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April 17, 2008

Benefits open enrollment begins April 21

Bucking a national trend, Pitt employees will see only small premium increases for the health plan year that begins July 1.

According to John Kozar, director of Benefits, the overall cost increase of Pitt’s medical plans, which are administered by UPMC Health Plan, is 1.5 percent. “That marks the third consecutive year that the University’s increase in health care costs has fallen significantly below the national average,” Kozar said, citing numbers provided by Mercer Consulting, Pitt’s health care consultants.

According to Mercer, the national increase in health care costs in 2008 is expected to be 7.9 percent before changes, and 5.7 percent after a cutback on benefits is factored in.

Pitt’s overall health care costs for the coming plan year are projected to be about $87 million, up from roughly $85 million for the current plan year. Kozar noted that that comparison is skewed because Pitt has seen a couple percentage points rise in enrollments over last year, due both to an increase in the overall number of employees and to people enrolling in the plan who previously had not.

The University will continue to absorb 80 percent of the annual rate increase to the medical programs covered under the UPMC medical plan options.

Details of the benefits plans, including vision and dental plan options, and long-term care and life insurance choices, are contained in packets being mailed to all employees’ campus addresses beginning April 17.

Employees who do not receive their informational packets should contact Benefits at 412/624-8160.

Employees who elect not to make any changes to their current benefits need not take any action; all others must make changes during the open enrollment period, which begins April 21 and runs through 5 p.m. on May 14.

Changes must be made electronically by following the online enrollment procedure, which is accessible at by clicking on the “open enrollment” link. An instruction sheet for online enrollment is provided in the printed enrollment materials.

A confirmation letter will be sent to the employee’s home address within a few days of changes being made, according to Human Resources.

For Panther Gold enrollees, who make up about 90 percent of employees receiving health care benefits through Pitt, premiums will increase from $49 to $50 per month for individuals, and from $269 to $272 a month for family coverage.

Panther Premier monthly premiums will be increased from $45 to $46 for individuals and from $255 to $258 for family coverage. Family coverage premiums will increase from $142 to $145 for Panther Plus enrollees, with a premium increase for individuals from $6 to $7 per month.

There will continue to be no charge for individual coverage for Panther Basic subscribers; family coverage will stay at $18 per month.

Regardless of the plan, employees continue to be entitled to age-related wellness and preventive services completed in-network, such as pediatric immunizations, mammography, colonoscopy, Pap tests and prostate exams. These services are not subject to co-payments or deductibles.

Pitt is continuing to offer its new benefit of nutritional counseling with a registered dietician, something normally not covered in other health insurance plans unless it is related to a diabetic condition, Kozar said.

The service, available up to six times per plan year, can be accessed at 1-800/807-0751.

For the past three years, Pitt’s plans have covered smoking cessation over-the-counter products and prescription medications, but plan participants have been responsible for co-payments. Beginning in July, Pitt also will reimburse the co-payment for smoking cessation medication, if the participant completes counseling. Counseling is available online, by telephone or in person through Life Solutions. The benefit extends to other adult members of an employee’s household who are covered under Pitt’s health plan. To register for any of these counseling options, call 1-800/807-0751.

This year, there will be no increases in prescription drug co-payments, Kozar said.

• Generic co-payments will remain the same: $10 for a 30-day (retail) supply and $20 for a 90-day supply. Subscribers can get 90-day supplies through the Falk Pharmacy and the Student Health Service or through mail order with Express Scripts.

• Preferred brand name co-pays will remain at $28 for a 30-day supply and $56 for a 90-day supply.

• Non-preferred brand name (non-formulary) co-pays will remain at $56 for a 30-day supply and $112 for a 90-day supply.

For Panther Gold enrollees, emergency room co-payments also remain the same at $50 per visit for adults. The co-payment for dependents under the age of 18 will stay at $30 per visit.

Also the same this year, a $50 co-payment per visit (maximum of four co-payments per plan year) is included for Panther Gold enrollees for surgical service performed in an outpatient facility setting, and for up to 23-hour observation room service performed in a hospital setting.

The University will continue to offer dental and vision coverage.

For dental coverage, Pitt has extended its contract for three years with United Concordia, which offers three plan options. The plan designs remain the same.

Concordia Plus subscribers will pay $14.27 (up from $13.53) for individual coverage and $47.23 (up from $44.77) for family coverage per month; Concordia Flex I subscribers will pay $16.83 (up from $16.50) for individual coverage and $51.98 (up from $50.96) for family coverage per month. Concordia Flex II subscribers will pay $24.90 (up from $24.41) for individual coverage and $94.86 (up from $93) for family coverage per month.

For more information, contact United Concordia at 1-877/215-3616 or visit

Kozar said that, based on claims experience, members in the dental plan will see an overall increase of 3.5 percent each year of the three-year contract, which is consistent with dental inflation.

The Davis Vision contract is entering its final year. The program will maintain its current rates and plan design. Individuals pay monthly premiums of $3.71 for individual coverage and $9.07 for family coverage.

Pitt is in the second year of a two-year contract with Aetna as its life insurance carrier. Rates are unchanged.

Pitt will continue to offer certain services at no cost through its Life Solutions partnership. Those include referral services for child care and emergency child care; referral services for elder care; adoption counseling, and other services designed to help reduce stress related to balancing work and personal life.

More information on Pitt’s health care and other employee benefits can be found at

Human Resources will hold benefits fairs on Pitt’s five campuses.

• Pittsburgh: noon-3 p.m. April 28 and 29, William Pitt Union lower lounge.

• Greensburg: 10:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. May 1, 101 and 108 Village Hall.

• Bradford: 11 a.m.-2 p.m. May 5, Frame-Westerberg Commons, Mukaiyama University Room.

• Titusville: 10:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. May 6, Haskell Memorial Library.

•Johnstown: 10:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. May 8, Student Union Cambria Room.

John Baker, president of the University Senate, commented, “Our Benefits department continues to do a great job of managing Pitt’s health care plans and other benefits. Our health care plans are affordable, offer excellent coverage and annual increases have been minimal in recent years. I am pleased that this trend will continue next year with a mere 1.5 percent increase in the cost of our health care coverage. It is most welcome news, especially in light of the 4.1 percent inflation rate (CPI-U) last year.”

Patricia Weiss, chair of the University Senate benefits and welfare committee, commented, “The Benefits department has again done well by University employees. Earlier estimates had projected an increase that would have been larger, though still considerably lower than the national average. Either figure would have been in keeping with the administration’s preference for small, steady increases instead of a big jump every few years.”

Staff Association Council President Rich Colwell said, “The Staff Association Council is pleased that there will be no increases in prescription drug costs this year. While the national figures indicate a 5.7 percent increase for health care costs, the University has been controlling costs and will only see a 1.5 percent overall increase. The amount of this increase will be an 80/20 split between University/employee costs.

“The fact that the University is self-insured has been a win-win situation for all. Other factors have been efforts by Pitt faculty and staff in taking proactive [health] measures.”

—Peter Hart

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