Benefits enrollment opens Nov. 1

The benefits open enrollment period for university employees begins Wednesday, Nov. 1, and closes at 5 p.m. CST Friday, Nov. 17. It's the annual window during which employees can change their health, dental and life insurance; and sign up for flexible spending accounts or the vision discount plan. During the rest of the year, a qualifying life event -- such as a marriage or birth of a child -- is necessary to alter your benefits plan.

Benefit selections take effect Jan. 1 for calendar year 2024. As occurs each year, the new payroll deductions for everything except flexible spending accounts begin with the December payroll.

Generally, services covered in the medical, dental and pharmacy plans aren't changing in 2024. Medical and dental premiums are going up, and employees' share of costs for nonpreventive medical services is increasing in both the HMO and PPO plans. Because of these notable changes, university human resources (UHR) shared information about these changes much earlier this fall. A 2024 highlights document summarizes the medical plan changes and why they're necessary to stabilize the university's self-funded plan for the long term. An ISU slide show with audio summarizes all 2024 benefit options.

Summary of changes

Iowa State is introducing cost-sharing features like deductible and coinsurance. For the first time, HMO policyholders and covered family members will have a $250 per person deductible each year, the amount you pay before ISU cost-sharing kicks in. After an individual's deductible is met, HMO plan members pay 10% coinsurance until their personal out-of-pocket costs reach $1,500 ($3,000 for a family). Current PPO policy holders are accustomed to coinsurance and an out-of-pocket maximum. In 2024, in-network care through the PPO plan will introduce a $400 deductible per person ($800 for a family) and the coinsurance percentage rises to 20%. The $2,000 annual cap per person ($4,000 for a family) isn't changing in 2024.

Express Scripts' prescription plan isn't changing in 2024. Employees should note that the medical and pharmacy out-of-pocket maximums are separate. The pharmacy out-of-pocket cap is staying at $2,000 ($4,000 for a family) in 2024. Express Scripts is implementing several cost-saving initiatives in 2024, including discount programs such as GoodRx. Previously, if employees took advantage of such discounts, that purchase wouldn't count toward their out-of-pocket maximum.

Premiums and coverage in the optional Avesis eyewear program also aren't changing in 2024. This benefit provides discounts on eyeglasses and contact lenses once per calendar year for each member. Eye exams are covered under the medical plan.

Where to enroll

Employees will complete their benefits enrollment in Workday. Look for the open enrollment link in the announcements section of your home portal, or head to the "benefits and pay" app in the left menu. Benefits-eligible employees will receive an email prompt from the UHR benefits team on Nov. 1.

Employees are encouraged to review all their 2023 benefits elections and make changes as needed. If you don't change anything -- or if you don't even review your current benefits selections -- your plan selections will stay the same for 2024. The exception is flexible spending accounts (FSA), which need to be reset annually.

These pre-tax deferments, which help pay for medical/dental/eyewear care or dependent care costs, will stop on Dec. 31 unless you select an FSA and a contribution per pay period. The Internal Revenue Service, which sets the range on these accounts, hasn't announced 2024 limits yet. If they're announced in time, Iowa State will implement the new limits. The health care flexible spending account allows you to carry over up to $610 of unused funds into the next year; the dependent care account doesn't provide this option.

Before you enroll

UHR's benefits team encourages employees to take time, prior to enrolling, to review the changes, the impact to their family or their situation and to consider all their options. The benefits open enrollment website summarizes all the 2024 benefits options. (The information on the main employee benefits website will continue to feature 2023 plan information through December.)

Another good option is to use ALEX, an interactive virtual benefits counselor that's free, confidential, available 24/7 and updated with 2024 plan details. ALEX asks about your medical services and prescriptions in the past year, household coverage needs, age, risk aversion and financial status. Using that data and other analysis, it provides personalized recommendations -- including which insurance plan seems to be the best fit and estimates for anticipated out-of-pocket costs and worst-case scenarios. Remember, they're just suggestions. In some cases, employees may want to review other coverage options for their dependents that better suit their needs and circumstances.

If you still have questions, a conversation with a benefits specialist might be helpful. Schedule a virtual or in-person meeting with a counselor via the Microsoft Bookings app (scroll to the bottom of the open enrollment website for Bookings links to the four benefits counselors), or call the UHR service center at 515-294-4800.

Customer service specialists at Wellmark also can help with medical plan questions, for example, comparing how a medical service was actually paid in 2023 and how Wellmark anticipates the same service would be processed in 2024. Wellmark staff also can answer questions about the list of preventive services, which by federal law carry no cost-sharing. Call the number on the back of your Wellmark member ID card for help.

More resources

If you missed it, the Oct. 12 edition of Inside focused on practical information to help employees review medical shared costs and payment options such as interest-free payment plans with providers or calculating how much to put into an FSA. Earlier editions included these Q&As:



UHR benefits team, 515-294-4800

UHR enrollment information

Open Enrollment website

Oct. 4 benefits town hall (recording)

CyBox file




Wellmark website, 800-494-4478


Delta Dental of Iowa website, 800-544-0718


Express Scripts website, 800-987-5248

     Flex savings accounts: health care,
     dependent care

ASI Flex website, 877-879-9038