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Inside Iowa State, a newspaper for faculty and staff, is published by the Office of University Relations.

November 5, 2004

ISU Plan: Open enrollment begins Nov. 5

by Karen Bolluyt

Premiums for three health insurance programs in the ISU Plan will increase next year, but not by a lot, according to Tim Ashley, Iowa State's employee benefits manager. And the university will cover the increased cost for all tiers in the HMO and PPO plans.

People on the indemnity plan will pay $97 per month, compared with $78 per month this year. Employee cost for the indemnity plan for families will increase from $409 to $463.

The pharmacy program will be administered differently, becoming a stand-alone program.

The ISU Plan is for supervisory merit staff, faculty, and professional and scientific staff.

"We were really pleased at the relatively small cost increases," Ashley said. "We expect significant cost savings due to the carve-out of the pharmacy program to a stand-alone program, so we were able to hold the cost increase to a minimum and not pass any increase to the employees in HMO and PPO plans."

"We would like to believe that this is due in part to our employees' being smarter consumers of health services, and we will continue to do our best to provide our employees with information to support a continuation of this trend," he said.

He mentioned, for example, employee use of generic drugs when they are available and appropriate. Also, movement from the most expensive (indemnity) program to the other two programs has helped reduce costs.

This year, both Wellmark and Health Alliance provide pharma-ceutical benefits. The switch to a stand-alone pharmacy benefit manager will mean that ISU Plan participants will carry a separate card for pharmaceutical purchases. The change reduces costs partly by eliminating a layer of administration.

"The change in pharmaceutical provider was a major effort for the University Benefits Committee. It wanted to be sure that pharmacies our employees use would be in the net-work provided by the new pharmacy benefit manager," Ashley said.

There will not be a separate payment for the pharmaceutical benefit. The only difference you should notice, Ashley said, is that you will carry one more card than you do now.

The three-for-two plan (a three-month prescription for maintenance drugs filled for the equivalent of two months co-payment) will be reinstated next year. Information about the new pharmacy plan and a list of pharmacies in the network still is being prepared.

The university also will cover a slight increase ($1 per month) in the cost of the basic and comprehensive dental plans. Co-payments and services covered have not changed.

The open enrollment period during which ISU Plan participants may make changes in their plans begins Nov. 5 and ends 5 p.m. Dec. 6. Changes at other times are restricted by IRS regulations.

In early November, all ISU Plan participants should receive packets of information about next year's programs. Q&A sessions about the ISU Plan are scheduled on Nov. 16 (10:30 a.m.-1 p.m.) and Nov. 30 (2-4:30 p.m.) in 3150 Beardshear.

Employees may pick up and complete change forms during the Q&A sessions. Changes also may be made online, using AccessPlus.

ISU Plan participants also may enroll in, make changes to or quit their Flex plans during the open enrollment period. Those currently in a Flex plan will continue in the plan at the same level unless they request a change. Flex plans cover qualifying medical costs or qualifying dependent care costs, and Flex deductions are made in pretax dollars.

Flex money not spent in the year for which it is collected is lost. The ISU plan information packet includes a list of over-the-counter items that may be purchased with Flex plan dollars. This list also is available at


Call the benefits office,
4-7680, or email