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Speaking Out

On Biomed Communications

I just learned that the School of Medicine has closed my former department, Biomedical Communications. After spending 36 years as director, and building an excellent department of photographers, illustrators and computer graphic artists, with a reputation of excellence, I am truly dismayed at the Medical Schools decision to close an integral service to not only the Medical Center, but to the University as well.

Biomedical Communications was a self supporting department and never received proper support for growth from the Medical School administration. It was always a challenge to create more space within the confines of the original limited space in the Med Library. There were many promises to expand, to allow us to increase services and equipment, but promises were cheap and nothing was ever done. I guess that I retired at the proper time in July 1999. It is truly a shame.

-- Art Siegel, former Director of Biomedical Communications

Privacy on Auction Block

I'm mighty irked to read the Executive Director's, Human Resources, glib pontifications. Leny Bader maintains, ‘the protection of personal privacy is an important priority at Penn. This message has been clearly conveyed to all our vendors…'

If Human Resources didn't allow anyone with a buck and a hustle to shop the employment records looking for fresh meat, vendors selling names to more vendors selling names to still more vendors wouldn't have those names in the first place, hence no letters to Speaking Out howling with outrage.

I pitched a royal fit when Friends of the Library--recipient of 10% of my take-home--shared my particulars. ‘Oh,' soothed the spin-doctors, ‘we don't sell names, we exchange donor-lists'. What a nifty little game of fish that must be: "We'll swap four hundred of our suckers for four hundred of yours."

Do let's keep in mind your name and my Social Security number were melded, creating ‘ghosts'. Then HUP billed Medicare for hospitalization given these non-existing patients. We are employed by an ethical Brigadoon. The University we serve with loyalty and love has placed our privacy on the auction-block.

And if ya think that accusation a mite too harsh, how about the latest vendor mailing using University personnel: a shameless pitch ending with this escape clause--P.S. The University of Pennsylvania does not endorse Answer Financial, any particular product offered, or any available product provider. Nor do we supplement any purchases you may make through them--all under the aegis of the University crest, ‘Human Resources' bold as brass nails as if we've just been handed an official message from an employer expected to be above-board.

The Division of Human Resources has been entrusted with confidential information. That information has now blown across the continental landmass, all the way to Encino, California.

With our Faculty/Staff Telephone Directory printed outside the United States, home address floating around loose and who-knows-where before arriving on-campus by mid-October, who can say for sure what ‘increasingly sensitive pieces of personal data' really are off-limits?

--Jerry Briggs, Van Pelt Library

Pricy Prescriptions at Pharmacies

We agree with Professor McDevitt's point about the use of social security numbers on our Caremark prescription cards (Almanac Vol. 49, No. 1). It is an "unacceptable misuse of our identity information". We were both very disturbed when we received our prescription cards in the mail with our social security numbers available to anyone other than us who opened our mail or working the counter at the pharmacy. We wonder how such an oversight on the part of Caremark is excusable. In our opinion, no apology is enough for the misuse of sensitive information such as one's social security number.

In addition, our recent visit to the pharmacy was a surprise in itself! In the month of June, a prescription refill cost $0.93. One month later, the month of July, that same refill now costs $5 for a generic drug no less. This astronomical increase is incomprehensible and quite frankly infuriating. How is it that an institution such as the University of Pennsylvania continues to do business with a company whose prescription drug plan increased by 400% in one month? In addition, these price increases are made on prescriptions needed for life-preserving reasons. How can a prescription plan justify charging a young person more than $70 for a few vials of insulin? Imagine the surprise when, the other day, a purchase of a drug that is needed literally to save someone's life, quadrupled in price! Not only are we paying more for our prescriptions but we are also paying more for our health care coverage. How can this outrageous price inflation be justified?

--Sharon D'Hurieux, Law Development
--Tricia Owen, Alumni Relations

Response from HR

We have already addressed the first part of the letter from Sharon D'Hurieux and Tricia Owen, in the Almanac issue of July 16, 2002. This is a response to the second part of this letter.

Because of the tremendous increase in the prices of prescription drugs, the University-- like other organizations--has taken steps to maintain the fiscal viability of our plan and at the same time offer a market competitive benefit. The increase referred to in the letter resulted from the changes in our plan effective July 1, 2002 so that brands without generics now have an employee's co-insurance of 30% at retail. If purchased by mail order, the co-insurance will be 10%. Furthermore, there is now a minimum of $5 for generics and $15 for brands bought at retail. This accounts for the increase from $0.93 to $5 mentioned in the letter. These minimums are lower with mail order purchases.

Even with these changes, benchmarking data show that Penn's plan is more generous than most employers' plans because it provides out-of-pocket limits which protect our employees from substantial expenses. In addition, mail orders now count towards these out-of-pocket limits. The University continues to pay a substantial portion of the costs of prescriptions, and this can be illustrated by requesting the full prices of these drugs from the pharmacists.

Instructions on how to order by mail as well as information on the drugs and their cost can be obtained by accessing Caremark's website at or calling 1-800-378-0802.

--Leny Bader, Executive Director,
Human Resources, Benefits

Almanac, Vol. 49, No. 2, September 3, 2002


September 3, 2002
Volume 49 Number 2

Penn alumna Sadie Alexander's name will live on at the newly named preK-8 school.
Welcome Back: Messages From the President and From the Senate Chair.
Penn and Trammell Crow have terminated the arrangements they had for management and other services.
The Pottruck Health and Fitness Center opens with tours of the state-of-the-art recreation facility.
ISC unveils a new authentication system for better computer security--out with the PennNet IDs and in with the PennKeys.
Penn has lost eight members of the Penn community over the summer.
The Report of the Working Group on Human Subjects Research in the SocioBehavioral Sciences.
The updated, revised Three-Year Academic Calendar lets you look ahead to 2004-2005.
The Undergraduate Admissions seminars for Penn faculty and staff families are this week--the first one is at 5:15 p.m. today.
The September AT PENN calendar includes a list of the special 9/11 commemorative events that span from morning until evening across the campus.