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

Oct. 19, 2007

ISU Plan open enrollment starts Oct. 29

by Anne Krapfl

Faculty, P&S staff and supervisory merit staff will make choices for the new plan year during an open enrollment period that begins at 8 a.m. Monday, Oct. 29, and ends at 5 p.m. Friday, Nov. 9.

Free generic prescription drugs for participants who use the Medco mail-order service for their 90-day prescriptions, an optional vision insurance plan, discontinuation of the indemnity health care plan and free access to online tools that allow you to create several legal documents are key benefits changes to the ISU Plan for the coverage year that begins Feb. 1, 2008.

To give participants a chance to learn more about their options, a vendor fair will be held from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 31, in rooms 3512 and 3534 at the Memorial Union. Employees also can learn more about health and dental care, life insurance and disability options, and flex spending accounts on the benefits Web site ( Individual participation statements will be available on AccessPlus. Plan-eligible employees should have received a letter at their home addresses this week alerting them to the change period and process for reviewing and/or changing their benefits.

"ISU employees have done a good job of helping to control our costs as we move toward this new plan year," said benefits manager Mike Otis. "Our HMO switch a year ago from Health Alliance to Wellmark proved to be a positive change."

What about the rates?

Rates will go up 8.2 percent this year in the PPO (preferred provider organization) health plan, 3 percent for the HMO (health maintenance organization) and 10 percent for the dental plans, the first dental increase in three years, Otis said.

ISU benefit "credits" will increase, which means that the employee's share of the monthly premium actually may decrease for many. For employees in the HMO, there is no cost for single coverage and family coverage premiums for 2008 will be $32 per month (compared to $82 currently). PPO participants with single coverage will pay $2 less per month next year as well. Family coverage under the PPO plan will cost employees $248 per month, compared to the current $236.

Otis encouraged employees to give the Wellmark HMO, which the ISU Plan switched to a year ago, another look.

"Employees have to name a primary care physician, but the disruption in service is minimal and the savings can be significant," he said. Otis also noted that HMO participants with dependent children elsewhere in the country can keep those children on their plans with the "guest membership" option. Children need to live in a community served by Blue Cross Blue Shield.

Otis said about 100 employees enrolled in the indemnity medical plan this year will have to choose the HMO or PPO for the 2008 plan year. Those employees have received letters about their options. The low enrollment numbers are one of the reasons behind the higher costs, he said. The out-of-network options in the PPO plan are a close match to the benefits level of the indemnity plan, he said. But participants may have fewer out-of-pocket expenses when they receive their care within the network.

Optional benefits

An optional vision insurance plan provides coverage for glasses or contacts as well as a discount on laser eye surgery. The plan is voluntary and has a separate premium, Otis said. The PPO and HMO plans will keep their same coverage for routine, annual eye exams.

The supplemental life insurance option will be upgraded for 2008. The new "voluntary life plan" has better rates and an accidental death or dismemberment benefit, Otis said. It also offers portability when employees leave or retire. Currently, the only option is to convert the supplemental life insurance to a whole life plan, he said.

"This is the key difference in the two," Otis said. "The new plan provides better 'gap' coverage."

ISU Plan participants also will have access to a Principal Financial Group Web site at which they can create their own legal documents (standard and living wills, health care power of attorney and financial power of attorney). The documents can be printed and notarized.