2017 Open Enrollment Begins Oct. 3

Changes include a choice between a single PPO plan and a Health Savings Plan for health care benefits.

September 30, 2016

GW's annual open enrollment period begins Oct. 3 and will last three weeks. Faculty and staff will notice changes to benefits plan offerings that will take effect in 2017.

Open enrollment is an annual opportunity for university employees to review and make changes to their benefits—medical, dental, flexible spending accounts, life insurance, vision and more.

Changes made during open enrollment, which runs through 8 p.m. EST Oct. 21, will go into effect Jan. 1, 2017.

Changes to health plans made outside this period require a "qualified life event," such as a change in marital status, birth or spouse's work status/eligibility for health insurance coverage.

Beginning Oct. 3, faculty and staff can make open enrollment selections online using the university’s enrollment website. Elections and/or changes must be made on or before 8 p.m. EST Oct. 21.

“Open enrollment is an important part of the year for employees and their families to make informed decisions about GW's benefit options for the following year," said John Kosky, associate vice president for HR talent management. "To improve understanding of the changes for this year, we encourage everyone to take time to attend this year's benefits fairs and benefits overview sessions.”

Plan changes in 2017—outlined in a previous GW Today story—include a choice between a single PPO plan and a Health Savings Plan (HSP) option for health care benefits.

The new GW PPO plan will combine the two current PPO options and will offer some employees lower premium costs and others additional coverage benefits.

The HSP option is a new name for the current High Deductible Health Plan. There will be some changes to plan features, including an increase in the opportunity to receive GW-funded HSA match money, but without increases in monthly premiums.

The changes received constructive feedback in late July from the Benefits Advisory Committee, the standing group of faculty and staff charged with providing ongoing feedback to University Human Resources and Benefits Administration.

Additional Benefit Changes
The GW PPO plan will include coverage of bariatric surgery, infertility treatments and hearing aids. The plan also will cover surgery and commonly used medications for gender reassignment. Primary care physician copays will increase from $25 to $30 and the specialist copay will remain at $50. In addition, urgent care copays will be reduced from $50 to $30 to encourage employees to use lower cost health care options. GW also will offer optional access to medical centers, known as Centers of Excellence, specializing in oncology and infertility.

For the HSP, participants will continue to have no-cost preventive drug coverage and GW will increase its matching contribution for those enrolled in a Health Savings Account. For employee-only coverage, GW will match contributions up to $600, and for employee plus coverage of at least one dependent—which could be a spouse, domestic partner or child—GW will match contributions up to $1,200. Health savings account balances roll over year to year and can be used for qualified health-related expenses. Employees may take the HSA with them even if they leave the university.

Acupuncture will now be covered under both plans, up to 20 visits per calendar year combined in and out of network.

Cost-comparison tool
Finding a doctor and comparing for medical services prices will also be easier in 2017 with a new web-based cost comparison tool called Castlight, a free service for GW employees and their dependents who are covered on either health plan. Castlight, which is expected to be available in early 2017, helps find high-quality doctors, labs and imaging services at an affordable price before making an appointment. It also assists in finding nearby in-network pharmacies and compares costs for filling specific prescriptions either at a retail pharmacy or mail order.

For dental coverage in 2017, employee contributions for Aetna High and Low PPO plans will increase by $1 to $3 per month. There will be no change to employee contributions for the Aetna DMO plan.

Virtual Visits
In 2016, GW added United Healthcare’s Virtual Visits to health benefits. In 2017, the in-network copay for those on the GW PPO will be reduced from $25 to $10 to provide a cost efficient and convenient option for accessing care.

Retiree Health Care
Beginning next summer, retirees over age 65 will move to a private Medicare exchange. The individual insurance marketplace for Medicare-eligible retirees is competitive and efficiently priced and offers retirees many choices to supplement or replace original Medicare.

Other Benefits Plans
The following benefit plans will continue to be offered with no changes to rates or plan design: UHC Vision Plans, the Standard Basic Life and AD&D Insurance Plans, Voluntary Short-Term Disability, GW Paid Short-Term Disability (STD), Basic Long-Term Disability (LTD), Long-Term Disability Buy-Up insurance and Legal Resources. There are no changes to the university contributions for the retirement savings plans or tuition remission benefits.

Learn More
View health benefits in detail online. The university is offering benefits fairs, forums and opportunities for one-on-one benefits counseling throughout open enrollment.

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