Kansas State University employee representative Carrie Fink put a spotlight Wednesday on challenges modestly paid state university workers faced with rising health insurance costs.

Fink, who leads a university support staff council that reports to the Kansas Board of Regents, told board members appointed by Gov. Sam Brownback the out-of-pocket cost of insurance plans offered by the state had tripled during the past four years.

For a person with a $35,000 annual salary, she said, the cost of a family plan could be more than $12,000 each year.

“That’s enough to bankrupt a family, frankly,” Fink said. “It really has an impact on staff. It really affects morale.”

Ashley Thomas, who represents unclassified university employees before the higher education board, said qualifying for the state health insurance premium discount through a wellness rewards program was unnecessarily complex. She said some frustrated people chose not to participate rather than track points needed to claim the monthly discount.

Members of the Board of Regents listened to their reports, but none of the nine members expressed interest in pressuring the Kansas Department of Administration to negotiate a more affordable health plans for thousands of state university workers.

Steve Scott, president at Pittsburg State University, said the universities should have greater influence on details of health plans offered campus staff. State officials don’t involve university officials in consideration of premiums and deductibles woven into policies, he said.

“We don’t know much about it. We’d like to know more,” Scott said.