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Benefits Updates

FML Policy Changes

We have been reviewing our FML/Parental Leave (FML) practices in HR and are working to improve the timeliness in approving/denying FML applications for our employees.  Effective 12/1/2012, we require ALL FML documents (application and certification) to be forwarded directly to Human Resources for processing.  The FML application is no longer required to have the supervisor’s and College Business Administrator’s signature.  Employees are still required to inform their supervisors/departments of their requested leave as well as submit a leave request form for the time off.

When an employee is interested in going on FML, they need to contact Human Resources (713/743-3988 or stop by the HR Service Center—Room 325 McElhinney) to receive and provide the FML application and physician’s certification.   The employee will receive the necessary forms to complete along with detailed instructions on completing, and returning the forms to the HR Service Center for processing. 

Within five business days of receiving the application, the employee’s supervisor (as noted on the application), Department Administrator and College Business Administrator will be notified of receipt of the application for FML.   Within fifteen (15) calendar days from the date of receiving the application in Human Resources, the employee and supervisor will receive an approved or denied response from Human Resources unless not practicable under the circumstances. 

Please review the updated policy at http://www.uh.edu/af/universityservices/policies/mapp/02/020201.pdf  (for FML) and http://www.uh.edu/af/universityservices/policies/mapp/02/020202.pdf (for Parental Leave).

We anticipate seeing significant improvement in the timeliness in responding to your employee’s FML requests.

Medical coinsurance maximums, deductibles start over

HealthSelect coinsurance maximums and non-network deductibles start over January 1.

Remember that HealthSelectSM of Texas medical coinsurance maximums and deductibles for non-network services are based on the calendar year, January 1 to December 31. At the start of each calendar year, you are responsible for any applicable deductible or coinsurance amounts. These amounts don't carry over from the previous calendar year.

Contraceptive prescription drugs covered at 100%

Please be advised that under the Affordable Care Act, contraceptive prescription drugs are covered at 100%, effective September 1, for all Texas Employees Group Benefits Program health plans. Some restrictions apply, such as that drugs must be prescribed by a physician and be FDA approved, and that 100% coverage will not apply to brand-name drugs with a generic equivalent. Deductibles do not apply to these medications.

EOI for life insurance will be more convenient in 2013

The new year will bring a new, convenient option for members submitting evidence of insurability (EOI) for Optional Term Life and Dependent Term Life insurance. More>>

Texa$aver Program Survey

ERS wants to hear from you about Great-West Retirement Services® (Great-West), the third party that provides record keeping, web services, on-site education, and communication for the Texa$aver Program.

Please help ERS understand your level of satisfaction with Great-West/Texa$aver and where it can improve. Your responses are confidential. The survey should take less than 10 minutes to complete. You can take the survey now. Your input is important, and we appreciate your participation.

Texa$aver contribution maximums increase

The contribution maximums for each of the Texa$aver 401(k) and 457 Plans have increased by $500 to $17,500 for the 2013 calendar year. More>>


Previous Benefits Updates:


On September 4, 2012, ERS submitted to the Texas Legislature two comprehensive studies on state employee health and retirement benefits. Both reports are the result of a year-long research process designed to be transparent and to include all stakeholders with an interest in the future of state employee benefits. The legislative charge was to present a range of options for the Legislature’s consideration. https://www.ers.state.tx.us/Events/Forums/

TexFlex deadlines coming up

If you had a TexFlex account in Plan Year 2012, don’t forget these key dates:

  • November 15, 2012 – Last day to spend TexFlex dollars for Plan Year 2012
  • December 31, 2012 – Last day to submit claims for Plan Year 2012

See more information on TexFlex.

Medical ID cards mailed after coverage starts

If you are a new employee coming to the end of your health coverage waiting period, you will receive your medical ID card seven to 10 business days after health coverage begins. If you need to see a health provider before you get your medical ID card, have the provider call your health plan to verify coverage: HealthSelect (UnitedHealthcare)—toll-free (866) 336-9371;

Use HealthSelect network lab providers when possible

It's important to use HealthSelectSM of Texas network providers whenever possible. Quest Diagnostics (a lab provider) is not a HealthSelect network provider as of September 1, 2012. More>>

HealthSelect info updated on website

We've updated the HealthSelectSM of Texas information on the ERS website. You'll find information on UnitedHealthcare, coverage, costs, providers, referrals, wellness resources, and other topics.

Also see the HealthSelect TPA Transition Checklist.

Observing diabetes month

November is American Diabetes Month. Nearly 26 million children and adults in the United States have diabetes. Another 79 million Americans have prediabetes and are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Learn more from the American Diabetes Association.

Don't exceed Texa$aver 2012 maximums

Make sure you stay within the maximum contribution limits allowed for the Texa$aver 401(k) and 457 Program. If you are concerned about exceeding IRS limits, you should reduce your payroll deductions before your last payroll contributions for 2012. More>>

Last Tax Deferred Annuity (TDA) Contribution for 2012

Reminder:  For monthly employees, your next paycheck (received December 3, 2012) will be your final paycheck for your 2012 TDA contributions.  November 12, 2012 is the cut-off date and final date to make or change your elections in the Retirement Manager.  Please follow the steps in the attached if you need to access the Retirement Manager.   If you need assistance, please call the HR Service Center at 713/743-3988.

November 15—deadline to spend PY12 TexFlex dollars

Remind your employees of the November 15 deadline to spend TexFlex account money from Plan Year 2012. December 31, 2012 is the last day to submit claims for Plan Year 2012.

See more information on TexFlex.


Previous Benefits Updates

Flu shot cost depends on where participants get them

The health plans in the Texas Employees Group Benefits Program cover preventive flu shots differently, depending on where participants get the shots. The shots are free if they go to their primary care physicians, as long as the providers bill only for an office visit. However, the shots are not free if participants go to pharmacies, because the shots are covered under the medical benefit and not the prescription benefit. If flu shots are offered at the worksite, participants will pay the cost set by the flu shot provider. HealthSelectSM of Texas (see following article) and other health plans may contract with flu shot providers for this service. The shots may be free, depending on the agreement between the health plan and provider.

Free onsite flu shot clinics for HealthSelect participants

UnitedHealthcare, HealthSelectSM of Texas’ third party administrator, has contracted with national vendors to provide onsite flu shot clinics. Services are covered at 100% as preventive and will be paid through the HealthSelect plan. More>>

HealthSelect offers vision benefits

HealthSelectSM of Texas participants are covered for one routine eye exam for a $40 copay per calendar year. More>>

Changes reflected in October paycheck

Plan Year 2013 premium changes and any changes you made to your TexFlex contribution during Annual Enrollment will be reflected in the paycheck you receive in October. Dependent health premium rates went up while Optional Term Life rates went down. Also, if you have membership dues automatically deducted for an organization, such as the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, those organization dues may have changed on September 1 and will be reflected in your October paycheck. If you have questions about dues, please call the organization, not ERS.

If you have two health plans, show both ID cards

If you have coverage under more than one health plan, including TRICARE, don't forget to show the ID cards from both plans when you get medical care.

Save money with HealthSelect

HealthSelectSM of Texas can help participants save money on health care. More>>

Prescription deductible starts September 1

Remember, if you have health insurance through the Employee’s Retirement System of Texas (ERS) Program, your annual prescription deductible starts on September 1, 2012. You and your covered dependents each have a $50 deductible for prescription drugs for the plan year, which is from September 1 to August 31.

HealthSelect ID cards, benefit books coming

UnitedHealthcare is mailing new HealthSelect medical ID cards and benefit books to all existing HealthSelectSM of Texas members. Look for yours to arrive by September 1. If you have questions about your HealthSelect medical ID card, call UnitedHealthcare toll-free at (866) 336-9371. Continue using your current prescription drug card from Caremark.  If you have not designated a PCP (Primary Health Care Physician), please call UnitedHealth Care to designate one.

United Healthcare Card Sample

New members get new cards

If you enrolled in a new health plan during Annual Enrollment, you will re¬ceive a new ID card soon. Don’t use your new card until September 1. If you enrolled in dental insurance or changed to a different dental plan during Annual Enrollment, you should receive your dental ID card by the middle of September.

HealthSelect disease management programs

If you and/or your covered dependent participate in a disease management program with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas, you will receive a letter from UnitedHealthcare with your new case management information. Look for this letter in the mail at the end of August.

Will your HealthSelect referrals transfer?

Under certain circumstances, referrals to specialists and hospital pre-authorizations will transfer from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas to UnitedHealthcare. More>>

Important Changes Related to Disability

In the event you have short or long term disability, before you will be eligible to utilize your disability insurance, you will first have to exhaust “all of your sick leave, extended sick leave, sick leave pool or completed the applicable wait period of 30 consecutive days (short term disability) or 180 consecutive days (long term disability) whichever is greater”  Therefore, before you will be eligible to access your short- or long-term disability, you must first exhaust the leaves noted above if available to you.  Disability will be your last option.  You may contact Dearborn National for clarification at 855/377-5433.

Employees can enroll in benefits in first 31 days with no EOI

If you are a new employee to the University of Houston still within your first 31 days of hire, you can enroll in some benefits without proof of good health, called evidence of insurability (EOI). More>>

Carriers won't receive August dependent adds until September 1

Due to system limitations during Annual Enrollment, newly eligible dependents added in August won’t be reported to carriers until September 1. Employees will receive those insurance cards after September 1.

Benefits Fair Raffle Winners

Congratulations to this year's lucky winners! Benefits Fair Winners

TexFlex health remains $5,000

You may have heard that, starting September 1, 2012, the ERS TexFlex program will lower the health care maximum annual contribution to $2,500. However, ERS recently received notice from the Internal Revenue Service that the $5,000 TexFlex health care maximum annual contribution may continue through Plan Year 2013.

On September 1 of each year, you are automatically re-enrolled in TexFlex at the same annual contribution amount as the previous year, unless you make a change during Annual Enrollment.

Day care accounts also have a maximum annual contribution of $5,000 a year.

In Plan Year 2013, there will also be no change to the administrative fee or the optional TexFlex debit card fee. The administrative fee is $12 a year for each account. The optional debit card fee is $15, even if you have both health care and day care accounts.

See more information on TexFlex. Also, texas.payflex.com has new savings and tax calculators, and a dashboard that shows everything you need to know about your account status.

HealthSelect Important News

Third party administrator update

As part of our monthly updates to HealthSelectSM of Texas participants about the third party administrator (TPA) transition to UnitedHealthcare, ERS has updated their TPA Transition FAQ.

With the TPA change, please verify that your current primary care physician (PCP) is in the UnitedHealthcare network. You may use the provider search tool at www.healthselectoftexas.com. If your PCP is in the UnitedHealthcare network, you do not need to take action. However, if your PCP has not joined the UnitedHealthCare network by June, UnitedHealthcare will send you a letter with a toll-free number for designating a network PCP.

Microsoft no longer supports IE6

Update your web browser.

Remember that on April 28, you won’t be able to sign in to ERS OnLine if you are using Internet Explorer 6 (IE6). Microsoft no longer supports IE6. If you haven't already, you should update to one of the following browsers:

  • Internet Explorer – 7.0+ 
  • Firefox – 10.0+ 
  • Safari – 5.0+

To see what version of Internet Explorer you have, go to "Help" and select “About Internet Explorer.” If you have IE6, contact your IT administrator to request an update.

Did you get disability insurance payments in 2011?

If you received Short-term or Long-term Disability Insurance payments in 2011, you should have received a W-2 in January from Fort Dearborn Life Insurance Company (FDL). More>>

Learn about Texa$aver

Texa$aver education counselors travel the state to demonstrate how Texa$aver can help you save for a brighter future. To see when they will be in your area, see the Texa$aver Events Calendar or sign up for Texa$aver event updates.

United HealthCare Services, Inc. awarded contract

On February 21, 2012, the ERS Board of Trustees agreed to enter into contract negotiations with United HealthCare Services, Inc. to serve as the third party administrator (TPA) for the self-funded HealthSelectSM of Texas health plan. United HealthCare Services, Inc. call center and claims processing unit is located in San Antonio, Texas.

ERS rebids Texas Employees Group Benefits Program (GBP) contracts regularly to ensure members get quality benefits at a reasonable cost. United was selected after a rigorous eight-month selection process. “We [ERS] made a careful decision considering the importance of the health plan to the 438,570 employees, retirees, and their dependents who are members of the plan. United was selected for their winning combination of programs, services, and low administrative fee.” said Ann Bishop, Executive Director of ERS. “The program savings benefit members by offsetting ever increasing medical costs.”

HealthSelect is a self-funded managed care point-of-service (POS) plan.  This allows the ERS Board of Trustees to control the benefits covered by HealthSelect within the funding available. Because ERS controls the plan design, a change in administrator does not mean that the benefits will change. The HealthSelect administrator is contracted to pay claims, provide customer service, offer health and wellness programs, and manage the HealthSelect provider network.

The new contract is expected to save $41 million. Saving money for the program benefits all HealthSelect members. It helps to offset the rising cost of medical care. While it can help to lower the rate of contribution increases and the need for design changes that shift costs to members, it will not prevent these types of changes.

Network disruption is expected to be minimal as well. ERS projects that about 2% of HealthSelect members might want to choose a new primary care physician (PCP) if their current PCP decides not to join. HealthSelect members can link to the online search tool for the United HealthCare Choice Plus network (9th option) to find out if their doctor is in the network.

The prescription drug plan stays the same and continues to be administered by Caremark.

HealthSelect members do not need to take any action. They will automatically receive a new HealthSelect ID card before the next plan year starts on September 1, 2012.

We will post monthly updates on the ERS website throughout the transition period, with full details provided during Annual Enrollment. We also posted some frequently asked questions and answers on the ERS website with more information.

Don’t forget to floss

Has your dentist told you to floss regularly, but you don’t know how? Follow these instructions:

  1. Wind about 18 inches of floss around your middle finger; wind the rest around the opposite middle finger.
  2. Holding the floss tightly between your thumbs and forefingers, gently insert it between your teeth.
  3. Curve the floss against the side of each tooth and rub it gently up and down.
  4. Floss all your teeth. Also floss behind your back teeth.

Remember to see your dentist regularly. Check your gums for signs of redness, puffiness, pain, or bleeding. Avoid tobacco and limit alcohol. See the HumanaDental and American Dental Association websites for more information on good dental health.

ERS controls HealthSelect plan design

Some employees may be confused about what a switch in the third party administrator (TPA) for HealthSelectSM of Texas could mean to the HealthSelect plan.  There is a list of frequently asked questions online with ERS. ERS will continue to expand the document throughout the transition. Neither Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas, nor United HealthCare, determines plan benefits. ERS designs the plan, including such things as co pays, coinsurance, and eligibility rules. The role of the TPA is to administer the plan according to the plan design and policy given to them by ERS. The TPA manages the provider network. To make it easier for employees to confirm if their doctor is in the network, ERS is working with United to launch a provider search feature on March 7 that does not require the employee to select a network. That search feature will replace the current link from the ERS website. Employees should continue to use the HealthSelect link for benefits- related information.

Coinsurance maximums, deductibles start over

HealthSelect coinsurance maximums and non-network deductibles started over January 1, 2012.

Remember that HealthSelectSM of Texas coinsurance maximums and non-network deductibles are based on the calendar year, January 1 to December 31. At the start of each calendar year, participants are responsible for any applicable deductible or coinsurance amounts. These amounts do NOT carry over from the previous calendar year.

Dental Choice PlanSM max starts over

The Dental Maximum Benefit is the amount of benefits the State of Texas Dental Choice PlanSM will pay in a calendar year. Once participants reach the Maximum Benefit, they must pay all additional expenses. The annual dental maximum is $1,500, and it “starts over” each January 1. This means that as of January 1, 2012, participants had access to another $1,500 for dental expenses through December 31, 2012. The annual maximum applies for each covered person.  Remember, this is only for the Dental PPO not the Dental HMO as it has no maximum.

Dental Choice PlanSM Explanation of Benefits (EOBs) show credit

For State of Texas Dental Choice PlanSM participants, any covered dental expenses that applied to their deductible during the last three months of 2011 will apply to their 2012 deductible. Participants can see the Carryover Credit deductible on the Explanation of Benefits (EOB) they receive after obtaining services.

The "accumulations toward deductibles," which starts in October of the prior year, means participants don’t have to satisfy a deductible at the end of one year and a deductible at the start of another year. For Plan Year 2012, it will run from October 1, 2011 to December 31, 2012.

Example: If Sam has individual coverage and met the $50 out-of-network deductible for Diagnostic & Preventive services in November 2011, he won’t have to pay a deductible for these expenses again until January 1, 2013.

Participants can see the deductible on their EOB from HumanaDental. This carryover also applies to the combined deductible for Basic & Major Services.

Deductible Individual Limit

Diagnostic & Preventative Services:

  • PPO/Traditional Preferred Network Dental Provider: $0
  • Non-PPO/Traditional Preferred Network Dental Provider: $50 Basic & Major Services (combined):
  • PPO/Traditional Preferred Network Dental Provider: $50
  • Non-PPO/Traditional Preferred Network Dental Provider: $100

The Family Limit is three times the individual deductible per calendar year. Once your family reaches these limits, the deductible for your entire family will be satisfied for the calendar year.

Dental Choice PlanSM EOBs show credit

For State of Texas Dental Choice PlanSM participants, any covered dental expenses that applied to their deductible during the last three months of 2011 will apply to their 2012 deductible. More>>

Dependent Eligibility Audit completed

The Employees Retirement System of Texas (ERS) has a fiduciary responsibility to manage health care costs and control fraud.  Ineligible dependents increase the cost of health care to the State; therefore, removing ineligible dependents from the ERS insurance plan saves the state money in contributions and claims costs.

In February 2010, a Request for Proposal was issued to solicit bids from qualified auditing firms for a 100% dependent eligibility audit of ERS participants. ERS awarded the contract to Hewitt Associates L.L.C. (Hewitt) for a customized dependent eligibility audit, designed to deliver a fair, efficient, and accurate verification process.

To help members prepare for the audit, ERS began sharing audit information in June 2010. ERS launched the Dependent Eligibility Audit in four phases between March 16 and June 24, 2011.

As of November 1, 2011, roughly 11,530, or 5.3% of dependents covered previously, are no longer part of the program. They were either voluntarily or involuntarily removed from the health plan because they did not meet the eligibility requirements.

The audit has a rate of return of about 5.7%. The health care cost for the individuals dropped was about $25.5 million. ERS will lose the contributions from these individuals, however, which totaled about $10.7 million, meaning the overall value of this audit to the plan was about $12.2 million of net expense.

Preliminary results show a 3 to 1 return on the $2.5 million investment in the audit.

John Hancock to stop Long-Term Care enrollments

Our group Long-Term Care Insurance provider John Hancock Life Insurance Company recently informed ERS that enrollment for this coverage will be discontinued effective January 1, 2012. John Hancock will not accept new enrollments after December 31, 2011.

Closing enrollment to new enrollees does not in any way affect employees or dependents who already have Long-Term Care Insurance coverage through John Hancock. If you have questions about this decision or your Long-Term Care Insurance coverage, please call John Hancock at (800) 400-9396.

ERS will issue a Request for Proposal for a new Long-Term Care Insurance provider later in the year.

The University of Houston has available to its employees Universal Life Long Term Care through Trust Mark, a sponsored product of MetLife.  You may obtain additional information about MetLIfe at: http://www.uh.edu/hr/benefits/optionalbenefits.htm   You may also contact our MetLife representative, Christopher Moore at 713/963-4114 (cnmoore@metlife.com) for more information about University Life Long Term Care.

Texa$aver contribution maximums increase

The contribution maximums for each of the Texa$aver 401(k) and 457 Plans* have increased $500 to $17,000 for the 2012 calendar year.

Over Age 50 or close to retirement?

The Over Age 50 Catch-up Provision, offered by both the 401(k) and 457 Plans, won’t increase in 2012. The provision allows employees to contribute an additional $5,500 above the allowed maximum to each plan.

The 457 Plan (but not the 401(k) Plan) lets employees who are getting close to retirement increase their contributions through a three-year Catch-up Provision. In 2012, this provision allows employees to use unused contributions (years in which they have not contributed to the plan) to save up to a limit of $34,000. Employees can participate in this catch-up provision in the three years before they reach retirement age. The three-year catch-up cannot be used at the same time as the Over Age 50 catch-up.

New life insurance carrier

Minnesota Life is life insurance carrier effective January 1.

On January 1, Minnesota Life Insurance Company became the new provider for Basic Term Life Insurance; Optional Term Life Insurance; Dependent Term Life Insurance; and Voluntary Accidental Death & Dismemberment (AD&D) insurance.  You may access the Minnesota Life online Plan Overview booklet at:  https://web1.lifebenefits.com/public/lbwcm/F75102-7_pr8.pdf

No change to Disability Insurance carrier

Use Disability Insurance EOI form for Short- and Long-term Disability applications.

Dearborn NationalTM will continue as the carrier for Short-term and Long-term Disability Insurance. Employees can apply for Disability Insurance during Annual Enrollment or within 31 days of a qualifying life event during the plan year. They can use the Evidence of Insurability Application for Disability Insurance to apply.

Employees must certify tobacco use

Employees enrolled in our ERS medical insurance health plan who use tobacco or have a covered member who uses tobacco are responsible for certifying their tobacco use. They should sign in to their account or call ERS toll-free at (866) 399-6908. The HR Service Center can assist you in certifying your tobacco use in room 325 McElhinney. Because there is no paper certification form required by ERS, you can print the tobacco certification screen for verification and for your records.

See more information on tobacco. Employees who contact ERS for insurance-related transactions will be asked to verbally certify as a tobacco user, or non-tobacco user.

Easy access to EOBs

For HealthSelectSM of Texas participants, your Explanation of Benefits (EOB) statements are available anytime, anyplace. Get your EOBs for claims from the past 18 months, a summary of out-of-pocket expenses, a temporary ID card, and more at www.bcbstx.com/hs. Log in to Blue Access for MembersSM from your computer or smart phone.

Make wellness a resolution

Each year, "Quit Smoking" and "Lose Weight" are among the top New Year’s resolutions. HealthSelect wants to help you help your employees keep these resolutions in 2012, so they’ve developed a New Year’s Resolution Toolkit that includes resources for weight loss and tobacco cessation. You can use them in a variety of ways:

  1. Implement the "Don’t Weight to Feel Great" eight-week weight loss program;
  2. Select individual resources to supplement your existing wellness plan, such as "Meal Planning at a Glance"; or
  3. Encourage employees to use such materials as the expanded food diary and weekly activity log.

Please view http://www.bcbstx.com/hs/wellness/coordinator.html We hope these ready-to-go resources will help you manage your time and work load.

Adding Newborns/Adopted Children to your Health Insurance

When having a newborn or adopting a child, you MUST add them to your medical insurance within their first 30 days of birth/adoption.  To add a new dependent (newborn/adopted child) to your insurance, please log into ERS at: www.ers.state.tx.us and click on “Family Status Change” and follow the prompts.  You DO NOT have to have their child’s social security number (SSN) to add them to your insurance within their 1st year of age; however, you will be required to provide the SSN within several months after adding them to your insurance.

Please add your newborns/adopted children within 30 days or you will have to wait until open enrollment (July) in order to do so.  ERS does not allow any exceptions to this rule.  Please call the HR Service Center if you need additional assistance at 713/743-3988. 

Physician's statement on tobacco use

An employee may ask you to send a physician’s statement or affidavit to ERS that states the employee (or dependent) cannot stop using tobacco products so that the employee will not have to pay higher health insurance premiums. The information in that statement or affidavit is considered Protected Health Information (PHI), and you should not fax it for the employee.  If you wish to send a physician’s statement or affidavit to ERS that states you  (or your dependent) cannot stop using tobacco products so that you will not have to pay higher health insurance premiums. The information in that statement or affidavit is considered Protected Health Information (PHI), and Human Recourses is NOT able to fax it for you.  Therefore, you may fax, mail, send via overnight delivery, or deliver the statement or affidavit to ERS in person.


Write "Tobacco Cessation Program" on the fax cover sheet and fax it to (512) 867-3380.

Mail: ERS
Attention Tobacco Cessation Program
P.O. Box 13207
Austin, TX 78711-3207
Overnight Delivery: ERS
200 E. 18th Street
Austin, TX 78701
In Person: ERS
200 E. 18th Street
Austin, TX 78701

There is a secure drop box on the left side of the front door that is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  ERS can be reached at 877/275-4377 if you have any concerns about this process.  REMEMBER:  TOBACCO USER CERTIFICATION GOES THROUGH DECEMBER 9, 2011.

Coinsurance maximums, deductibles to start over

Health Select coinsurance maximums and non-network deductibles start over January 1.

Don't forget that HealthSelectSM of Texas coinsurance maximum and deductible for non-network services are based on the calendar year, January 1 to December 31. At the start of each calendar year, participants are responsible for any applicable deductible or coinsurance amounts. These amounts do NOT carry over from the previous calendar year.

Minnesota Life sending announcement emails

Effective January 1, 2012, Minnesota Life will be the new carrier for optional life insurance which includes:
•  Basic Term Life Insurance (automatic with ERS health enrollment)
•  Optional Term Life Insurance
•  Dependent Term Life Insurance
•  Voluntary Accidental Death and Dismemberment (AD&D)

Note: Life insurance premiums and coverage levels will not change.

All employees enrolled in one of these products will get an announcement from Minnesota Life and ERS to inform them of the carrier change. If you have an email address on file in ERS OnLine, the notification will be sent to the email address. If there is no email address in ERS OnLine, the announcement will be sent through regular mail.

Elective Deferral Contributions increasing from $16,500 to $17,000/year beginning 1/1/2012

The elective deferral (contribution) limit for employees who participate in 403(b) or the 457 TexaSaver Plans is increased from $16,500 to $17,000 per year.  The catch-up contribution limit for those aged 50 and over remains unchanged at $5,500.  In the event you wish to maximize your elective retirement contributions, please proceed to the Retirement Manager at www.myretirementmanager.com to change your monthly contributions.  For additional information, you are encouraged to attend the next Retirement 101 Session scheduled for Thursday, December 8th at 10:00am by registering on line:  http://www.uh.edu/hr/training/hrtraining.htm .

Please feel free to call the HR Service Center if you have additional concerns about elective deferral contributions (TDAs) at 713/743-3988.

TexFlex Deadlines Reminder!

  • November 15, 2011 – Last day to spend TexFlex dollars for Plan Year 2011
  • December 31, 2011 – Last day to submit claims for Plan Year 2011

TexFlex resources include the TexFlex page on the ERS website. Employees can also call PayFlex (the company that administers the TexFlex program) at (866) 353-9839.

Tobacco users: Higher premiums in January

Tobacco user certification started November 7.

From November 7 to December 9, employees and retirees enrolled in an Employee’ Retirement System of Texas (ERS) health plan who use tobacco or have a covered family member who uses tobacco should sign in to their accounts at www.ers.state.tx.us or call (866) 399-6908 toll-free to certify the tobacco use. More information, including screen shots and processing steps, is coming soon. Individuals who don’t use tobacco and who don’t cover family members using tobacco don’t have to do anything; their premiums won’t increase. Individuals who are not enrolled in a ERS health plan don’t have to do anything.

Under state law, tobacco users will pay higher premiums for their health insurance coverage starting January 1, 2012. Monthly fees are shown below.

Tobacco Users Monthly Fee
Member only $30
Spouse only $30
Child (if member or spouse do not use tobacco) $30
Member + spouse $60
Member + child* $60
Spouse + child*
Member + spouse + child* (Family) $90

*The charge for a child is the same regardless of how many children in the household use tobacco.

The ERS website includes more information, such as the definition of a tobacco user and a list of products that will be considered tobacco.

Employees and retirees can get help to quit tobacco so they don't have to pay more for health insurance. Certain prescription tobacco cessation drugs—Zyban, its generic Bupropion, and Chantix—are now covered for the cost of a copay (once the $50 annual prescription deductible is met).

Under state law, tobacco users in the GBP will pay higher premiums for their health insurance coverage starting January 1, 2012. The ERS website includes more information, such as the definition of a tobacco user and a list of products that will be considered tobacco.

Employees and retirees can get help to quit tobacco so they don’t have to pay more for health insurance. Certain prescription tobacco cessation drugs—Zyban, its generic Bupropion, and Chantix—are now covered for the cost of a copay (once the $50 annual prescription deductible is met).

Get text messages, manage diabetes

Getting diabetes reminders and diet tips is as easy as using your mobile phone.
We all could use a little help remembering things—especially when it comes to managing diabetes. More>>

ERS to offer new Medicare coordination plan with lower costs for retirees

The ERS Board of Trustees approved a new secondary statewide health insurance plan for retirees and their spouses who are covered by Medicare. While you must continue to pay for Medicare Part B premiums, the Humana Medicare Advantage Plan replaces both traditional Medicare and HealthSelect as your primary and secondary coverage. The new option lowers out-of-pocket premium contribution costs when compared to HealthSelect and offers additional benefits, such as gym memberships and discounted health and wellness services. The prescription drug benefit for the Medicare Advantage Plan will be provided by Caremark with the same formulary, coverage deductible and co-pays as HealthSelect.

The new plan is known as a Medicare Advantage plan. The Board awarded the contract to Humana Insurance Company. Humana will administer the plan, including coordinating Medicare benefits. Most retirees who are Medicare eligible will be automatically enrolled in the Medicare Advantage Plan effective January 1, 2012.

Minnesota Life to provide term life insurance

ERS chose Minnesota Life Insurance Company to provide term life insurance to its participants beginning January 1, 2012.

"Minnesota Life has demonstrated that they have the experience and capability to administer a plan of our size," said Ann S. Fuelberg, ERS Executive Director. "We were very pleased with their willingness to open an office in Austin to provide local service to our participants."

Minnesota Life, based in St. Paul, Minnesota, also insures state employees in Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, and other states. Minnesota Life has provided group life coverage for more than 90 years and, with more than $682 billion of group life in force, is among the largest group life insurers in the country. Minnesota Life, a subsidiary of Securian Financial Group, Inc., is highly rated by the major independent agencies that analyze the financial soundness and claims-paying ability of insurance companies. For more information, visit www.lifebenefits.com.

Employees can save on prescriptions

Employees can save on out-of-pocket prescription expenses for maintenance medications (medications taken regularly for chronic conditions or long-term therapy) by filling them in 90-day supplies through the Mail Service Pharmacy. HealthSelectSM of Texas members can also fill 90-day supplies at participating Extended Days Supply (EDS) retail pharmacies.

What’s the savings?

If employees do not use Mail Service or EDS HealthSelect pharmacies, their maintenance medication is not covered in 90-day supplies. However, they can purchase maintenance medication in 30-day supplies at retail for their co-pay plus a retail maintenance fee. They can save money with Mail Service or EDS by not paying the retail maintenance fee.

Example: Once a HealthSelect member meets his $50 annual prescription deductible, he can fill his Tier 3 maintenance medication at a non-EDS retail pharmacy and pay a $60 co-pay (for a 30-day supply) plus a $15 retail maintenance fee for a total of $75. Over a three-month period (or 90-day supply), he will pay $225.

If the HealthSelect member purchases the same medication in a 90-day supply at Mail Service or through an EDS pharmacy, he will pay only $180 with no retail maintenance fee. In this example, buying maintenance medication in 90-day supplies at Mail Service or through an EDS pharmacy saves $45 every 90 days, or $180 on just that one prescription for the year.

Tier 3 medication
30-day supply at retail for 3 months = $60 co-pay + $15 retail maintenance fee times 3: $225
90-day supply at mail service or EDS pharmacy = $60 co-pay times 3: $180
Savings for 3 months: $45
Savings for 1 year: $180

Employees have pharmacy choices

HealthSelect members may select any retail pharmacy

HealthSelectSM of Texas members do not have to go to a CVS pharmacy for their short-term medication (taken for a short period of time) or their maintenance medication (taken regularly for chronic conditions or long-term therapy).

HealthSelect members are not limited to a specific pharmacy for their prescriptions. They can purchase short-term medication and maintenance medication at ANY licensed pharmacy. However, to save money they should use one of the 54,000 retail pharmacies in the HealthSelect pharmacy network for short-term medication and use Mail Service or an Extended Days Supply (EDS) retail pharmacy to purchase maintenance medication. At this time, CVS is not part of the EDS network. Employees can find participating pharmacies, inquire about Mail Service, or find EDS retail pharmacies by going to the Caremark website or by calling (888) 886-8490 or (800) 231-4403 for TDD (telecommunications device for the deaf) users.

Also, some pharmacies have special programs offering generic medications at discounted rates. By using one of these programs, employees may be able to get their medications for less than the regular co-pay amount. Programs vary by pharmacy.

Waiving Health Insurance

Keep in mind that employee drug benefits are a part of the health benefit. If employees opt-out of the health plan, they are also giving up the prescription coverage. By waiving coverage, employee would no longer have the Basic Term Life coverage that is part of the health benefit.

Employees cannot participate in the Health Insurance Opt-Out Credit if they are not eligible for the state contribution toward their health insurance premium, such as a COBRA participant, surviving family member, or an adjunct faculty member.  Members who have TRICARE can receive the credit due to a change in federal legislation.

Change in EAP Services

Effective September 1, 2011, the UH contract with the UT EAP organization was not renewed.  This decision was made based on budget and employee utilization.  HR is in the process of finalizing a contract for reduced EAP services for mandatory counseling only. In the interim, managers that identify a need for mandatory counseling should contact their HR Generalist.

Employees that need non-mandatory counseling services have two options. First, benefits eligible employees also have health counseling resources available through your health insurance with BlueCross BlueShield of Texas at: http://www.bcbstx.com/hs/wellness/participant/overview.html  Second, limited counseling resources are available to employees through the University of Houston Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), for specific services provided and fees go to http://www.caps.uh.edu/services-fees.aspx 

HealthSelect Site Has Gone Mobile

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas launched the mobile version of the HealthSelect website, www.bcbstx.com/hs . The new mobile site provides access to interactive online tools through the HealthSelect website –designed for viewing and navigating on your smartphone. The mobile site includes Blue Access for MembersSM and other features that HealthSelect participants use most often.

From a smartphone, employees can:

  • Log in to Blue Access for Members to view their ID card and claims;
  • Access important HealthSelect phone numbers;
  • Call the 24/7 Nurseline; and
  • Find a nearby urgent care clinic.

For more information go to www.bcbstx.com/hs

Show both ID cards

If you have coverage under more than one health plan, including Medicare or Medicaid, remember to show the ID cards from both plans when you get medical care. This helps the health plans coordinate your copays.

News from ERS About Your Benefits

You are encouraged to subscribe to news updates from ERS by going to their website at:



Resources for Employees Facing Separation
We understand that separation from UH is a difficult time for employees.  In an effort to ease your transition, HR has compiled resource information to assist you. Information includes resources for the following areas: Retirement; Benefits; Job Search; Bills; Legal and Medical; and Frugal Living.

For more information go to:  http://www.uh.edu/hr-communications/separated-employees/


The Human Resources Team is here to assist you with all your HR needs.  In an effort to serve you better, please use the Customer Service Center as your start point when coming to HR.  All appointment check-ins, information inquiries and employment document finalizations should start at the Customer Service Center in 325 McElhinney, located as you exit the elevator on the 3rd floor. Representatives will assist you directly or make sure you are directed to the right person.

Contact Information: Phone 713-743-3988 or EMAIL at CSC@uh.edu

Customer Service Feedback:  http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/HRCustomerServiceFeedback

Communications and Updates:  http://www.uh.edu/hr-communications/index.php/#custservice

Please contact the HR Customer Service Center for any questions 713-743-3988 or via email at CSC@uh.eduu .  Angie, Mindy and Jose are ready to assist you or direct you to the appropriate resource.


Previous Benefits Updates

Tobacco Users

Under state law, tobacco users will pay higher premiums for their health insurance coverage starting January 1, 2012. If you or a covered family member uses tobacco, you will pay $30, $60, or $90 more each month in additional health insurance premiums, depending on how many tobacco users you cover.
Common questions about the program

Drug deductible starts over September 1

Remember that from September 1 to August 31, you and each of your covered dependents must pay separate $50 deductibles before the plan begins to cover drug costs. For example, if you have two dependents, you would have a total family deductible of $150 per plan year for prescription medications if all of you fill at least $50 worth of prescriptions.

One of the best ways to save money on your health care is to make sure you take generic drugs whenever you can. Always consult your doctor before switching medications. New generic drugs come into the market all the time. It’s important to know when generics become available, because they generally cost less, and they have the lowest copay. Plus, if a generic is available and you buy the brand-name drug instead, you will pay the generic copay plus the difference between the cost of the brand-name and the generic drug.

Update to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) New Guidelines begin September 1, 2012

ERS announced that preventive health care services as a result of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will not go into effect until September 1, 2012, for Texas Employees Group Benefits Program (GBP).

The services will make several preventive health care services payable at 100% (i.e. at no cost to the member), depending on how the physician bills the service and the physician’s diagnosis. In some cases, health plan members will still be responsible for payment on some services. Preventive care follows established health screening guidelines. Some possible preventive services include mammograms, screenings for cervical cancer, contraception, well-woman visits, and breastfeeding equipment.

For answers to specific questions or feedback contact ERS at 877-275-4377

When employees are approved for CHIP

When employees are approved for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) sends out two letters:

  • A Welcome Letter informing employees which children are approved for CHIP and the steps they need to take to enroll the children, and 
  • An Enrollment Confirmation Notice, sent after employees complete the steps, telling employees when CHIP will start for their children. 

Either letter can be used to drop children from the Employees Retirement System of Texas (ERS). Approval for CHIP is a qualifying life event. The event date (‘Effective Date’ on the job row) is the date on either letter. Employees will have 31 days from that date to drop the children from the GBP. Employees can keep their CHIP-approved children enrolled in ERS dental and dependent life coverage.

Please note that the Welcome letter is not a confirmation of enrollment in CHIP, but only a notification that the employee’s dependent(s) are approved. If the member wants to wait until receiving confirmation that his or her child(ren) are enrolled in CHIP before dropping them from ERS, then the employee will need to wait until he or she receives the CHIP Enrollment Confirmation Notice before dropping the children. If a child is dropped from the ERS using the Welcome Letter and does not end up becoming enrolled in CHIP, then the child would have neither CHIP or GBP coverage.

Plan Year 2012 Health Insurance Rates Approved by ERS

Effective September 1, 2011

These insurance rates are set by the Employees Retirement System (ERS) of Texas, Group Benefit Plan (GBP). The University of Houston System and all UH components are participating employers in the ERS GBP that is the provider of state insurance benefits to our eligible employees and retirees.

Change to Dental Rates

Humana Dental DHMO: There will be no change in the contribution rates currently in place for this plan. Under this plan, you must use a participating dentist in the DHMO network. Note: Some participating dentists are not accepting new patients and dentists are not required to remain a participant through the entire year.
State of Texas Dental Choice Plan (Administered by HumanaDental): The ERS Board approved a 5% increase to this plan in order to support the increase in the cost of services and the rate individuals are accessing those services. In this plan you may choose any dentist. You may receive higher benefits if using a dentist through the preferred provider network in the Dental Choice Plan.


Plan Year (PY) 2012 ERS Premium Rates Effective September 1, 2011 - DENTAL INSURANCE

Current PY11 HumanaDental DHMO Premiums New PY12 HumanaDental DHMO Premiums Change Current PY11 State of Texas Dental Choice Plan Premiums
New PY12
State of Texas Dental Choice Plan Premiums
Member Only 8.52 8.52 0 22.46 23.58 1.12
Member & Spouse 17.05
17.05 0 44.92 47.16 2.24
Member & Child(ren) 20.45 20.45 0 53.90 56.60 2.70
Member & Family 28.98 28.98 0 76.36 80.18 3.82

No Change to Disability Insurance Rates

•    No change to premium rates for the Short- and Long-Term Disability.

No Change to Life and AD&D Rates

•    Active and Retiree Basic Term Life Insurance and Accidental Death and Dismemberment (AD&D) insurance rates will not change.
•    Rates for Dependent Term Life will also stay the same.

HealthSelect Premium Contribution Rate Changes

HealthSelect of TexasTM  increased the premium rates by approximately 6%. No changes were made to the insurance plan. Full-time, benefits eligible employees will continue to have fully paid health insurance. During this annual enrollment only, no evidence of insurability (EOI) will be required to add self or qualified dependents to the medical insurance. Dependents who turn 25 before August 1, 2011 will be dropped from health coverage. You can add these dependents back on your coverage during annual enrollment and they will remain covered until age 26 regardless of their marital status.

No changes will be made to the copayments or tiers.

Preventative Care: The Affordable Care Act mandates that preventive care be paid at 100% by health care carriers. Starting September 1, 2011, employees will no longer pay 20% co-insurance for preventive care services. Preventive care services include: Annual physical, Mammography, Colonoscopy, Health screenings: newborn, childhood, adolescent, cancer & adult, Immunizations: regular childhood shots, flu shots, tetanus shots, and Health counseling.
Tobacco User Fee: Beginning January 1, 2012, tobacco users will pay a monthly Tobacco User Fee of $30 per person, up to a maximum of $90 for covered dependents. A tobacco user is defined as a person who uses any form of tobacco, including cigarette, pipe, cigar, or smokeless tobacco. Use of nicotine chewing gum, patches, or electronic cigarettes is not considered tobacco use.  More information on the Tobacco User Fee will be available this fall.
Tobacco Cessation Programs: Beginning September 1, 2011, all GBP health plans will cover some prescription drugs used to help members stop smoking. The member will still be responsible for the prescription co-pay.

Plan Year (PY) 2012 ERS Premium Rates Effective September 1, 2011 - FULL TIME EMPLOYEES
Health Select of Texas Current PY11 Premium Current PY11 State Pays Current PY11 Member Pays New PY12 Premium New PY12 State Pays New PY12 Member Pays Change
Member Only 411.04 411.04 0 438.30 438.30 0 0
Member & Spouse 883.72 647.38 236.34 939.78 689.04 250.74 14.40
Member & Child(ren)
727.56 569.30 158.26 774.10 606.20 167.90 9.64
Member & Family 1,200.24 805.64 394.60 1,275.58 856.94 418.64 24.04

Plan Year 2012 ERS Premium Rates Effective September 1, 2011 - PART TIME EMPLOYEES

Health Select of Texas
Current PY11 Premium Current PY11 State Pays Current PY11 Member Pays New PY12 Premium New PY12 State Pays
New PY12 Member Pays Change
Member Only 413.26 206.63 206.63 438.30 219.15 219.15 12.52
Member & Spouse 885.94 324.80 561.14 939.78 344.52 595.26 34.12
Member & Child(ren) 729.78 285.76 444.02 774.10 303.10 471.00 26.98
Member & Family 1,202.46 403.93 798.53 1,275.58 428.47 847.11 48.58

Elimination of SKIP

Based on pending legislation, we expect the State Kids Insurance Program (SKIP) to end August 31, 2011. Recent federal legislation will allow state employees to apply for CHIP or Children’s Medicaid.
Both programs let employees pay reduced premiums for their children age 18 or younger. Employees can apply for CHIP through the Texas Department of Health and Human Services at www.chipmedicaid.org or by calling (877) 543-7669.

TexFlex Flexible Spending Accounts

Health and Day Care Accounts: you will be automatically re-enrolled in your TexFlex account at the same contribution amount unless you make a change during the Annual Enrollment period.

Evidence of Insurability

During annual enrollment only, no Evidence of Insurability (EOI) will be required to add self or qualified dependents to the medical insurance. EOI will still be required through Fort Dearborn Life for all other optional benefits (optional term life, dependent term life, short and long-term disability). On June 1, Fort Dearborn Life Insurance Company (also known as Dearborn National™) began accepting Evidence of Insurability (EOI) applications for Plan Year 2012 coverage. Applications must be postmarked by August 5. The EOI application is available on the following link (press the control button and click on link):   Evidence of Insurability (EOI)

Dependent Audit Drops

As a result of the ERS Dependent Audit through Aon Hewitt, dependents who were removed from GBP coverage due to the Dependent Audit will still show as a dependent in ERS OnLine; however, they will not be enrolled and the Enroll box will be grayed out.  During Annual Enrollment and throughout the plan year, neither the member nor the HR Benefits Section will be able to enroll a dependent in coverage who has a grayed out Enroll box. 
There may be instances when the ineligible dependent becomes eligible and the member wants to re-enroll the dependent in coverage.  In these cases, the member MUST contact ERS directly.  ERS will work with the member to verify the dependent’s eligibility and determine enrollment opportunities.


Through a partnership with Aflac and MetLife’s sponsored product, Trust Mark, we are offering the following optional benefits products:
             Aflac:                Accident, Cancer, Critical Illness and Hospital Protection*
             MetLife:            Universal Life with Long-Term Care Plan

* employees may purchase one, two, three or all four of these products

The open enrollment period for these new optional benefits is scheduled for May 2 through August 5, 2011. All active, benefits-eligible employees are invited to participate.  Once open ends August 5th, the opportunity to participate will not be available until open enrollment July, 2012

On Thursday, July 14, 2011 from 9am – 3pm we will have a representative from Aflac,  Cindy Slebodnik, who will be on campus in the HR Department (Room 325 McElhinney) to meet with you to discuss the products offered by Aflac. 

Please schedule your personalized consultation for July 14th please by contacting:  Ms. Slebodnik of Aflac at 713/206-9529
MetLife can be reached at 1/866-998-2915 to schedule an individual appointment to discuss their product.

HR Benefits Fair July 13th

The 5th Annual Human Resources Benefits Fair is scheduled for July 13, 2011, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. in the Houston Room in the University Center. Our theme for this year is “‘Navigating Through the World of Benefits.” Come by to visit with benefit representatives, UH department representatives, register for prizes, and get lots of freebies including the 2011 Benefits Fair T-Shirt.

Has Aon Hewitt contacted you?

When Aon Hewitt contacts you about your dependents covered under the Texas Employees Group Benefits Program (GBP), you must send copies of the requested documents proving that your dependents are eligible. All GBP participants with dependents covered under health insurance will receive these requests. If you don’t send the requested documents, your dependents will lose their health, dental, and life insurance.  If you have questions about the audit or if you need to drop an ineligible dependent at any time, call Aon Hewitt toll-free at (800) 987-6605 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Central Time or Saturday 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Central Time.

Evidence of insurability applications

On June 1, Fort Dearborn Life Insurance Company (also known as Dearborn National™) began accepting Evidence of insurability (EOI) applications for Plan Year 2012 coverage.  EOI is required for making open enrollment elections of:  Optional Life Insurance, Dependent Life Insurance and Short- or Long-Term Disability.  Applications must be postmarked by August 5. More>>

Protect Your Personal Information

You may have heard about the recent possible exposure of state employees’ and retirees’ personal information. In addition, a state employee reported that someone falsely claiming to be an ERS employee called to ask for a Social Security number. If anyone representing ERS calls you and asks for your social security number, please hang-up and call ERS at 1-877-275-4377 or (512) 867-7711, in the Austin area.

As a result of this exposure, you can get one year of free credit monitoring and internet surveillance from CSIdentity. In addition, the Comptroller’s office will provide identity restoration services if your personal information was misused as a result of the data posting, paid for by Comptroller Susan Combs' campaign fund. The comptroller’s office has set up a website with more information at www.TXsafeguard.org. Concerned individuals may also call 855-474-2065 beginning April 12.

Update Personal Information

To ensure you receive important information, especially during open enrollment, please make sure your contact information in ERS is correct.  To do so, sign in to your account and select "My Personal Information" to view and update your personal information, including:

•    address,
•    email and password, and
•    phone numbers.

Retirement 101

Due to the increase in inquires surrounding retirement eligibility such as:

                           Do I qualify to retire?   When will I qualify to retire?  What should I know now to plan for my retirement? 

The HR Benefits Section is hosting a workshop for employees who want to:

•    gain a greater understanding of ORP and TRS retirement benefits including vesting;
•    have a better understanding of TRS retirement eligibility and TRS service credit;
•    understand the requirements to qualify for continued insurance benefits at retirement,
•    learn how to calculate your TRS retirement benefits, and
•    become familiar the rules for employment-after-retirement

We invite you to register for one of the Retirement 101 sessions scheduled for June 22nd or July 27th both are scheduled from 10 – 11am in the HR Conference Room (341 McElhinney).  Please save your seat by registering in P.A.S.S.




Coverage of Children to Age 26

On September 1, 2011, the Affordable Care Act raises the age for children’s eligibility in the Texas Employees Group Benefits Program (GBP) to 26, regardless of marital status.

During Annual Enrollment, employees can enroll children who turned 25 before September 1, 2011, or children under age 26 who are married. This includes children currently in COBRA. Participants did not have to cover their children through the GBP previously to enroll them during this summer’s Annual Enrollment.

Evidence of insurability (proof of good health) is not required to enroll these children in the GBP during Annual Enrollment. Their coverage will begin September 1.

SKIP ends August 31, 2011

Based on pending legislation, we anticipate that the State Kids Insurance Program (SKIP) will end on August 31, 2011. State employees can apply for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) or Children’s Medicaid; both programs let employees pay reduced premiums for their children age 18 or younger. The Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) will notify all current SKIP participants by letter to give them information about applying for CHIP or Children's Medicaid.  If you have questions, call HHSC toll-free at (877) 543-7669 or visit www.chipmedicaid.org.


Retirement Manager Certificate Changes

As of Wednesday, May 25, 2011, we have an improvement in our Retirement Manager Distribution of Eligibility Certificates (“Certificate”) process.  Beginning May 25th, when requesting loans, hardship withdrawals, in-service exchanges and severance of employment, you are no longer required to have the Certificate signed by the Plan Administrator in Human Resources. 

The Distribution Eligibility Certificate (“Certificate”) will be completed by the participant in Retirement Manager and the participant will provide that Certificate to the provider directly.  We have informed all of our providers (Fidelity, ING, Lincoln, MetLife, TIAA-CREF and VALIC)  to utilize the information provided on the Certificate in determining a participant’s eligibility for certain plan transaction, including hardship distributions and loans.

We are anticipating a smoother and more timely process in Certificate processing with these improvements.  Please contact the HR Service Center at 3-3988 if you have any questions or concerns about this change in procedures. 

ERS Changes for Plan Year 2011

On May 24, 2011, the Employee’s Retirement System of Texas Board of Trustees approved health insurance carriers and preliminary premium rates and optional insurance rates for Plan Year 2012:

  • Increased the premium rates for HealthSelectSM of Texas by an average of 8%;
  • Kept the Dental DHMO premiums at the same rate as last year;
  • Increased premiums slightly for the State of Texas Dental Choice PlanSM; and 
  • Kept premiums for optional insurance—Optional Term Life, Dependent Term Life, Short- and Long-term Disability Insurance, and Voluntary Accidental Death and Dismemberment—at the same rate as last year.
Please view the preliminary premium rates at:


Annual Enrollment:  July 11-August 5

Annual Enrollment for Plan Year 2012 is July 11 through August 5. During this time, you can change your benefits and enroll eligible dependents in coverage, effective September 1. You will receive more information in the mail. See the Annual Enrollment Fair schedule.

Have you moved or changed your phone number or email address?
Update your new contact information in your ERS account by June 3, 2011 at 5:30 p.m. so you can receive benefits information from ERS this summer:

  • Log in to your account from the ERS website. Click the Sign In button at the top. You may need to register your account.
  • Click the appropriate link under My Personal Information to make your changes.

Send it in

When you receive requests from Aon Hewitt about your dependents covered under the Texas Employees Group Benefits Program, please send copies of the requested documents proving that your dependents are eligible. If you don’t send the requested documents, your dependents will lose their health, dental, and life insurance.  More>>

Securing the documents you provide in the dependent audit

Aon Hewitt, the independent company conducting the dependent verification audit for ERS, is following a number of processes to ensure the security of your documents.

Aon Hewitt will send you an audit letter and email reminder asking you to send copies of documents to prove that the dependents you cover in health insurance in the Texas Employees Group Benefits Program (GBP) are eligible. Please don't send your documents to Aon Hewitt before you get your letter.

When you send the requested dependent documents, remember to black out Social Security numbers, monetary amounts, and account numbers on the copies. Don't send the original documents, because Aon Hewitt will destroy all documents when the audit is complete.

If you do not wish to mail, fax, or upload your documents, you may bring them and your Aon Hewitt request letter to the ERS office, 200 E. 18th Street, Austin, TX 78701 starting May 2. Specially trained Aon Hewitt staff will be at ERS to scan your documents into the Aon Hewitt system from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. CT Monday through Friday for a limited time.

Please note: Some employees have indicated that they would like Aon Hewitt to contact them about the audit. Individuals who request a call from Aon Hewitt have given them a telephone number and the best time to call. Aon Hewitt will not ask the individuals for any portion of their Social Security number in connection with these calls.

If you have questions about the audit, or if you need to drop an ineligible dependent at any time, call Aon Hewitt toll-free at (800) 987-6605 Monday-Friday 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. CT and Saturday 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. CT. To learn more, go to the ERS website.

ERS Website Change: They Listened to You

The ERS website has changed with hopes to educate, inform, and engage their stakeholders: YOU. Through focus groups and usability studies, ERS has learned they need to use less jargon and an easy-to-use structure to help you find information on their website. They updated and redesigned the website to improve our experience, including:

•    Content divided by visitor groups (employees, former employees, retirees),

•    A common tasks section called “I want to…” located on the homepage,

•    An events and milestone section to help you with transitions in your life,

•    A better, faster search engine to help you find information, and

•    Self-service tools, such as:

•    News About Your Benefits 

•    Event calendar 

•    Rate calculator  

•    Service purchase request form  

•    Retirement eligibility.

They hope you find the new site useful. Let them know what you think! 

Optional Benefits

The University of Houston System is partnering with Aflac and MetLife to sponsor several optional benefits plans for System benefits-eligible employees through payroll deduction. These supplemental benefits are in addition to the benefits currently offered by the Employees Retirement System of Texas; however, the cost of each product will be the employee's sole responsibility and will not be supplemented in any way by the university or System. In addition, these supplemental benefits will be available for coverage of domestic partners.

The products being offered are Aflac's Accident, Cancer, Critical Illness and Hospital Protection plans, and MetLife's Universal Life with Long-Term Care plan.

For more information and the information session schedule, go to the main HR Benefits page.

ERS Conducting Dependent audit

ERS is partnering with an independent company, Aon Hewitt, to conduct a 100% dependent eligibility audit. The audit will ask each employee and retiree who covers a dependent in the Texas Employees Group Benefits Program (GBP) to provide copies of documents to prove the dependent is eligible. Aon Hewitt will conduct the audit in three phases beginning in March through August 2011. The dependent audit for higher education employees will start in March.

During the audit, employees will receive letters from the vendor (Aon Hewitt) to remind them to take action and provide the appropriate documents. Employees who have an email address on file with ERS (www.ERS.State.Tx.Us ) will also receive emails that contain the same information. The emails will come from donotreply@plan-smart.com.

If you have an email address on file with ERS, you will also receive a reminder email. The email will come from donotreply@plan-smart.com. Please do not email or respond to the reminder emails from donotreply@plan-smart.com.

Please don’t forget to send copies of your documents when you receive the letter from Aon Hewitt back to Aon Hewitt not ERS nor HR Benefits . Do not send originals; they will not be returned. If you have questions about the audit, please call the phone number provided in the letter, not your benefits coordinator. If you don’t cooperate with the audit, your dependents will be dropped from coverage.

If you have questions about the audit, please call the phone number provided in the letter, not your HR Department. If you don’t cooperate with the audit, your dependents will be dropped from coverage. To reach Aon Hewitt directly, call toll-free at (800) 987-6605 Monday-Friday 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Central Time and Saturday 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Central Time.

Annual Enrollment

The Employees Retirement System of Texas (ERS) has set the Annual Enrollment period for Plan Year 2012. Enrollment will start Monday, July 11 and end Friday, August 5. ERS is starting enrollment later this year because of the uncertainty surrounding the state budget funding that will be available for the ERS Texas Employees Group Benefits Program.

Until ERS knows what funding will be available, they cannot finalize insurance contribution rates or benefit design. The ERS Board will meet in May and June to consider these issues.

ERS has prepared a handout that details how the health insurance program could be affected if it doesn’t receive the funding requested in the Legislative Appropriations Request.

Texa$aver (457) participants should update beneficiaries

More than half of all Texa$aver* participants have not selected a beneficiary. It is important for 457 participants to select an individual to receive their Texa$aver account balances if they die. Texa$aver is mailing a beneficiary form and pre-paid postage envelopes to 457 participants who do not have beneficiaries on file.

Beneficiaries for your life insurance are separate from Texa$aver beneficiaries. Texa$aver participants designate their Texa$aver beneficiaries on a Texa$aver form NOT through the University of Houston.

To update a beneficiary, participants must complete the form and return it directly to Texa$aver. You can return the form three ways:

1.   Mail the form in the pre-paid postage envelope you receive in the mail;

2.   Scan and email the form to texasaver@gwrs.com; or

3.   Fax the form to Texa$aver at (866) 745-5766.

Participants don’t have to wait for the letter. You can update their Texa$aver beneficiaries today using the Beneficiary Designation Governmental 457(b) Plan Form.

If you have questions, call Texa$aver toll-free at (800) 634-5091, 8 a.m.-7 p.m. CT, Monday through Friday.

Did you receive disability insurance payments in 2010?

If you received Short-term or Long-term Disability Insurance payments in 2010, you should have received a W-2 in January from Fort Dearborn Life Insurance Company (FDL). This W-2 reflects any taxable and nontaxable amounts paid under the ERS disability plan.

You should include this W-2 with all other documents you provide to your tax preparer. Consult with your tax advisor regarding the tax implications of any benefits you received. After consulting with your tax advisor, if you wish to initiate or change the withholding of federal income taxes from your monthly Long-term Disability benefit, please contact your Claims Representative at (855) ERS-LIFE (377-5433)  and request a copy of form W-4S.

Certificate required to cover common law spouses

If you wish to enroll a common law spouse in our health insurance and other coverage (e.g. dental, dependent life, Flexible Spending Account (TexFlex) or long term care)  under the Texas Employees Group Benefits Program (GBP) after January 1, 2011, you must file a Declaration of Informal Marriage at your county courthouse.

Before this rule, employees and retirees could use utility records, bank statements, and the Declaration of Informal Marriage as proof of a common law marriage for GBP coverage. Now, GBP coverage requires you to file a Declaration of Informal Marriage before enrolling in coverage. Filing a Declaration of Informal Marriage is a qualifying life event which allows you to add your common law spouse to your benefits at that time.

As in the past, if you cover a common law spouse on your insurance, and later want to remove the dependent spouse from coverage, you must present a divorce decree, except during Annual Enrollment. You may also have to present a divorce decree for this marriage if you want to add another spouse to your GBP coverage in the future.

Age 26 dependents and the Affordable Care Act

If you have a dependent who turns 25 this year, ERS knows you are eager to learn how your dependent will be affected by the Affordable Care Act.

Dependents who turn 25 before September 1, 2011 will be dropped from health coverage. In order to stay insured, they can elect to have COBRA coverage.

The future of the Affordable Care Act is still uncertain, so we cannot provide final information at this point. However, ERS’ initial policy, unless something changes with federal or state legislation, is that health plan participants will be able to enroll dependents under age 26 in coverage without evidence of insurability (proof of good health), regardless of COBRA coverage. The enrollment period may coincide with the Annual Enrollment period in July, or there may be a special enrollment period. The re-enrollment would be effective September 1, 2011. 

Please keep in mind that federal health care reform is subject to several state and federal law revisions, which may affect how the health plan complies with this provision.

Longevity Issue

The Texas Legislature has proposed a bill that could affect our longevity pay.   This House Bill (HB 3168) proposes the elimination of longevity pay for state employees and the creation a structured merit pay program.  The bill is still in the legislature being considered by House.  You may view the bill at the website of the Legislative Budget Board.

We will let you know if there are any changes to your longevity pay.

Retirement Manager News!

The Retirement Manager website has been updated and we are pleased to announce several new and easy ways to manage and learn about your retirement benefits.

With this Retirement Manager upgrade you are able to:

•   Further protect your financial data by creating your own unique User ID, and selecting security questions and images customized to your preferences.

•   Navigate easily to important tasks related to your retirement plans.

•   Quickly locate retirement plan information and investment provider contacts.

•   Access important financial topics and information about current market trends.

Please be assured that these changes do not require any action on your part, and your existing Retirement Manager website address will not change.

You may access a Quick Reference Guide by clicking on the “Retirement Manager Demo” link on the website.  This Guide has been designed as a “road map” to assist in exploring the new features on Retirement Manager. This Quick Reference Guide will also be available on the Retirement Manager website in the “Help” section. Should you have any questions, please feel free to contact the HR Service Center at 713/743-3988 and we would be happy to assist you.

Visit the State of Texas discount purchase program website.

Employees, retirees, and their immediate families can use the site to get discounts on many products and services, from computers to theme park passes. There's no sign-up fee, registration, or cost to you. Visit today to start saving. For additional information click here.

Have questions? Review the discount purchase program frequently asked questions.


For your Benefit:

ERS Health Newsletter


Click the links below for additional information:

Due date to spend TexFlex funds

New ID cards

Next step for HumanaDental DHMO members

Texa$aver (457) What is asset allocation?

Interested in a Roth? 

UH Retirement Manager

A Convenient & secure way to manage your UH Retirement Accounts 

Click here for full story.

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