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October: time to update insurance options

Each year during October employees are given the opportunity to review their existing insurance coverage and make allowable changes. An employee’s medical family and financial situation should be taken into account when choosing plans.

Annual Enrollment 2009—What can employees do this year

  • Change or switch current health plan
  • Add up to $50,000 Optional Life Insurance or enroll for $50,000 without underwriting
  • Enroll/re-enroll in MoneyPlus Flex Spending Accounts
Health insurance
For year 2009, the State Employee Insurance Program will offer four plans:
  • SHP State Standard Plan (BCBS)
  • SHP Savings Plan (BCBS)
  • BlueChoice HMO
Employees who currently are enrolled in MUSC Options (which will no longer be offered) should carefully consider their health insurance options. Should a participant in MUSC Options not select another plan in October, they will automatically convert to the SHP Standard.
Factors to consider when choosing health insurance include service coverage (worldwide versus provide in a designated area); monthly premiums; annual deductible; coinsurance costs; prescription plans; wellness benefits; referrals and pre-approvals; participating physicians; and exclusions and limitations.
Although some plans have low premiums (such as SHP Savings Plan), it is accompanied by an annual deductible of $3,000 for single coverage and $6,000 for family coverage. The HMO plans offer a co-payment for doctor’s visits; however, the monthly premium is greater than the SHP Savings or Standard plan. In addition, only designated providers and hospitals are associated with the HMO plans.
To change your health plan, visit (Register using your BIN# on your insurance card.)
La Deidra Berry, benefits consultant for University Human Resources, advises employees to carefully review their insurance statements and review the claims that have been filed in the past year, to assist in making an informed decision.

Basic, optional life insurance
During this year’s annual enrollment, employees can increase their optional life insurance by an additional $50,000 of coverage. If an employee does not have optional life insurance, they can elect $50,000 (guarantee issue). Employees can elect this insurance plan in increments of $10,000 up to $50,000. The cost of the insurance is based on the enrollee’s age and the amount of coverage elected.
A $3,000 life insurance policy is provided to employees (under the age of 70) enrolled in a State Employee Insurance Program health care plan. Employees age 70 and older are provided with a $1,500 plan with health care enrollment. These policies are provided at no cost.
Dependent life insurance is available for purchase and can provide coverage for your dependent children and/or spouse. Employees may enroll children for a $15,000 life insurance policy without medical evidence of good health throughout the year. Employees can enroll their spouse or increase spousal coverage with medical evidence of good health anytime (up to 50 percent of employee’s optional life coverage or $100,000 which ever is less).

Long-term care
Prudential Insurance Company of America was selected by the Employee Insurance Program as MUSC’s long term care provider starting in January 2009. Long term care provides assistance with nursing home costs, home health care and more. Enrollment for long-term care can cover an employee, an employee’s spouse, parent, parent-in-law, grandparent, grandparent in-law, siblings and adult children and their spouses. Prudential will offer opportunities for those employees currently enrolled in long term care to enroll. In addition, they will offer a long- term care open enrollment to all benefits eligible employees Feb. 16-March 6, 2009. More information will be provided in the future. Prudential may be contacted for plan information at 877-214-6588.

Flexible spending, tax-favored accounts
Health Spending Accounts (HSA)—Employees may contribute pretax dollars into an HSA account to help pay for their medical expenses/high deductible. This plan is only available to employees enrolled in the SHP/Savings Health Plan, (high deductible plan). The account is set up at NBSC in an interest-bearing checking account with debit card access to your funds. This type of account rolls from year-to-year and employees can change their contributions anytime, (increase, reduce or stop). (Individual $3,000, family $5,950, over 55 catch—up, additional $1,000— account rolls from year- to-year.)

Medical Spending Accounts—Available to employees meeting conditions of eligibility. A medical spending account allows an employee to use pre-tax dollars to cover certain allowable medical expenses; thus, reducing after-tax spending. This is a use it or lose it program so employees should be careful not to overestimate their projected expenses but this program may be of interest to people switching form MUSC Options who haven't been used to paying many out-of-pocket expenses. The maximum deferral for 2009 is $5,000.

Dependent Care Accounts—Available to employees with dependents in daycare, after school care or summer camp, (dependents under the age of 12). Pre-tax dollars are deducted from the employee’s paycheck and are reimbursed to an employee for qualified dependent care expenses, such as daycare. (Married filing separately—$2,500/ single head of household; $5,000/married filing jointly $5000 calendar year—use it or lose it)
New account employees must fill out an FBMC form for enrollment. Forms can be found on the MUSC/HR/Forms Web site. Employees re-enrolling may do so at

  • The State Employee Insurance Program  announced that effective Jan. 1, 2010, employees who use tobacco may be subject to higher premiums. Employees are encouraged to contact their health care provider if they wish to participate in a tobacco cessation program. MUSC’s Health 1st program also offers a smoking cessation program. Visit
  • Annual enrollment, (Oct. 1-31) is the period when employees are able to make changes in their benefits plans. These changes may be made  at You will select MyBenefits to review instructions for re-enrollment or changes.  
Benefits briefings
  • University: 10 a.m. to noon, Oct. 21, Room 118, Education Center/Library. Benefits counselors are available by phone and in-person to answer questions. For MUSC University Benefits, call 792-9679 or visit them in Room 102, Harborview Office Tower.
  • Medical University Hospital Authority (MUHA): 2W Amphitheater—12:15 p.m. Oct. 21 and Oct. 22; 8:15 a.m., Oct. 24; 10 p.m., Oct. 29; and 1:15 p.m. Oct. 30. Ashley River Tower—12:15 p.m. Oct. 17 and 8:15 a.m., Oct. 21.  MUHA employees should call 792-0826 or visit 163 Rutledge Ave.

Choosing health insurance requires unique needs, consideration

by Mary Helen Yarborough
Public Relations
Deciding the type and level of benefits may be the most important decision an individual can make. Since the opportunity to change one’s employee benefits package comes only once a year, making the right decision requires full consideration of one’s financial circumstances, health status and anticipated medical needs.
The benefits package for 2009 includes four plans, the State Health Plan (SHP) savings plan, SHP standard plan, BlueChoice HMO and Cigna HMO.
Personal perspectives
Paul Nietert, Ph.D., carries insurance for hisyoung family and does not anticipate having any great medical expense this year. The biostatistics associate professor chose the SHP savings, or economy plan, which costs him $108.56 a month, which saves him about $500 a month compared to the previous plan he had, MUSC Options, which no longer is available as of Jan. 1, 2009.
“I figure the worst-case scenario is that I would have to come up with $10,000, which includes a $6,000 annual deductible and $4,000 in coinsurance,” said Nietert. “I decided that I could take the difference between what I had been paying (in MUSC Options or a more comprehensive plan) and invest it in a health savings account. I felt that the risk was minimal for my family and, over time, I would save money.”
Nietert is able to invest $480 per month pre-tax, the maximum allowed under the HSA for a family plan, which, if not used, can carry over from year to year, accrue interest and be available for significant out-out-pocket medical expenses or, eventually, as a retirement account.
This plan also includes preventative components that allow his family to receive annual wellness exams and preventative screenings paid at 100 percent.
“The other consideration is that we think twice before going to the doctor as long as we know it will cost us about $60, (as opposed to a $10 copay),” he said. “And the nice thing is that it provides medical services at the contracted rate,” which are capped for in-network services and providers.
Because Nietert is disciplined about investing and saving money, this plan works well for him. For others, paying a bit more each month to ensure low-cost office visits and prescription drugs may work better.
While financial concerns drive most people toward their decisions, assuring consistency in health care providers may be most important.
Beth Whitfield accepted a position in MUHA’s patient accounting office four years ago with one main guarantee. “A condition of my accepting the job here was the assurance that I could retain the same doctors that are not a part of the MUSC network,” Whitfield said. “I had to know, hands down, that there would never be any question that I would be able to keep my same doctors.”
A cancer survivor, Whitfield wanted the same doctors that helped save her life eight years ago. “When I started a new job, I didn’t want to start all over again with my doctors,” said Whitfield. “My doctor knows me. He knows my family and my friends. There is great comfort in having that kind of relationship with a doctor.”
BlueChoice Companion, a health maintenance organization option, requires prior approvals for referrals, but they also have provided Whitfield with that continuity of provider assurance without requiring her to incur out-of-network expenses.
Whitfield is single and will pay $148.50 per month for her insurance. She will have a relatively low annual deductible, assume 10 percent of coinsurance until her $1,500 annual deductible is met. For her, the important factor was that she gets to keep her doctors.

Friday, Oct. 17, 2008

The Catalyst Online is published weekly by the MUSC Office of Public Relations for the faculty, employees and students of the Medical University of South Carolina. The Catalyst Online editor, Kim Draughn, can be reached at 792-4107 or by email, Editorial copy can be submitted to The Catalyst Online and to The Catalyst in print by fax, 792-6723, or by email to To place an ad in The Catalyst hardcopy, call Island Publications at 849-1778, ext. 201.