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Staff Senate hears of health options

By Netta S. Eisler

Spectrum Volume 17 Issue 25 - March 23, 1995

Doug Martin of Personnel Services talked with the Staff Senate about health plans from which employees must select coverage. Open enrollment begins April 3 and ends May 7. Employees have a variety of choices to make about their healthcare plans during the open-enrollment period.

Detailed material about the plans will be distributed soon, Martin said. Costs to the employee vary depending on the plan selected. "You need to carefully review the material that will be coming out," Martin said. This is not a decision to make quickly.

Personnel is holding meetings to answer questions about the various plans. (For times and locations of these sessions, see information in this issue of Spectrum.)

Options include Key Advantage, the only plan that has been available to Virginia Tech employees; Cost Alliance, which Martin described as an economy plan; and Health Keepers, an HMO.

Martin reminded senators that a plan, once chosen, must remain in force until the next open-enrollment period unless the employee has a change in circumstances such as a birth of a child, death of a family member, or divorce. "You have to decide whether you want an economy model or a luxury model," Martin said.

To further complicate things, he said, options are available under the Key Advantage plan. Employees can select to pay extra so that their insurance will cover treatments ranging from bone-marrow transplants to vision care. Many of the options, such as orthodontic and vision care, have not yet attracted providers in this area. This would, in effect, mean that anyone choosing one of these options would be paying a premium for care that would be very difficult to receive. He said that a plan called Smile Keepers, a dental plan, has only one participating dentist in the area at this time. No doctor in the area has agreed to be a participating provider for vision care.

Basic Key Advantage, without the options, will remain as it has been except that prescription prices will rise to $20 for a 30-90 day supply and $15 for a 90-day mail-order supply. The standard dental care will still be included. The cost will go down slightly, to $8 per month for an employee, $91 for an employee plus one, and $157 for family coverage.

The Cost Alliance plan is similar to Key Advantage except that it only covers services provided in this area. There is a $20 co-pay per visit to the primary-care physician (PCP) and a $35 co-pay to a specialist. This care is free for the employee and all dependents, regardless of the number of dependents. There is a $50 co-pay per emergency-room visit unless the patient is admitted to the hospital. There is a $100 per day co-pay for each hospital visit, up to a $500 maximum per visit. There is no dental care.

Health Keepers will be an HMO managed by Carillion. Prescriptions will cost from $3 to $6. Dental care is included. Employees who select this plan must use only participating physicians and hospitals. The cost will be $15 per month for an individual, $105 for an employee plus one, and $176 for family coverage.

All three plans include mental-health coverage, which will now be managed by a firm called Greenspring. Many employees had complained about problems with UBS, the group that formerly managed mental-health care.

Under the new plan, in-patient mental health care will be limited to 30 full or partial days. The plan also will offer counseling for conflicts in the workplace, substance abuse, and career counseling.

A new 24-hour phone line called KATY will allow covered participants to make inquiries or change their PCP's by phone.

Martin also talked about the Workforce Transition Plan. "I will give you what I know," he said. "It changes almost daily."

To participate in early retirement, an employee must be at least 50 years old by the date of retirement with a minimum of 10 years service, and must be vested. Those choosing to participate may select to receive severance pay or they may add it to their retirement.

It is important to note, Martin said, that anyone who accepts this plan cannot work for Virginia Tech again for two years.

Staff members have only until March 31 to sign up for the transition program. Employees in personnel will meet with anyone who is qualified and interested to provide more details.

In other business, the senate discussed accomplishments they have made and the need to inform the university community about what they have done. An example was a successful effort to have the university clarify policy about the number of courses full-time employees could take. An employee had not been allowed to take courses needed to graduate because a supervisor had limited him to one course per semester. "Because of our efforts, this wrong was corrected," said Senate President Wyatt Sasser.