Employee health benefits undergo a host of changes

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While in past years you may have simply ignored the benefits envelope mailed to you from the Division of Human Resources, this year it is imperative that you open the package and study its contents.

The booklet details the many changes in Penn employee benefits that begin July 1, and all are advised to read the packet carefully and decide which plan best suits your needs. You may want to change your various insurance providers or opt in or out of a particular benefit.

Alterations to your benefits package can be made during Penn’s Open Enrollment period, which begins Monday, April 5, and continues through Friday, April 16.

Even if you are satisfied with your current healthcare coverage, it is important that you understand the forthcoming changes. Some medical plans will feature higher co-pays for physician visits or hospital stays. Other changes may include higher deductibles or co-insurance amounts.

Not all of the changes will cost you more money. Some of the medical plans are installing or lowering co-pay maximums, which will limit the amount you will pay annually in co-pays.

You also may discover that making some changes will save you money. If you take maintenance medications, for example, you will find that using CVS pharmacies or the CVS Caremark mail-order service can save you a considerable amount on co-pays than using the neighborhood pharmacy.

Another way to save money is to enroll in Penn’s healthcare pre-tax expense account. With this benefit, you set aside a certain amount of money each month before taxes, which can then be used to pay for eligible out-of-pocket expenses such as medical and prescription co-pays.

Participants using mental health or substance abuse coverage will notice that they will no longer have a set number of outpatient appointments or inpatient stays. As long as the treatment is deemed medically necessary, mental health and substance abuse coverage will be unlimited.

If you are still unsure about the changes in your benefits package, Human Resources is holding a Benefits Open Enrollment and Health Fair on Tuesday, April 13, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., in Houston Hall’s Hall of Flags. Healthcare vendors and staff from the Penn Benefits Center will be on hand to discuss the plan changes and answer any questions. Free health screenings and health and wellness information will also be available.

An important note to parents: If your dependent children, ages 19 to 23, are still in school and you do not certify their student status during Open Enrollment, they will not be covered as of July 1.

For more information about benefit changes and options, contact the Penn Benefits Center by calling 1-888-PENN-BEN or emailing askhr@hr.upenn.edu.

Originally published on April 1, 2010