What to know before benefits enrollment begins next week

Employees have three weeks to make benefits choices for the upcoming year when open enrollment launches next week. The open enrollment period begins Monday, Nov. 2, and ends 5 p.m. Friday, Nov. 20. 

Don't forget flex

Employees who want to contribute to flexible spending accounts for health care or dependent care expenses must enroll and set deduction amounts each year. Last year's choices don't carry over.

Open enrollment is the only annual opportunity to add, drop or adjust benefits such as health and dental insurance, unless a qualifying life event allows a change during the year. Employees who use flexible spending accounts for health or dependent care expenses must enroll and set their contribution amounts during open enrollment, as those elections do not carry over automatically to the next year. For faculty and staff who do not plan to change coverage and don't contribute to a flex account, open enrollment is an ideal time to review benefits choices.

All changes are made via Workday and are effective Jan. 1, unless approval is still pending for a new life insurance policy.

Rates going up

As President Wendy Wintersteen, senior vice president for operations and finance Pam Cain and vice president for university human resources (UHR) Kristi Darr announced in an Oct. 7 message to faculty and staff, the employee share of ISU Plan health care insurance is increasing in 2021. Increases in premiums, copayments and deductibles will help balance a $4 million shortfall in the university's self-funded health plan, which hasn't increased premiums or employee costs since 2014.

The changes will increase most monthly health care premiums by $20-$25, office visit copayments by $5, and deductibles and out-of-pocket limits by one-third. Copayments for generic drugs from retail pharmacies will be up $5-$10, and copayment maximums for brand-name drugs will be 20%-25% higher.

A summary of the health care plan changes is available online.

The dental plan will have a small increase in cost-sharing, with the deductible for restorations such as filling a cavity increasing by $25 for both the basic and comprehensive options. There are no changes to the eyewear plan.

Health flex limit rises

The maximum annual contribution to a health care flexible spending account is increasing $50 to $2,750 for 2021, and the carryover amount -- the portion of unused health flex funds that can be used in the following year, instead of being forfeited -- is up $50 to $550. The dependent care assistance program's $5,000 limit is unchanged. Employees need to sign up annually during open enrollment to contribute to a pre-tax flexible spending account.

Life insurance changes

The benefits changes made to help balance the university's budget include capping the payout at $250,000 for the basic life insurance policy, which is free to employees and covers twice their annual salary up to the new limit. Additional coverage under the life insurance policy for accidental death and dismemberment has been removed.

An alternative basic life insurance policy that pays out $50,000 is new in 2021. Employees can choose either that plan or the double-salary option. The new policy is designed to appeal to employees who in past years have declined free life insurance coverage to avoid the taxes on the policy. When an employer pays for a life insurance policy, the portion of that premium that covers more than $50,000 in coverage is considered taxable.

Employees choosing to add basic life insurance after previously waiving coverage or adding coverage to supplement with optional life insurance coverage for themselves or a dependent must apply with Principal, the Des Moines-based provider, by filling out an online health statement. The necessary form is emailed to participants after they elect the coverage. Employees can reduce their optional life insurance coverage during open enrollment or drop coverage at any time. 

How to access

Beginning Nov. 2, a link to "benefits open enrollment" will appear in the announcements section of the landing page that first appears when an employee logs in to Workday. After clicking "continue," Workday will display the benefits plans available. Choose "manage" to make changes, such as adding or removing a dependent. Choose "enroll" to add new coverage. Employees only have to click on plans they want to change or add.

After all changes are made, select "review and sign" to submit benefits choices and click "submit" on the final screen. No changes are allowed after the open enrollment period ends.

Detailed instructions can be found in an open enrollment job aid.  

How to get help

Due to the Cyclones Care protocols established during the COVID-19 pandemic, UHR benefits staff will not hold in-person user labs or meetings. A webinar is scheduled for Nov. 4 at 9 a.m. It will be recorded and posted to the open enrollment website. For questions about open enrollment, or to set up a virtual meeting with a benefits office staff member, email benefits@iastate.edu.