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Oct. 28, 2010 Volume 32, No. 10

Health care reform means some changes for annual benefits enrollment


New law increases age of dependent children

Most of the provisions mandated by federal health care reform won’t take effect until 2014. But benefit-eligible employees at the University of Missouri will encounter some reform-related changes during this year’s annual enrollment period.

The most significant change for 2011 is dependent eligibility: coverage under all UM benefit plans will now be available for children up to age 26. Dependent children, as defined by the 2009 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, include the employee’s natural children, step-children, adopted children and foster children — married or unmarried. 

The new law also requires UM to eliminate the $2 million limit on health benefits accrued over a lifetime, and to waive the $200 maximum for preventive care by non-network providers under UM Choice Program, the plan in which most university employees are enrolled.

Moreover, thanks to Missouri House Bill 1311, treatment of autism will now be covered for children up to the age of 19.

This year’s enrollment period began this week and runs through Friday, Nov. 5. Changes to medical, dental and vision coverage, as well as life and long-term disability and life insurance for spouses and dependents, can be made by submitting change forms to your campus benefits representative or online through the UM System’s MyHR website. Employees who do not wish to make changes, such as adding or deleting dependents or changing coverage options from their current benefit choices, will not have to do anything.

However, amounts chosen to be set aside for a Flexible Spending Account, or FSA, do not carry over from year to year. Changes to these accounts, which allow employees to save on federal and state taxes on a portion of their incomes earmarked for dependent care and medical expenses, must be made during the annual enrollment period. The maximum reimbursement during the claim period, which runs from January 1, 2011 through March 15, 2012, remains the same: $4,500 for employees and $5,000 for dependent care. The deadline for making FSA changes is also Nov. 5.

Health care reform does mean one important change to how employees can use funds set aside in a FSA: Participants will no longer be reimbursed for over-the-counter drugs unless the medication is prescribed a physician.

After several years of relatively small increases in medical premiums, MU employees will pay more for their health care next year. Benefits for employees covered by UM Choice will be cost $120.34 per month, beginning in December, for calendar year 2011. That’s an increase of 12.5 percent over last year. Employee and spouse coverage also increased 12.5 percent, from $236.26 to $265.86 per month. Family coverage — employee, spouse and children — increased 12.8 percent to $348.48 per month. 

Betsy Rodriguez, UM’s vice president for Human Resources, said the premium increases are the result of increased utilization — UM employees are going to the doctor more often — and the rising cost of health care.

The university will continue to cover most of the overall cost of providing employee medical care. Employees pay 27 percent of the System’s coverage costs, while UM pays the remaining 73 percent.