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Published in CenterView on October 08, 2012
Dr. Chris Lahr, left, meets with benefit advisor Rick Boone.
Dr. Chris Lahr, left, meets with benefit advisor Rick Boone.

Supplemental insurance adjustments offer personalized service, greater choice for UMMC employees

By Bruce Coleman

A comprehensive review of the University of Mississippi Medical Center’s voluntary benefits program by an institutional benefits committee has resulted in unprecedented changes to UMMC employees’ 2013 insurance package.

Estes headA new dental and vision insurance provider has been announced, several supplementary insurance agencies have been replaced and the very format of the Medical Center’s annual Employee Open Enrollment has been changed.

CenterView sat down with Michael Estes, chief human resources officer, to discuss what these alterations mean for UMMC’s 9,000-plus employees.

Who determined that insurance benefit changes were necessary for UMMC employees in 2013?

We have an institutional committee that went through a very disciplined, defined and comprehensive review process of all of our voluntary benefits. The committee used external neutral resources to make recommendations that were taken to senior administration for endorsement.

The committee started that process because we had not done a review of those voluntary benefits for a number of years. Many of them were outdated, antiquated and really did not fit the needs of our employees, nor did they meet our own threshold institutionally in terms of financial stability and other factors.

The process took over a year from start to finish. It culminated in what will be all of these new programs effective Jan. 1, 2013, and the open enrollment process that we’re kicking off here this month.
    

A new organization is in charge of open enrollment this year: Enrollment Advisors. Could you explain who this company is and why it was selected to consult with Medical Center employees?

Enrollment Advisors is a company out of Birmingham, Ala., that specializes in using technology and benefit educators for companies like us to do open enrollment.

Because of the magnitude of benefit changes this year, we felt like it was really important to have a different level of intervention to make sure employees understood the changes.

Has Enrollment Advisors ever provided consultations for academic medical center employees?

Enrollment Advisors representatives consult with UMMC employees during Open Enrollment
Enrollment Advisors representatives consult with UMMC employees during Open Enrollment

They have done this for places all over the country. They’ve got a client list that’s pretty extensive.

These are non-commissioned, salaried benefit educators who get paid on a salary basis for their work. They have no skin in the game, whether our employees take one benefit or all of them.

Do employees have to schedule a meeting with Enrollment Advisors even if they don’t want to make any changes to their coverage?

Yes. For example, if someone says they don’t want to change their dental coverage, well, they have to, because the old dental network is going away and there are now three new options within the new dental provider. So if they want to keep their dental coverage, they’ve got to make a choice.

Enrollment Advisors are going to walk them through it. For people that don’t really have any changes, it should be a very short meeting.

What will happen to employees who do not make an appointment with Enrollment Advisors?

We’re going to follow up with them. Through the online enrollment system, we can tell exactly who has made an appointment and who has not, and we’re going to be following up with every single one of them.

Why is it so important that employees update their insurance information?

We have very incomplete and outdated dependent information. We run into trouble when people file claims for their dependents, but we don’t have the dependent information in the system. Ultimately those claims get paid, but it takes a lot of time and a lot of energy.

What should Medical Center employees do to prepare for their meeting with their Enrollment Advisors?

They should sit down with their spouses or family members, go through the 2013 Benefits Open Enrollment Guide page by page, and make the choices that are best for them based on their particular family’s needs. Everyone who has dependents should also come prepared with their dependent’s information: name, birthday and social security number.

Can my spouse attend my benefit counseling session?

If you want your spouse to be part of the dialogue, that’s perfectly fine. They just have to show up at the designated date and time and place along with you for your appointment.

We encourage employees to really make this a family discussion, because we want them to make the best choices available for them.


Some of the supplementary insurance provisions that will be dropped in 2013 include cancer insurance, stand-alone accidental death and dismemberment coverage and hospital indemnity insurance. What options will be available for individuals who wish to continue their coverage?

Although we are terminating our relationship with these providers, if you have a relationship with one of them that you wish to continue, you will still be able to do that on a personal basis outside of using payroll deduction. We will give you their contact information so you can make arrangements to continue coverage or participation in their programs on a self-pay basis where you would be directly billed.

Will the eliminated supplementary insurance providers be replaced?

We have introduced new programs that we believe are more current, offer a broader set of services and will be more attractive to individuals that want that type of coverage.

For instance, we replaced the cancer program with a program that is labeled as “critical illness,” which will not only provide coverage for cancer, but it will also provide coverage for a whole different spectrum of illnesses other than just cancer. We now offer an accident provision, provided through AFLAC, that covers a whole host of things.

With our supplemental disability coverage before, some of our employees could get disability coverage for both short-term and long-term, while others were not eligible because they didn’t fall into certain designations. This year, we’ve expanded the audience that can get that coverage.
 

Why is the Medical Center terminating its relationship with Gilsbar, which administered UMMC employees’ dental and vision claims for many years?

The dental and vision programs are changing because we are moving from a self-insured program to a fully insured program through AlwaysCare.

AlwaysCare will give employees out-of-network options, in-network options and complete-access options. They’re all priced according to what your choices and needs are. Coming out of that will be enhanced dental and vision benefits versus what we’ve had through the self-insured program in the past.

As of October 1, many School of Dentistry and Department of Ophthalmology faculty were not included on AlwaysCare’s list of in-network dental and vision providers. Will they be added later?

For both our ophthalmology practice and our dental practice, we are in the process of working with our colleagues for inclusion in the network. But employees do have the option to still see their dentist and their ophthalmologist.

In the dental plan, for instance, it’s called the choice plan. You see whoever you want to, and there’s going to be a payment reimbursement schedule within the constructs of the program compared to the network providers.

If employees have a dentist they like that’s not in the network, we encourage them to let us know and we will pass that information on to AlwaysCare. They are always interested in identifying new potential members of their network.

How much will all of these benefits change cost?

Our employees now have a broader range of choice and can select what makes better sense on an aggregate basis with a cost-neutral impact. We’re very pleased that we don’t have to pass along any cost increases to any of our colleagues.

Some of the programs may be priced a little bit higher than what some of the old programs were, and some are going to be a little bit lower. But on average, there’s going to be parity.

Will employees have to take a medical exam to qualify for the new programs?

Many of these new programs have guaranteed issue, which means there’s no medical exam necessary. There are some preexisting conditions qualifications and waiting periods, and some have three or four very high-level questions that we ask you to answer.

How can employees schedule a consultation with Enrollment Advisors?

They can log onto Lawson Employee Self Service, click the 2013 Open Enrollment link and make an appointment, based on availability.