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Open Enrollment’s Big Change: Disability Insurance UC Urges Everyone Take a Look, Even If Already Signed Up

By Dateline Staff on October 18, 2016 in University

Some years, for open enrollment, everything takes care of itself — that is, you don’t need to do anything, say, if you’re not changing medical plans, and you’re not signing up for or renewing a flexible spending account for health care or dependent care expenses.

This year, though, there’s a benefit everyone should look at, even if you're already enrolled: voluntary disability insurance, which can help protect your income if you miss work because of a pregnancy, illness or injury. It’s voluntary, because you elect to pay for this supplemental insurance (beyond what the university provides).

If you are already enrolled for supplemental insurance, be aware: UC is presenting all-new options for 2017. And, if you don’t already have supplemental insurance, you have a rare opportunity during this open enrollment to sign up without having to provide a statement of health (so, a pre-existing medical condition will not block your enrollment). Plus, more part-time employees will now be eligible for supplemental insurance.

As for medical plans in 2017, UC made these announcements regarding the university's PPOs and HMOs:

  • Preferred provider organizations — UC is switching administrators in its three PPOs for active employees (UC Care, UC Health Savings Plan and Core).
  • Health maintenance organizations — No significant changes in UC’s three HMOs (Health Net Blue and Gold, Kaiser, and Western Health Advantage).

And while UC has not yet released premiums for 2017, officials said employees will see small increases, or even decreases. “Over 90 percent of employees will see increases under $10 a month, and no increases are over $12 a month,” according to UCnet’s preview article that appeared in last week’s Dateline UC Davis. Also, dental and vision plans will continue at no cost to employees.

Disability insurance

Under the existing set-up, UC pays for basic disability insurance for all employees who are eligible for full benefits; this basic policy provides up to 55 percent of your eligible monthly earnings to a maximum of $800 per month for up to six months. This disability income is generally taxable.

The same, automatic coverage, at the same payout, will continue in 2017 — but not just for employees who are eligible for full benefits. Basic disability will now be provided to employees with mid-level or core benefits.

The UCnet article cautions: “While UC’s basic employer-paid disability insurance offers some protection — a benefit capped at $800 per month for six months — it probably won’t be enough to cover your expenses.”

Which is why the university offers supplemental insurance; employees pay for this on an after-tax basis, meaning this disability income is generally not taxable. (As originally published, this article incorrectly described the premium payments as pre-tax.) You don’t need to provide a statement of health to enroll, provided you sign up within 31 days of your hiring (period of initial eligibility).

Outside of that period, your acceptance is contingent upon your statement of health — except, as already noted, during open enrollment for 2017, when you cannot be denied enrollment due to an existing medical condition.

Here are the new options for supplemental insurance:

  • Voluntary short-term disability — Pays up to 60 percent of your eligible earnings to a maximum of $15,000 per month for up to six months. There’s a 14-day waiting period before benefits begin.
  • Voluntary long-term disability — This coverage picks up at the six-month mark, paying up to 60 percent of your eligible earnings to a maximum of $15,000 per month until your Social Security retirement age.
  • Both (short term and long term)

A premium estimator will be available during open enrollment to help you calculate your costs for voluntary disability insurance. Premium costs depend on your monthly salary, age and the level of coverage you choose (short term, long term or both).

“For a modest monthly premium, UC’s voluntary disability insurance replaces much more of your income — 60 percent of your eligible pay up to $15,000 per month — for additional financial security when you need it most," states the UCnet article.

The article further advises: “If you’ve never thought about disability insurance, this is the year to take a look.” For one thing, if you have mid-level or core benefits, you are now eligible to enroll for this supplemental insurance. For another, you cannot be denied enrollment due to an existing medical condition. If you try to enroll later, you’ll need to submit a statement of health — and you may not qualify.

Already have a supplemental policy?

During open enrollment, you can opt for voluntary short-term disability Insurance or voluntary long-term disability insurance — otherwise, you will be enrolled automatically in both, giving you the most comprehensive coverage (but, at a higher cost — so consider your options carefully).

UCnet offers this tip: Choosing only long-term disability insurance may be a good option for employees with a lot of accrued sick leave, for academic employees eligible for paid medical leave, or for employees who can cover household expenses without much income for up to six months. 

More information and a video on 2017 disability insurance options.

Administrator changes

UC announced the following changes in PPO plan administrators:

  • Medical — Anthem Blue Cross replaces Blue Shield as the administrator of medical benefits for all PPO plans. HealthEquity will continue as the health savings account custodian.
  • Behavioral health — Anthem Blue Cross replaces Optum as the administrator of behavioral health benefits for UC Care and UC Health Savings Plan. Anthem replaces Blue Shield as the administrator of behavioral health benefits for Core.
  • Prescription drugs — OptumRx replaces Blue Shield as the administrator of prescription drug benefits for all PPO plans.

Information will be made available during open enrollment to advise employees about how to prepare for the changes. We can tell you this: Guerren Solbach of UC Davis’ Health Care Facilitator Program says people who are already enrolled in Blue Shield PPO plans will not need to take action during open enrollment to retain their same plans under Anthem Blue Cross in 2017.

“Still, many employees may be considering alternate plans for next year,” Solbach said in an email to all employees. “We hope that the presentations and help desks offered, in combination with UCnet and health plan websites, will help to provide a ‘big picture’ understanding of the options that will help you make the most of this year’s open enrollment.”

Other choices

  • Flexible spending accounts — With each kind of FSA — health care and dependent care — you authorize pretax deductions from your paychecks, to put into an account to pay your health care or dependent care expenses. Anyone may sign up during open enrollment. These accounts do not renew automatically, which means, if you want to sign up again, you must take action during open enrollment. More information on FSAs is available here.
  • Legal plan — ARAG Legal is open to all employees with full, mid-level or core benefits. More information on the legal plan is available here.

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About the author(s)

Dateline Staff Dave Jones, editor, can be reached at 530-752-6556 or dljones@ucdavis.edu. Cody Kitaura, news and media relations specialist, can be reached at 530-752-1932 or kitaura@ucdavis.edu.

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