Open Enrollment 2010 runs Oct. 26 through Nov. 13

Employees can make changes to their health and life insurance plans and enroll in flexible spending accounts.

Stanford's annual Benefits Open Enrollment will begin Monday, Oct. 26, and end Nov. 13.

Open Enrollment gives employees the chance to make changes to their health and life insurance plans and enroll in flexible spending accounts. The changes stay in effect for the entire year, unless an employee has a status change, such as marriage, divorce, a new dependent or a change in employment.

Stanford Benefits already has sent information about Open Enrollment to employees' mailing addresses. Included is information about benefits and costs that are changing in 2010 and about the new enrollment system Stanford Benefits is implementing.

For more information, visit the Stanford Benefits website.

Mental health/substance abuse coverage change

Coverage for mental health and substance abuse care is among the biggest benefits changes this year. United Behavioral Health (UBH) will no longer be the university's provider. Instead, all mental health and substance abuse care will be covered under individual medical plans.

The change is the result of a new federal law that requires medical plans to cover mental health and substance abuse treatment at the same level as medical treatment. As a result, some employees may find that the provider they have been seeing under UBH is no longer covered.

Stanford Benefits included information about this change in the newsletter it recently sent employees. The newsletter should help employees understand what they need to do to find out whether they may have to change providers to continue getting coverage for their treatment. Also, as a result of this change, all medical plans, except for the Kaiser Permanente HMO, will be issuing new identification cards before Jan. 1, 2010.

Healthcare cost changes

About half of employees will see their costs change for medical coverage next year. The cost for the Kaiser Permanente HMO is almost the same for next year, and the cost for both Blue Shield plans is going down. Participants in the PacifiCare and Health Net HMO plans will see their costs go up.

"For the last two years, PacifiCare and Health Net HMO plans have experienced above-average cost increases from the providers with whom they negotiate rates [local hospitals, physician groups or other healthcare providers], increased use by Stanford participants and unusually costly claims," said Charles Lee, manager of health and welfare benefits.

Stanford Benefits encourages employees to visit the Benefits website to learn about the medical plan options available and think about whether the plan they have today is still the right one for next year. Stanford Benefits also included an insert with the newsletter that outlines the contribution changes and medical plan options.

University contribution strategy the same

The university's contribution strategy for healthcare plans remains unchanged. As in the past, the medical benefit is based on the lowest-cost plan. Kaiser Permanente will be the lowest cost plan again in 2010. Employees choosing other plans will pay the difference between the lowest cost plan and the plan they select.

The university pays the entire cost of employee-only coverage with the Kaiser Permanente HMO. For dependent coverage with Kaiser, Stanford contributes 82 percent of the cost.

Kaiser prescription change

The Kaiser Permanente HMO plan is changing its prescription drug benefit to encourage participants to order by mail. For prescriptions filled at a Kaiser pharmacy, plan participants will receive up to a 30-day supply per prescription. For prescriptions filled using the Mail-Order Drug Program, participants can receive up to a 100-day supply for two co-payments. The co-payment amounts charged for generic and brand drugs will stay the same.

New enrollment system

Stanford Benefits is rolling out a new benefit election system for Open Enrollment. When employees log on to the system to make Open Enrollment elections, they will have to go through a new logon process.

Instructions for the new system are in the newsletter and are on the logon screen for the system. The new system is designed to be easier to navigate and will allow employees to communicate with the Benefits service center by email and online chat.