GW Announces Changes to Health Benefits

Changes will take effect in 2017; open enrollment begins Oct. 3.

August 08, 2016

The George Washington University will offer employees in 2017 a choice between a single PPO plan and a Health Savings Plan (HSP) option for health care benefits.

The single PPO plan will combine 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.

The administration, after receiving input from the BAC and other GW stakeholders, determined that a single PPO plan was in the best interest of the 7,200-active plan participants as the cost of health care continues to rise. 

“The plan changes are aimed at helping employees make informed decisions regarding their health benefits based on their individual and family needs,” said John Kosky, associate vice president for talent management in University Human Resources. “The Basic and the Medium plans were very comparable in terms of value, but the premiums for the Medium plan were substantially higher than the Basic plan. Merging the PPO plans corrects this difference.” 

Eliminating this cost difference was also important in order to help ensure that the costs of the plan remain stable long term. If the disparity were not addressed and significant migration occurs, the university could be forced to raise premiums dramatically. While the administration acted upon feedback from the BAC to address several concerns about the forthcoming health benefits plan design, there were differing views within the BAC about how to address the disparity in the pricing of the two plans this year. While members of the committee expressed support for consolidating the two plans, the majority of faculty on the BAC did not.  Some of the opposition reflected concern that faculty and staff had inadequate time to evaluate proposed changes.

“As chair of the Faculty Senate ASPP Committee, I want to underscore the strength of the BAC faculty members’ opposition to the collapsing of the Basic and Medium medical plans into one for 2017," said Professor Robert Harrington.  "There was no time to vet the alternative proposal to maintain the Basic and Medium plans for the coming year since the cost implications were only presented to the BAC on July 20, the very day on which the final vote was taken. Furthermore, staff association members had no time to study, consult its constituents about and provide HR with its views.”

Although the administration believes that it provided many opportunities for various stakeholders to provide timely input, it did commit to continue working on revising the timing and process for crafting new benefit plans.  

“Under the new plan, employee contributions for current Basic PPO plan participants would increase by approximately 10 percent, while premiums for the Medium plan participants would decrease by 20 to 25 percent. Participants enrolled in the Health Savings Plan will have no increase in monthly premiums,” Mr. Kosky said.

A comprehensive guide with details of 2017 benefits offerings will be available in late September. 

The annual Open Enrollment period will begin Oct. 3 and run for three weeks through Oct. 21. The new benefits will take effect Jan. 1.

Additional Benefit Changes
The PPO plan will include coverage of bariatric surgery and infertility treatments. The plan also will cover commonly used medications for gender reassignment as part of a CVS formulary change. GW also will offer optional access to medical centers specializing in oncology and infertility, known as Centers of Excellence.

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.

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

The university will offer benefits fairs, forums and opportunities for one-on-one benefits advising during the open enrollment period.  The university will also launch a new web-based tool to help employees on GW's medical plans shop for, learn about, and manage their pharmacy and medical care. Additional details will be announced prior to the open enrollment period.