, which already saw significant improvements at the beginning of 2017. For hearing aids from Hear USA, the Welfare Fund has doubled the per-ear in-network subsidy, from $750 to $1,500, so for hearing aids in both ears the total subsidy will be $3,000 every 36 months.
The improved benefits that went into effect this July follow on enhancements instituted at the beginning of 2017. For most vision prescriptions, members who use the network of Davis Vision and Visionworks providers will be able to obtain an eye exam, lenses, frames (from the Davis-branded collection) or contact lenses at no copay, every 24 months.
Bowen, who chairs the Welfare Fund Board, summed up the changes this way, “Together with careful management by the Welfare Fund staff, union victories, including the fight for the last contract, have made possible major improvements in our dental, optical and audial benefits. Until high-quality healthcare and benefits are a universal right – as they should be – our collective power as a union is our tool for protection of our health and the health of our dependents.”