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February 5, 2015

Pitt Perks discounts to debut

Want to save some money?

The Pitt Benefits office plans to roll out a new faculty and staff discount program next month that will offer employee discounts on national and local travel, entertainment, merchandise, restaurants and services. Called Pitt Perks, the program also will offer deals on auto and home insurance, pet health insurance, identity theft insurance and other items.

Pitt Perks was announced at the Jan. 22 meeting of the University Senate’s benefits and welfare committee by John Kozar, assistant vice chancellor for Human Resources. It will be free for faculty and staff who sign up online through vendor CoreStream, which administers similar programs for other institutions and companies, offering discounts at Disneyland, Marriott, Target, Jenny Craig, Goodyear, Costco, Hallmark, Kohl’s, Cinemark, FTD, Avis, Omaha Steaks, The Popcorn Factory and many other retailers. CoreStream will administer Pitt Perks enrollment, customer service and marketing.

Human Resources plans to notify employees about the program through a Read Green email, said Lori Carnvale, director of Benefits.

Pitt has long had employee discounts for athletic events, Pitt Arts programming, the University Store and items through the Purchasing department, such as computers. Pitt Perks’ new opportunities are aimed at offering employees another reason to join and remain with the Pitt faculty or staff, Carnvale said.

Eligible for Pitt Perks will be regular full-time employees, including full-time faculty and staff, research associates and post-doctoral associates, as well as part-time faculty and part-time staff at 50 percent or more effort, but not faculty hired on a per-semester basis. Kozar said the Benefits department will be considering offering the program to current retirees in the future, but it will be portable for future retirees who sign up while employees.

Pitt will screen the specific discounts employees will be offered, including “an ever-expanding list of retailers” with whom Core-Stream may strike new deals.

All discounts will be at least annual — no monthly holiday specials or other time-sensitive specials will be included — and certain types of retailers, such as tattoo parlors, may be excluded, Kozar said.

Home and auto insurance, including online rate comparisons, will be sold through two companies, Travelers and MetLife. The latter company offers identity theft protection through its Defender insurance, which monitors, detects and guards against digital threats. Developed by Pittsburgh’s Triversa, Defender searches for the online exposure of 25 personal data points, from bank accounts and credit cards to home address, social security number and other information. It aims to remove data from unauthorized users, including social networks, and has optional child predator and anti-bullying protections.

Pet health insurance will be obtainable through the ASPCA and Hartville Pet Insurance Groups, covering $2,500-$7,500 in veterinarian bills at monthly payments of $12-37 per cat and $16-50 per dog.

CoreStream also will make available its TRUECar program, which has discounts on new and used cars from $100 to $1,000, depending on the car and dealership, as well as discounts and reimbursements for auto repair and a mechanics hotline.

Premiums for any insurance program chosen through Pitt Perks may be paid for via payroll deduction.


In other news:

• Kozar reported on the results of a survey of retirees concerning the possibility of establishing a retirees’ association. Of the 244 responses (75 percent from Pitt retirees, 25 percent from their spouses), 55 percent said they would be interested in joining such an organization, while 32 percent said they were not interested, and 13 percent said joining was a possibility. “It’s not overwhelming,” said Kozar, “but we’ll continue to explore this.” Also, 49 percent of respondents said they would pay a small membership fee, but 52 percent said they would not be interested in serving on a committee. Most said they would take part in social gatherings, enjoy discount programs and appreciate health tips, while they were least interested in events involving giving back to the community, students and networking.

• Kozar and Carnvale unveiled the new summary guide of retiree benefits, offering “the entire roadmap” for end-of-career planning, Kozar said. Human Resources expects this first brochure to undergo revision after it receives user feedback, he added. The department also plans to hold a March 30 retirement symposium with “a very dynamic speaker,” he said.

• At the committee’s mental wellness task force’s lunch-and-learn workshop Jan. 21, an overflow crowd of 115 participated in the first of three seminars by Bruce S. Rabin on the manner in which stress increases mental and physical disease risks and the ways in which we can counter those effects. Organizers of the event were Linda Tashbook and Irene Kane.

In a survey of half the attendees, Tashbook reported, 21 had a relative with mental illness, 28 wanted to know more about the University’s psychological resources and more than 95 percent appreciated the program.

Human Resources’ main guide to the University’s mental health resources is

Rabin — faculty member in pathology and psychiatry and medical director of the Division of Clinical Immunopathology —will offer the other two 50-minute seminars in the William Pitt Union’s Kurtzman Room on Feb. 11 and March 4.

• More than 10,000 members of the University community, including faculty, staff and their family members have had flu shots so far this season, Kozar reported. That is close to 40 percent of those eligible for this Pitt benefit, and Kozar expects the total to exceed 40 percent before flu season is over.

“Based on UPMC’s data, we’re far beyond any university they’ve seen” under UPMC health coverage, he said; other such universities have 32 percent participation, while the total rate among all people covered by UPMC insurance is 23 percent. “We continue to push it,” he said. “Falk [Pharmacy] will continue to give out flu shots as long as supplies last.”

• The benefits committee will vote next month on a new chair, because current chair Angie Riccelli has served the maximum three years. So far only one candidate, Sashin Velankar, has announced his candidacy.

—Marty Levine