By: Sruli Fruchter  | 

YU High School Employee Benefits Undergo Dramatic Changes

Employee benefits of Yeshiva University’s high school staff have undergone significant changes since the start of 2020, The Commentator has learned. Under this new benefits plan, high school employees are faced with costly reforms.

The 2019 Benefits Enrollment Guide covered “All full-time faculty and full- and part-time nonunion employees scheduled to work at least 20 hours per week,” including both university and high school employees. For 2020, however, YU published a new Benefits Guide, designed specifically for high school employees, namely, employees of the Samuel H. Wang Yeshiva University High School for Girls (Central) and Marsha Stern Talmudical Academy (MTA) High School for Boys. 

All employees were previously offered three medical plan options under Empire Blue Cross: Exclusive Provider Organization (EPO), Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) and High Deductible with Health Savings Account (HSA). Now, these options have remained the same for university employees under Aetna, but high school employees are only offered an EPO plan under Oxford Health Plans (United Healthcare). The most dramatic effects are found, inter alia, in the medical plan and premium rates. 

Medical Plan

Under Empire Blue, all employees had a base contribution of $250 or $500 for an individual or family, respectively, unlike Oxford Health. Empire Blue’s EPO plan had deductibles of $1,500 or $3,750 for an individual or family, respectively, but those numbers have more than doubled to $4,000 and $8,000 under Oxford Health; this is over a 166% and 113% increase, respectively. The annual out-of-pocket maximum (including deductibles) was $3,500 or $8,750 with Empire Blue for an individual or family, respectively, but in 2020 rose to $6,750 or $13,500 with Oxford Health; this increase is over 92% and 54%, respectively. University employees under Aetna are offered the same rates as before.                                                                              

Co-pay costs for specialist office visits, inpatient housing, outpatient surgery and diagnostic screenings have risen, too. Costs for primary care visits and preventive care have essentially stayed the same. Tele-doc, urgent care and rehabilitation therapy are no longer covered under Oxford Health. University employees, as opposed to those from the high schools, have seen minimal to no changes under Aetna.

Retail and mail-order prescription drugs are divided into three tiers: generics (tier 1), preferred (tier 2) and non-preferred (tier 3). The costs for retail prescription drugs under Empire blue’s EPO plan were $7.50, 20% ($60 maximum) and 40% ($120 maximum), respectively. Oxford Health charges 30% after deductibles for all three tiers. Mail-order drugs under Empire Blue are $15 for tier 1 and  20% ($120 max) for tiers 2 and 3. Here, too, Oxford Health charges 30% after deductibles for all three plans. University employees under Aetna have the same offers as before. 


Premium costs vary depending on four employee-statuses: Empire Blue classified them as Employee, Employee +1, Employee +2 and Family; Oxford Health categorized them as Employee, Employee + Spouse, Employee + Child(ren) and Employee + Family. As with the medical plans, Empire Blue and Oxford Health will be compared between the EPO plan. 

Empire Blue’s premium costs were dependent on an employee’s annual salary range. For example, someone who earns between $35,000-$44,999 will not have the same rate as someone earning $250,000-$399,999. In contrast, Oxford Health has universal premium rates, solely based on one’s employee status, as delineated above.

Two salary ranges were selected to compare what an employee’s premium costs were under Empire Blue and are under Oxford Health: $185,000-$204,999 and $65,000-$84,999. 

For Empire Blue, in the same employee status order listed above, high school employees earning between $185,000 and $204,999 with paychecks on a semi-monthly basis would have premium costs of $84.04, $207.48, $227.58 or $316.68. This same employee is paying significantly less under Oxford Health: $82.11, $164.21, $139.58 or $234.00, depending on an employee’s status as mentioned earlier. At face value, these figures are financially better than what Empire Blue was offering, and this is true for a high school employee with an annual salary of around $200,000. 

The average high school teacher at Yeshiva University earns between $38,000 to $87,000, according to PayScale. Therefore, comparing a high school employee earning $65,000-$84,999 under Empire Blue and Oxford Health is a good indicator of the practical change in premium rates. An employee in that salary range had premium rates of $45.49, $92.92, $116.76 or $155.70 under Empire Blue. Oxford Health’s universal premium rates are $82.11, $164.21, $139.58 or $234.00, respectively, raising Empire Blue’s figures by over 80%, 70%, 19% or 50%, respectively.

The premium rates of university employees covered by Aetna are still grouped by annual salary range, but the costs have minimally increased. With the ranges of 185,000-$204,999, university employees are now paying $86.56, $213.71, $234.41 or $326.18; these prices rose around 3% per faction.  In the salary range of $65,000-$84,999, university employees now have premium rates of $46.85, $95.70, $120.26 or $160.37, these numbers increasing by slightly more than 2.9% per status. 

Additional Changes

The previous life insurance plan for employees under Empire Blue incorporated options for the employee, his/her spouse and child. Under Oxford, a life insurance plan is limited to the high school employee and does not extend to his/her family, but university employees covered by Aetna have the same options as before. 

High school employees have also seen their 403(b) retirement plan match reduced to a maximum of 3% of their salaries. For university employees, it will remain a 7% match for employees earning up to $62,000, and a 4% match for employees earning above $62,000. 

Along with these cuts in financial employee benefits, the high school faculty in MTA and Central has decreased by 12.5% (8 positions) and 10.7% (6 positions) since 2018, respectively. 

Multiple university officials including Vice President of Communications Doron Stern, MTA Head of School Rabbi Joshua Kahn and Director of University Benefits Jane Gonzalez did not respond to The Commentator’s inquiries regarding these changes.

Photo Caption: Significant changes were made to the medical plans of high school employees. 
Photo Credit: The Commentator 


Editor's Note: This article was updated to correct an error. In the last paragraph of the original article, Central Principal Brandon LaGroue was listed as a "university official." LaGroue is the principal of Central High School in Baton Rouge, LA, not the Samuel H. Wang Yeshiva University High School for Girls (Central). LaGroue's name has since been deleted from the article.