The University Record, September 11, 1995

‘U-Choose’ benefits program unveiled

By Sue Lowe
Benefits Office

Open enrollment will be held Oct. 16–Nov. 3. Benefit choices will be effective Jan. 1, 1996. The Benefits Enrollment Line (BEL) will be open for calls 7:30 a.m.–11:30 p.m. each day except Friday, Nov. 3, when it will close at 4:30 p.m. All active and retired faculty and staff will receive enrollment information the first week in October that will help them make benefit decisions.

During the 1995 open enrollment the new “U-Choose” benefit program will be unveiled. Sometimes referred to as the “flex” plan, the program will let eligible faculty and staff choose the benefits they want, and it will provide some of the dollars to pay for the benefits. Generally, faculty and staff with non-union appointments will be eligible this first year. In the future, other job families may decide to participate.

All staff members see changes in their benefit plans

  • Health insurance rates have decreased overall by 1.1 percent. Two-person coverage for the HMOs and M-POS (M-CARE Point of Service) has gone down; but two-person coverage under Blue Cross-Blue Shield of Michigan/United has increased. In general, HMO coverage for three or more persons has decreased, while the same coverage under M-POS and BCBSM/United has increased.

  • Life insurance rates for the Basic Group Plan and the Enhanced Plan (for staff members only) have decreased. The exact amounts are discussed in the open enrollment materials.

  • All HMOs, BCBSM and M-POS Option I will offer increased benefits for outpatient treatment of mental health and substance abuse. These upgrades in coverage are also discussed in the open enrollment materials.

  • Deductions for both reimbursement accounts will be taken from each biweekly paycheck (for those who are paid biweekly). This can make budgeting expenses easier. Participants will continue to receive their reimbursements in the last check of the month.

    University Contribution

    The University pays the greater share of the benefit costs. In fact, the University pays the entire cost for single person medical and the Dental Assistance plan coverage (after one year of service), and the University is maintaining the same cost-sharing formula for dependent coverage that was offered in 1995.

    Use the Express Lane

    The Benefits Office is aware that some staff members perceive the Benefits Enrollment Line (BEL) as a complicated process. In response, the Benefits Office has developed an alternative to the regular BEL menu. This new alternative is called the “Express Lane,” which is faster and easier than regular BEL. Faculty and staff members who want to continue their current benefits into 1996 can call BEL, select the express lane and receive a confirmation number. Because reimbursement accounts require re-enrollment every year, the express lane will allow users to select reimbursement accounts.

    Staff members who wish to make changes to their benefits for 1996 can follow the regular BEL menu instead of taking the Express Lane.

    The U-Choose program

    The program has been dubbed “U-Choose” because that’s exactly what happens. Nonbargained-for faculty and staff members choose the benefits they and their families need, rather than allowing the University to choose for them.

    Some U-Choose benefit options are available at no cost to nonbargained-for faculty and staff. Others have a cost, and still others give cash back. Faculty and staff members can “spend” this cash on other benefits or add it to their take-home pay. All eligible faculty and staff members will receive U-Choose dollars in the amount of $72 if they call the benefits enrollment line and record their benefit choices.

    Ways to get ‘cash back’

    Under the U-Choose plan there are five ways faculty and staff members can receive cash back from the University:

  • $800 for opting out of health insurance

  • $72 U-Choose dollars

  • $60 for opting out of dental insurance

  • A cost equal to current life insurance premiums for opting out of life insurance. (Faculty and staff will each have an individual premium cost for life insurance. The Benefits Office will calculate this cost when it sends out the open enrollment materials.)

  • Up to $400 for opting down to Comprehensive Major Medical health insurance ($400 for one person, $300 for two-person, $200 for three or more persons).

    Failure to call BEL

    If faculty and staff members fail to call BEL this year, they will not lose any of their current benefits. They will, however, lose their reimbursement accounts because these accounts require an annual enrollment according to Internal Revenue Service regulations.

    Those who are eligible for flexible benefits will lose the $72 U-Choose dollars, and any other dollars they might have received for opting out of health, dental and life insurance benefits or opting down to Comprehensive Major Medical health insurance. This could be up to $1,000 lost just by not using the phone.

    Flex-eligible faculty and staff members who currently have no University health insurance under their own Social Security number can take advantage of the cash back plan, but they must call BEL and choose “no coverage.” If they don’t, they will be defaulted into one-person coverage under Comprehensive Major Medical.

    New benefits

    There are three new benefits being offered to flex-eligible faculty and staff during open enrollment. These include auto/homeowners/liability insurance from Metropolitan Property and Casualty Insurance Co. and affiliates Met P&C, a legal services plan from Hyatt Legal Plans, and long-term care group insurance from TIAA.

    There will be no University contribution toward the cost of premiums for these plans, but they offer faculty and staff members group rates and premiums that can be deducted from each month’s paycheck. The Benefits Office will publish the 800 numbers for the new plans so that faculty and staff members can call for information on their own. Enrollment for group legal services can be made on the BEL; however, enrollment in the other two plans can only be made through direct contact with the insurance companies.