A guide to changes for Open Enrollment

It’s Open Enrollment time again, and as in years past, there are changes you need to consider as you make your choices from Penn’s menu of benefits.

Some menu items, like Penn’s group life insurance policy, have been supersized. Others, particularly the health insurance plans, will cost more. And a change in how Penn’s insurance plans are offered means more economical portion sizes for many employees.

For starters, the group life insurance policy will offer more benefits for less money thanks to a change in carriers. Improvements to the policy, now administered by Aetna, include enhanced accidental death and dismemberment benefits and discounted legal services for beneficiaries.

Because of the change, Human Resources is encouraging everyone to complete new beneficiary forms this year. “It avoids confusion in the future that could be costly,” said Elenita Bader, executive director of benefits in Human Resources.

On the health front, insurance premiums and out-of-pocket costs will go up this year. Health insurance premiums are rising because of factors both internal and external to Penn. Prescription drug costs are projected to increase 20 to 30 percent each year, due to both the introduction of new, more costly treatments and ad-driven demand for specific prescription drugs. The cost of providing treatment for the uninsured also reflects in the premiums the insured pay. Finally, Penn’s health care costs per employee are higher than the local and national averages, partly because Penn employees use their health plans more and partly because Penn’s plan benefits are richer than average.

“But there are ways you can reduce the bite healthcare takes out of your paycheck, such as using the Health Care Pre-Tax Expense Account, enrolling in a low-cost HMO or POS plan, or using generic prescriptions when possible,” advised Bader. You may now contribute up to $4,000 annually to the expense account, an increase of $1,000.

Moving to a three-tier system of insurance coverage could save many employees money as well. Instead of “single” and “family” coverage, Penn’s insurance plans will be available in three versions: employee only, employee plus one person, and employee plus two or more people. This means that two-person households will find their insurance coverage more affordable. According to Bader, this change reflects a general trend among employers.

Open Enrollment will be held April 14-25. Next week, you will receive a packet in the mail with detailed information. You can also visit the Open Enrollment Fairs on April 11 and April 22 in Houston Hall or April 15 at New Bolton Center to get more information. The April 11 event, from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. in Bodek Lounge and the Reading Room, includes a Health Fair where you can obtain free health screenings.

For more information, visit www.hr.upenn.edu or call the Penn Benefits Center at 1-888-PENN-BEN (1-888-736-6236).

Originally published on April 3, 2003