The University Record, September 18, 1995

‘U-Choose’ offers lots of new options, enhancements

Editor’s Note: This is the first of several articles about the upcoming “U-Choose” program.


By Sue Lowe
Benefits Office

This year there are five one-time open enrollment opportunities waiting for faculty and staff members who are eligible for the new “U-Choose” or flexible benefits program. There also are some new benefit options and some new plan features, and life insurance rates have decreased by 6 percent.

One-time opportunities

Long-term care: This is the only year when eligible University faculty and staff members can enroll themselves in the new long-term care group plan without completing a health statement.

Life Insurance: This is the last year to enroll children in life insurance during open enrollment. After this year, enrollment can occur only because of a change in family status, or for new employees.

This is the last year that enhanced group life insurance will allow faculty and staff members to:

  • Buy a one-times-pay policy.

  • Increase coverage by one level without providing evidence of good health, even if last year’s application was rejected as long as coverage is under $500,000.

  • Buy any enhanced life insurance coverage for the first time (other than the two types mentioned above) with a short-form health statement, even if last year’s application was rejected as long as coverage is under $500,000.

    New plan features

  • Faculty and staff can purchase $5,000 of life insurance coverage without providing evidence of good health.

  • Life insurance rates have been reduced by 6 percent, and the six-month premium moratoriums have been replaced by a 50 percent reduction in rates overall this year. University group life rates are subject to the claims experience of University participants, which makes the 50 percent reduction possible based on current experience.

  • All HMOs, M-POS, and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan will offer increased benefits for outpatient mental health and substance abuse. Please note the coverage comparison chart in this year’s open enrollment materials.

  • A year of eligibility is no longer required to enroll in the dental assistance, enhanced dental or vision plans; however, the University will not contribute to the cost of the dental plans until a year of eligibility is attained. Enhanced dental and vision still require a two-year commitment.

    New services

    Deductions for three benefit plans will be taken from each biweekly paycheck (for those who are paid biweekly). This can make budgeting expenses easier. The plans include:

  • Both reimbursement accounts.

  • The new auto/homeowners/liability plan.

  • The new group long-term care plan.

    Daily workshops will be held at Wolverine Tower, Suite 18, and 300 North Ingalls Building to help faculty and staff understand their enrollment worksheet.

    The Benefits Office will remain open until 6:30 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays during open enrollment—Oct. 16–Nov. 3.

    New benefit options

    Three benefit plans have been added to the list of benefits that can be deducted from faculty and staff members’ paychecks. These include:

  • Long-term care group insurance

  • Group legal services

  • Auto/homeowners/liability

    Long Term Care Group Insurance

    Like the current individual long-term care plan, the new group plan is administered by TIAA. It has improved benefits over the current plan and offers greater coverage for home health care and a new, unlimited lifetime benefit period option. University faculty and staff members will actually have six options to choose from—the maximum amount they can receive each day if they are confined in a facility, and the benefit period they desire. The options include a daily benefit maximum of $50, $100 or $150, and a three-year, seven-year or unlimited benefit period. These options cover nursing home care, care in an Alzheimer’s facility and assisted living facility, respite care, adult day care and homemaker services, durable medical equipment, bed reservation, and medical alert systems. Remember, there is a one-time opportunity for faculty and staff members to enroll themselves without a health statement.

    All eligible faculty and staff members will receive information from TIAA about the plan. The information will contain an 800 number to call for additional information and to sign up for the plan. The University will not contribute to the cost of the plan, but will deduct the premiums from each paycheck after tax. The cost of coverage depends on your age and the benefit options you select.

    Auto/homeowners/liability

    Through the METPAY property and casualty program, faculty and staff can buy auto, home, apartment, condo, boat and other casualty insurance at special group rates. Policies are underwritten by Metropolitan Property and Casualty, a subsidiary of Metropolitan Life.

    Along with group rates for University staff members, METPAY offers additional discounts. For example, there is a discount for parking the car in a garage at home, for being employed by the University for at least 10 years, or for having the premium deducted from the paycheck.

    The payroll deduction plan offers an economical and convenient way to purchase personal liability coverage to protect staff members from serious financial loss due to a liability claim. Faculty and staff will need to call METLIFE for rate quotations.

    Other property and casualty policies include: homeowners, renters and boatowners.

    Group legal services plan

    The group legal services plan offers low-cost help with a variety of legal matters. The plan works like a medical preferred provider organization. If faculty and staff members obtain their legal services within the plan’s network of lawyers, covered services are fully paid. (The plan has been described as “having an individual attorney on retainer.”) However, if faculty and staff members obtain the services outside the network, payment is made on a fee schedule.

    The legal plan is the only one of the new plans that can be selected on the Benefits Enrollment Line (BEL). The monthly rates are: staff member only, $5.25; staff member plus one dependent, $9.50; staff member plus two or more dependents, $11.25. The University will not contribute to the cost of the plan, but will deduct the premiums from each paycheck after tax.

    One of the most valuable features of the plan is its coverage of telephone advice and office consultations. Initial consultation costs nothing more than the monthly premium. Other covered services include:

  • Simple wills and estate planning.

  • Simple real estate matters.

  • Family law matters (not including divorce).

  • Debt defense.

  • Defense of civil lawsuits.

  • Document preparation.

    Generally, faculty and staff with non-union appointments will be eligible this year for the flexible benefits program. Eligibility rules are contained in the open enrollment materials which will be sent to each faculty and staff member in early October.

    Open enrollment is Oct. 16–Nov 3. Choices will become effective Jan. 1.