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April 30, 2015

Open enrollment ends May 19

No news is good news about health care plan premium costs: Premiums for medical, dental and vision plans won’t increase for 2015-16, the University announced last week.

Overall, the University’s costs for health plan premiums went up 2.9 percent for next year. For the plan year starting July 1, University officers decided to absorb the entire increase, says John Kozar, assistant vice chancellor for Human Resources: “I view it as a nice act, personally. In this day and age you can always expect increases in costs, so it’s nice to receive a break.”

In the past, the University has absorbed only 80 percent of such increases, passing the remaining 20 percent on to faculty and staff.

Participants will face some increases in other health plan costs: All plans will have a $2 increase in the cost of generic prescriptions. But as noted in the April 23 announcement letter from Ronald W. Frisch, associate vice chancellor for Human Resources, “You can still obtain a three-month supply for the cost of two copayments at the Falk and University pharmacies as well as through the mail-order service.”

open enrollmentPitt also is merging one of the PPO plans, Panther Premier, into Panther Advocate. The two plans have been virtually identical, but the move will allow those previously in Premier to have a Health Incentive Account, through which financial credits may be earned for those who undertake qualifying wellness measures, such as annual exams. Individual members can earn up to $200 in credits, while those with family coverage can earn up to $400.

“The incentives were a little difficult to track” this year, Kozar says. Thus, his department worked with UPMC Health Plan to put earned incentives on a spending account card, the FlexAdvantage Visa debit card, starting July 1. “The overall process is so much more understandable and the rewards are much more available immediately than they were previously,” he says. The funds can be used for such medical expenses as prescription or physician visit copays.

As Frisch’s letter notes, “If you are a current Panther Premier participant, you will automatically become a member of the Panther Advocate plan unless you make an election to do otherwise. New ID cards for former Panther Premier participants will be issued. This change should be communicated to your health care providers.”

The University’s premium-free plan, Panther Basic, has been adjusted to become a federal “qualified high-deductible health plan,” which required increasing deductibles from $1,000 to $1,500 for individuals and from $2,000 to $3,000 for families. The switch was made to allow participants to open a new Health Savings Account (HSA) to accrue funds to cover medical expenses. Such HSA funds are not taxed when they are placed in the account, nor when they are withdrawn, and they earn tax-free interest while in the HSA. Pitt employees in this health plan with HSAs may retain them during retirement.

In addition, the federal government has increased the total funds allowed in a health care flexible spending account, up $50 to $2,550. Those with such accounts also may now roll over a maximum of $500 from fiscal year 2015 to 2016.

Open enrollment runs through May 19. The traditional paper packets of enrollment information should arrive at Pitt offices by May 4, Kozar says, but the information already is available online at

No action is required for employees who wish to retain current benefits; their enrollments will continue into the next fiscal year automatically. Confirmation letters will be sent only to those who elect to make any changes.

—Marty Levine