By MARTY LEVINE
Open enrollment for benefits this year will be April 27 to May 25, benefits director John Kozar told the March 15 meeting of the Senate Benefits and Welfare Committee.
Pitt will hold an on-campus informational session at noon May 3 at the University Club ballroom, with representatives of all the insurance carriers and from Human Resources, Kozar said. His office also plans to hold a remote webinar with information about benefits options some time prior to May 3.
Davis Vision, he announced, had been bought by MetLife. While he doesn't expect any changes in benefits, those with Davis Vision may see these benefits under the MetLife label in the future.
The meeting featured a presentation on money-saving “hacks” available through various University benefits — ways in which they allow tax or other financial savings, either now or later.
One fund available through your health insurance allows you to contribute money from your salary, without that money being taxed, then spend it on qualified out-of-pocket health-care and dependent-care expenses for yourself and your family. The Flexible Spending Account (FSA) will even let you keep $550 in the account from one year to the next.
Committee chair Linda Tashbook, a School of Law librarian, pointed out that, with “a lot of the very common sellers you would go to — Target, Amazon — you can enter that number on your (FSA) payment card, so, when you happen to order something that would be covered by the account,” money to pay for those items can be drawn from your FSA upon checkout.
Some retailers even have an FSA portal online that offers only items eligible for FSA payments. The UPMC Consumer Advantage mobile app has a product scanner option that also allows you to scan the price code on products when you’re in a store, and see whether the product is eligible for FSA payment.
Valerie Jamison, managing account executive at UPMC Health Plan, noted that another account, the Health Savings Account (HSA), has financial advantages as well: “HSA is only offered to Panther Basic members. You may both contribute funds to an HSA and receive tax advantages: contributions are tax-free, the interest accumulates tax-free, and the dollars you spend on qualified medical expenses are tax-free. You can keep the account if you leave the University.
“It is intended to be a kind of savings account,” she continued. “You can take it with you if you change medical plans, change jobs or retire” and can put funds into the same HSA in a new place of employment.
TIAA financial consultant Michelle Szczepanski reminded the committee that you save money by putting more into your retirement fund now — money that is not taxed — and then take it out in retirement when, presumably, you are in a lower tax bracket and the money will be taxed.
Roth IRAs, another retirement savings option, take contributions that are taxed today but not taxed upon withdrawal, which is another option for retirees in different circumstances.
Kozar told the meeting that the first $5,250 of each year’s Pitt-provided tuition benefit is still not taxable, so that the spring semester is often covered by this benefit, while the fall semester may not be. He noted that the University has recently formed a committee to review how this policy works, because it has not been updated since 1994 (although the tax benefit is controlled by the IRS, not the University).
He also announced that he will soon take advantage of one of his department’s benefits: He will be retiring on June 15.
Marty Levine is a staff writer for the University Times. Reach him at email@example.com or 412-758-4859.
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