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Faculty, staff benefits open enrollment to start Oct. 19

by UofL Today last modified Nov 12, 2009 08:32 AM

The University of Louisville wants its employees to be healthy — so much so that it is increasing the premium incentive for participation in its health management program, Get Healthy Now, from $20 to $40 per month.

That is one change faculty and staff will see when they look at the information Human Resources is providing for this year's benefits open enrollment, which will take place Oct. 19 through Oct. 30. The process will be online through ULink.

A little over one-half of faculty and staff participate in Get Healthy Now, said Dana Hummel, director of benefits.

"Our goal is to achieve a healthier workforce while also helping to maintain and control our health care costs. As a self-insured employer, every person on our insurance plan shares in the burden of paying for faculty and staff health conditions and disease. We also all profit from the wealth of good health.

"We hope the extra incentive will be just the motivation people need to participate in Get Healthy Now."

While overall health care costs have increased at UofL, "participating employees have kept our health care costs below the national average," said Patricia Benson, Get Healthy Now director. Data shows that health care costs for program participants increased 2.5 percent since the inception of Get Healthy Now compared to 19.5 percent for UofL employees who have not participated in the program.

"If we followed the 'do-nothing' strategy," Hummel said, "medical premiums would be astronomical — for both the employee and employer. UofL made a conscious, strategic decision to implement a voluntary, incentive based health management program to help employees take proactive steps to maintain or improve their well-being. This is not unique — many employers across the nation are doing the same. UofL just did it sooner, and we are reaping the positive outcomes."

Get Healthy Now provides on-campus resources for health management, including classes, workout facilities and activities. It also provides coaching via telephone or e-mail.

"It is all about the individual employee," Benson said, and providing them the resources they want and need to be healthier.

Other health plan changes

The Cardinal Care EPO plan is a new option this year. The network is comprised exclusively of UofL physicians and University Hospital.

"This plan helps our employees benefit from our own physicians who are exceptional leaders and experts in their fields," Hummel said.

It also provides the convenience of physicians on campus at the UofL Outpatient Care Center at Chestnut and Preston and at Cardinal Station, beside the Jim Patterson baseball stadium.

There also are changes to the current EPO and PPO plans in the areas of inpatient hospitalization, outpatient services, mental health and substance abuse. The employee's responsibility no longer is a flat rate, but is a percentage of the cost for service.

"People who are hospitalized may pay more than they would have under the old plan design, but keep in mind that all plans have an annual out-of-pocket maximum to protect you by putting a cap on those costs."

Changes were necessary, Hummel said, "to keep up with an increase in our health care costs. We reviewed many scenarios and adopted the ones that would have the least amount of negative impact on faculty and staff while ensuring that our health plan remains viable."

While health insurance usually is the benefit that faculty and staff think of first at this time of year, there is more to the open enrollment process than deciding which health plan to have, Hummel said.

UofL also offers employees dental, vision, health management and flexible spending options.

During open enrollment, faculty and staff can switch health plans; change the people covered on their health, vision or dental plans; begin or continue participation in Get Healthy Now; and sign up for a flexible spending account. They also can waive coverage under a UofL health plan.

Hummel recommended that employees look at all of UofL's health plan choices and choose one that best suits their needs.

"The plan you choose now and the choices you make can have a great impact on your health and finances throughout the year. Making smart choices is more important than ever. Open enrollment is a great opportunity for faculty and staff to evaluate their benefits and make choices that are best for their health and wallet."

She also recommended that people take a closer look at a health care flexible spending account.

"This FSA lets you pay for your health expenses with pretax dollars," she said. "Without an FSA, employees still pay for these expenses, but do so using money left in their paycheck after federal taxes are deducted."

Eligible expenses include co-payments, deductibles, dental and vision expenses, prescriptions and many over-the-counter medications.

Information to help employees decide what action to take during open enrollment is online.

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