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March 5, 1998

Open enrollment info detailing rate hikes to be mailed next week

Next week, Pitt's Human Resources office will mail packets of materials to faculty and staff outlining:

* Changes in Pitt medical insurance for next year.

* The monthly rates employees will be charged for different types of coverage.

* Summaries of employees' current University benefits selections.

* Forms that faculty and staff must fill out to change their benefits choices.

This year's open enrollment period for Pitt fringe benefits runs March 16 through May 22. During that time, faculty and staff may change their benefits selections. Changes will go into effect July 1, the beginning of Pitt's fiscal year.

When employees see the new monthly premiums they will be charged for Pitt health insurance, some may want to reconsider their options — especially employees currently enrolled in the Highmark Blue Cross/Blue Shield Comprehensive plan.

Pitt Human Resources officials refused to release rates for FY 1998-99 until next week. But Ron Frisch, associate vice chancellor for Human Resources, said Comprehensive plan rates will increase "dramatically" next year.

Meanwhile, Frisch said, rates for employees enrolled in the two health maintenance organizations (HMOs) to be offered at Pitt next year — Highmark's Keystone plan and UPMC Health System's Tri-State HMO — will increase slightly (by $3 per month for parent/children coverage and by $5 per month for family coverage), decrease slightly (by $8 per month for employee-spouse coverage) or remain unchanged (Pitt will continue to pay the full cost of individual coverage under the two HMOs).

Frisch said monthly rates for the remaining Pitt medical insurance option, Highmark's SelectBlue point-of-service plan, will increase, but not as significantly as Comprehensive plan rates.

The varying rate increases are the result of a new formula, announced last month by Chancellor Mark Nordenberg, for splitting premium hikes between the University and employees who participate in its health insurance plans.

Essentially, Pitt is no longer subsidizing more expensive plans like Comprehensive and SelectBlue. When the total cost of such plans goes up disproportionately, so will the premiums paid by employees who belong to those plans.

Under the new system, Pitt will continue to pay the full cost of individual coverage only in the Keystone and Tri-State HMOs.

The total cost of Pitt medical insurance will jump by 23.4 percent next year, from about $25 million to $31 million. The University will cover 65 percent of the increase. The remaining 35 percent will be paid by faculty and staff who choose higher-priced plans and/or coverage options.

Benefits staff from Pitt and representatives of Highmark and Tri-State will be available to answer employees' questions during a Pitt Benefits Fair scheduled for 11 a.m.-3 p.m., March 23 and 24, in the William Pitt Union Ballroom.

Human Resources, High-mark and Tri-State officials also plan to visit Pitt's four regional campuses during the weeks of March 23 and March 30. The schedule for those visits has not been set yet.

— Bruce Steele

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