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

October 21, 2005

ISU Plan coverage largely unchanged for next year

by Linda Charles

Depending on the plan, medical insurance rates for faculty and P&S staff will increase 10 to 18 percent under the ISU Plan next year.

The open enrollment period for current faculty and P&S staff runs from Nov. 4 through Dec. 5, said Tim Ashley, benefits manager. During this period, employees may change their insurance coverage online through the AccessPlus or do nothing and keep the plans they have this year.

There will be no changes in the coverage offered through the PPO and Indemnity medical insurance plans next year, Ashley said. The only change in the HMO plan will be an increase from 20 to 52 outpatient sessions for mental health and chemical dependency. (Both the PPO and Indemnity plans cover unlimited sessions.)

Basic dental insurance coverage also will be unchanged next year, while comprehensive dental insurance will begin covering dental implants.

Premium increases

The university will increase its contribution toward benefit costs by 12 percent next year, Ashley said, but that will not cover the total increase in medical premiums. Most employees will see monthly premium increases of $4 to $8 under the PPO plan, $14 to $23 under the HMO and $37 to $127 under the Indemnity plan. (The single PPO plan rate will decrease by $4 a month while those with the single HMO plan receive $1 less in credit.)

Monthly increases in the dental premium will be slight, $1 to $2 for the comprehensive plan and no increase for the basic plan, Ashley said.

With about 3,000 current and retired employees enrolled, the PPO plan is the most popular of the ISU Plan options, followed by the HMO with about 1,800 participants and the Indemnity plan with slightly less than 500 participants.

Ashley noted that since the ISU Plan is self-funded by the university, employees can help keep premium rates down by making wise medical choices. For example, when possible, going to the clinic rather than the emergency room can save the university hundreds of dollars.

Another example of how employees can help keep premium costs down is to take care of themselves physically. For example, Lipitor (which helps lower cholesterol levels) was the No. 1 prescribed medication for employees under the ISU Plan. During the first six months of this year, the university paid $230,000 in claims from ISU employees using Lipitor. While employees certainly need to follow the advice of their doctors, Ashley pointed out that in some cases, exercise and wise food choices can reduce or eliminate the need for the drug.

Medco contract continues

The university will continue to contract with Medco for its pharmaceutical coverage under the ISU Plan. During the first six months of 2004, 13 percent of all medications were ordered through Medco's mail order service. However, 71 percent of all prescriptions filled at retail pharmacies were maintenance (long-term) medications, which could have been filled through the mail order service at a lower cost.

Enrollment periods

Faculty and staff will receive postcards with enrollment information before Nov. 5, Ashley said. In order to save money ($8,000 to $10,000), this year employees will not receive open change booklets detailing insurance plan coverage. Instead, the information can be found online at the Human Resource Services' Web site (http://www.; select "Insurance" under the "Current Employees" column).

Open enrollment periods for Merit employees and retirees have yet to be set, Ashley said. Decisions first have to be made about what pharmacy plans to offer retirees in light of the new federal pharmacy program (Part D under Medicare). The state, which manages the medical insurance plans for Merit employees, including retired Merit employees, has yet to decide whether to offer a pharmacy program or to modify the pharmacy program for retirees covered by its insurance plan. That decision will affect premiums, so the open enrollment period cannot be set yet.

Iowa State is in the same boat, and will set the enrollment period for retirees in the ISU Plan once the decision has been made, Ashley said. All Medicare-eligible retirees currently covered by the ISU Plan will receive a letter by Nov. 15 certifying that the plan offered by Iowa State is as good or better than the government's plan.

Faculty and P&S staff who would like to talk to an ISU benefits representative about the ISU Plan may stop in 3150 Beardshear from noon to 4 p.m. Nov. 22 or from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Nov. 29. Information also is available on the human resources Web site, or by contacting the benefits office, 4-7680,

ISU Plan
monthly premium increases


Single and spouse$102
Single and children$78


Single coverage$-4
Employee and spouse $8
Employee and children$4


Single and spouse$21
Single and children$14

* The HMO single plan costs less than the amount the university pays for medical insurance and shows up as a credit on employees' pay stubs. Those with single coverage will receive $1 less in credit.


Medical and dental coverage in the ISU Plan will see few changes in the plan year that begins Feb. 1, 2006.