Chance to make changes in benefits plans
Open Enrollment for changes in various benefit plans will be held on Tuesday and Wednesday, Dec. 3 and 4, and on Monday and Tuesday, Dec. 9 and 10. During Open Enrollment, employees may change health and dental plans, add eligible family members to their health and dental coverage, select the optional Long-Term Disability Plan without a medical review, or set up medical and/or dependent-care Flexible Spending Accounts for 1997. Changes in health-plan and dental-plan enrollment will take effect Jan. 1, 1997.
Open Enrollment will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Ida Noyes Hall -- in the Library Lounge on Tuesday and Wednesday, Dec. 3 and 4, and in the Cloister Club on Monday and Tuesday, Dec. 9 and 10.
Several important changes in University benefits will take effect Jan. 1, 1997. The most significant of these is a re-design of the Maroon Plan to eliminate dental coverage. A new, separate, dental plan will allow the purchase of separate medical and dental coverage and which has allowed for the creation of a new dental plan, the Indemnified Dental Plan (see "Dental coverage" below for details). Beginning next year, the Maroon Plan will offer only medical coverage. Employees currently participating in the Maroon Plan who wish to maintain dental coverage in 1997 must enroll in either the Indemnified Dental Plan or the First Commonwealth dental HMO during Open Enrollment.
Several other changes in benefits will take effect Jan. 1. These include:
_ A reduction in employee premiums for the University of Chicago Health Plan (UCHP)
_ The addition of University of Chicago physicians to the HMO Illinois network
_ A decrease in personal accident insurance rates, along with expanded benefits coverage
_ A 7 percent increase in long-term disability insurance rates
Effective Jan. 1, 1997, the HMO Illinois network will expand to include the University of Chicago Physicians Group. At the same time, the University of Chicago Health Plan (UCHP) has agreed to decrease its rates considerably. Employees will now pay the same monthly premiums for both HMO Illinois and UCHP. This represents a slight increase in HMO Illinois premiums. Humana premiums have increased minimally. All of these changes were based on the recommendations of the Committee on University Benefits.
The table at left shows 1997 monthly health-plan premiums for full-time employees.
Effective Jan. 1, 1997, the Maroon plan will no longer include dental coverage. Instead, a new, stand-alone dental plan has been created: the Indemnified Dental Plan. Maroon participants who wish to continue dental coverage in 1997 must enroll in either the Indemnified Dental Plan or the First Commonwealth Dental HMO.
According to Henry Webber, Associate Vice President for Administration, there were two reasons behind the decision to separate the two types of benefits. "First, we wanted to offer employees comparable health plan choices. Under its current design, the Maroon Plan is the only University-sponsored health plan that incorporates both medical and dental benefits. Employees who wish to choose indemnified medical coverage have no choice but to elect indemnified dental coverage as well -- and must pay for both types of coverage. The separation of dental and medical benefits will allow employees the choice of purchasing medical coverage only, dental coverage only, or both.
"Second, we realized that employees who choose an HMO for medical coverage who also want dental coverage currently are limited to the First Commonwealth Dental HMO," Webber said. "Although the vast majority of First Commonwealth participants have expressed satisfaction with both the fee structure and the services provided under that plan, many employees have voiced a desire for greater freedom of choice in dental providers. Allowing HMO participants access to an indemnified dental plan will give them the same provider access currently available only to Maroon Plan participants while allowing them to continue to participate in the lower cost HMOs."
Also effective Jan. 1, 1997, the HMO Illinois network will include the University of Chicago Physicians Group. At the same time, the University of Chicago Health Plan has agreed to decrease its rates considerably. Employees will now pay the same monthly premiums for both HMO Illinois and UCHP.
In addition to health coverage, employees may also choose dental coverage under either the First Commonwealth Dental plan or the new Indemnified Dental Plan.
First Commonwealth offers comprehensive coverage through over 900 private-practice dentists for commonly needed dental procedures. Plan features include no annual deductibles and no annual limitation on coverage, although co-payments are required for services other than covered preventive and diagnostic procedures.
The Indemnified Dental Plan will offer coverage identical to the coverage previously available under the Maroon Plan. Participants may see any licensed dentist, and must pay an annual $60 deductible per person. The plan pays a percentage of "usual customary" charges, usually 80 percent or 50 percent (depending on the type of services received) and the employee pays the balance.
The Indemnified Dental Plan will be offered only once every two years, beginning Jan. 1, 1997. Once an employee is enrolled, he or she may not drop coverage or switch to First Commonwealth until Jan. 1, 1999, when the next two-year cycle will begin again. Conversely, if an employee does not enroll in the Indemnified Dental Plan effective Jan. 1, 1997, he or she will not have another opportunity to enroll until Jan. 1, 1999. First Commonwealth will continue to be available every year. If an employee enrolls in the First Commonwealth dental plan for 1997, the enrollment will remain in effect through Dec. 31, 1997. Once an employee enrolls in the First Commonwealth dental plan, he or she may discontinue coverage only by completing a termination form during Open Enrollment. The termination would then take effect the first day of the following calendar year.
Premiums for the First Commonwealth plan will increase slightly in 1997. The rates for the dental plans are in the chart below.
Long-term disability (LTD)
"Over the past four years, costs under the LTD program have grown considerably faster than anticipated, although employees' monthly premiums have remained level," Webber said. The University therefore negotiated a two-year, phased-in rate change last year with TIAA, the insurance carrier of the LTD plan. The first increase took effect last year. Effective Jan. 1, 1997, LTD premiums will increase 7 percent.
Coverage under the LTD program remains identical to what it was in 1996. According to Webber, "An employee who wishes to maintain his or her current level of coverage need take no action."
Personal Accident Insurance
Effective Jan. 1, 1997, benefits under the University's Personal Accident Insurance Plan will be expanded and the costs will be reduced as follows:
_ Rates will be reduced from .36 and .50 per $10,000 of benefit per month for employee-only and employee-plus-family coverage, respectively, to .30 and .42.
_ The maximum benefit available will increase from $250,000 to $500,000.
_ The maximum child benefit will be capped at $50,000.
Flexible Spending Accounts
Employees who wish to contribute either to a Health Care Flexible Spending Account or to a Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account during 1997 must complete an enrollment form during Open Enrollment. A Flexible Spending Account enables employees to use pretax dollars to pay for certain medical, dental and dependent-care expenses, in compliance with IRS regulations.
Employees with questions about Open Enrollment may contact a Benefits Counselor by phone at 702-9634, by e-mail at benefits @uchicago.edu, or by stopping in at the Benefits Counseling Office on the fourth floor of the Bookstore.