In his more than four-decade-long career with the city’s biggest unions, Larry Morgan, the soon-to-be-retiring executive director of the PSC-CUNY Welfare Fund, built big things around health administration for tens of thousands of union members. He helped set up the first prepaid group practice at a city hospital, where thousands of unionized city workers could go for their medical and surgical needs. For home care workers, he ran health education programs on medical issues facing union members. And during his 12-year tenure at the PSC-CUNY Welfare Fund, Morgan managed the fund that provides dental, prescription, optical benefits and other supplemental health benefits to more than 36,000 members, including PSC members and CUNY managers.
Morgan is retiring at the end of the September. After a nationwide search for Morgan’s replacement, the PSC-CUNY Welfare Fund Board of Trustees recently approved his successor, Donna Costa, the fund’s current associate director. She will assume her new role in October.
“Donna is dedicated, talented and proactive,” Morgan said, adding that he was happy that the board recognized Costa’s work. “She appreciates the complexity of health benefits and has a commitment toward membership services.”
A BIG PICTURE APPROACH
Morgan, who began directing the fund in 2004, has always taken a whole-picture approach to his job, which has meant both assessing the fine details of benefit plans and evaluating if a provider is the best possible option for the whole group. His number one goal, he said, is “to enhance the health of our membership.” For Morgan, who has a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering from Cornell University, getting the job done meant creating internal and external structures to best streamline the fund’s ability to serve its members. Over the years, he recruited a dedicated staff with the necessary skills and a commitment to member services. Under his leadership, the fund began holding annual conferences with benefits officers at all 24 CUNY campuses in order to see what kinds of issues members were encountering. Under his watch, the fund created a website where members can quickly view their benefits details.
On the financial end, the fund monitors its relationships with providers on a regular basis, so it can do budget projections. This forward-looking approach means that the fund can alert members of changes and assess what’s best for most members.
“[Healthcare] is a complex, convoluted patchwork, and the more we can do to help people understand the connections between the various components, the better off they’re going to be,” Morgan said.
STRONG LEADERSHIP AHEAD
Morgan said he had faith that Donna Costa, the new executive director of the fund, will continue to build on the progress made. Costa has been working for the fund for nearly 12 years, beginning as a consultant and ultimately serving as associate director, a position that she has held for more than five years. Costa came to the fund with a background in finance and financial management, and early on in her career, she worked in the office of an orthopedic surgeon, where she dealt with the day-to-day needs of patients. From working on audits of large companies to handling patients’ claims, Costa said she’s able to see the needs of the whole group and balance it with individual obstacles that people are encountering with their benefits providers.
“I don’t like to see somebody not getting what they’re entitled to,” Costa said. “I’m very satisfied when I can actually solve the problem and help the person,” she added.
Costa was instrumental in creating a centralized database that stores member information in one place, from where it can be immediately transferred to a patient’s relevant providers. It gives the fund the ability to enroll members in benefits on a daily basis. Before the database, information was scattered and entered multiple times manually. It used to take more than a week for a member to enroll with a provider for a benefit they were eligible to receive; now, it takes days.
In the coming months as executive director, Costa hopes to continue the progress the fund has built, and is looking forward to enhancing some benefits. She knows this work can’t be done alone. Making sure members are getting the most out of their benefits, Costa said, is a team effort.
“The staff here is very dedicated,” Costa said. “We do an awful lot, and we work together to get things done.”