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Open Enrollment Begins Oct. 24

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October 18, 2005

Open Enrollment for calendar year 2006 begins Monday (Oct. 24) and ends at 5 p.m. Nov. 18.

Enrollment forms received by the Benefits Division after Nov. 18 will not be processed and will be returned to the sender.

Open Enrollment is the one time each year when the University announces benefit plan changes and monthly premium contribution rates for the next calendar year. It is the period to enroll or re-enroll in the Flexible Spending Account (FSA) Health Care and or Dependent Care Accounts for participation in either or both plans. It also is the period when benefits-eligible faculty and staff may make changes to specific benefit plan selections.

Major health plan changes for 2006 include new health plan strategic planning initiatives; the ability to view plan elections online, including health plan selected and covered dependents; new physician office, emergency room and prescription drug co-payments; new $1,500 out-of-pocket maximum for prescription drug co-payments for PPO, Aetna HMO and HMO Illinois members; new monthly premium rates; new salary brackets for the payment of PPO premiums; new PPO disease management programs; and a new PPO annual wellness benefit of $500, an increase from $250.

To address recent trends of increasing health care costs, the University has contracted the services of benefits consulting firm Hewitt Associates to aid in forming a five-year strategic plan. In the coming months, the consulting firm will compile the cumulative responses and work with University leaders to make a recommendation on future health care plans for consideration during the next several years. Projected hospital, physician and prescription drug expenses require an increase in health care premiums and co-payments in 2006. These increases will continue to be in line with other employer-sponsored health plans, and they will alleviate the impact of escalating health care costs for plan members and the University.

Other benefit plan changes include an increase in the Blue Cross Dental Plan maximum benefit amount, a decrease in Short Term Disability and Life Insurance premiums, an increase in the Flexible Spending Account (FSA) Health Care Account maximum annual pledge amount, the offering of a back-up child care program for the FSA Dependent Care Account and an increase in Long Term Disability premiums. Premium changes reflect projected claim costs for 2006. Standard Life Insurance Company will replace Aetna, Inc. as the sponsor of the life insurance plans.

For additional information visit <http://www.northwestern.edu/hr/benefits/plans/health>.

Decisions made during Open Enrollment are binding for the entire year. An individual may not make any changes until next year’s Open Enrollment period unless he or she has an approved change in family or employment status (such as marriage, birth, adoption, etc.) and the Benefits Division receives notification of such a change within 31 days from the date of the qualifying event.

To prepare for the 2006 Open Enrollment, staff and faculty can begin by reviewing current benefits plan selections online through the Human Resources Information System (HRIS) self-service Web site at <https://nuhr.northwestern.edu/>.

It also is helpful to attend one of the Open Enrollment information sessions sponsored by the Benefits Division that are scheduled for both campuses this fall. These meetings are a good way to obtain benefit plan information.

Representatives from the insurance companies will explain plan features and answer specific questions. Meetings scheduled for Oct. 25 and 31 are co-sponsored with the Northwestern University Staff Advisory Council (NUSAC). These two sessions will include a presentation of 2006 benefit plan changes by the Benefits Division, with the opportunity to ask questions. Both sessions also will provide the chance to ask questions directly of vendor representatives in a separate room.

Staff and faculty members are invited to learn more about their benefits at the following open enrollment events:

• Question and Answer Session with Vendors, noon to 2 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 25, Norris University Center, Purdue Room, Evanston.

• NUSAC Brown Bag Lunch Session, noon to 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 25, Norris Center, Indiana Room, Evanston.

• Benefits Division Presentation, noon to 1:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 27, John Evans Center, Evanston.

• Question and Answer Session with Vendors, noon to 2 p.m. Monday, Oct. 31, Wieboldt Hall, Room 262, Chicago.

• NUSAC Brown Bag Lunch Session, noon to 1:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 31, Wieboldt Hall, Room 203.

• Question and Answer Session with Vendors, noon to 2 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 9, Norris Center, Purdue Room, Evanston.

• Benefits Division Presentation, noon to 1:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 7, Wieboldt Hall, Room 203, Chicago.

• Question and Answer Session with Vendors, noon to 2 p.m. Friday, Nov. 11, Wieboldt Hall, Room 262, Chicago.

Open Enrollment forms are provided at the back of the Open Enrollment brochure that will be sent to all benefits-eligible employees. Forms also may be obtained online by downloading (and using Adobe Acrobat) at <www.northwestern.edu/hr/benefits/news/openenrollment.html#forms>.

Those who do not wish to make changes to their health, vision and/or dental plan participation, do not need to take any action.

For more information visit <www.northwestern.edu/hr/benefits/news/openenrollment.html>.

Topics: University