Time to make benefits choices for 2019
By LORRAINE SIMPKINS
It’s that time of year when you have the opportunity to continue or change your health-benefit choices for 2019.
In early October, the Planning for Option Transfer flier was mailed to active employees enrolled in the New York State Health Insurance Program (NYSHIP). This flier describes the requirements and enrollment procedures for several benefits and programs, including NYSHIP health benefits, the Productivity Enhancement Program (PEP), the Pre-Tax Contribution Program (PTCP), and the Opt-Out Program.
Watch your mailbox for the ‘Rates and Deadlines for 2019’ flier, which will provide the biweekly premium rates, the deadline for changing health-plan options, and other important dates, such as payroll deduction dates.
If you are considering changing your health insurance option for 2019 or wish to review your current option, ask your health benefits administrator, who is usually located in your personnel office or the New York State Business Services Center, for a copy of Health Insurance Choices for 2019, your guide to NYSHIP options. Or, find Choices and other option transfer publications on NYSHIP at www.cs.ny.gov/employee-benefits. Select your group and plan, if prompted, and then select health benefits and option transfer. Choose rates and health plan choices for the most up-to-date option transfer information.
Missing the option transfer period deadlines can be very costly. Mark your calendars or set reminders for these important deadlines.
November 9 – Health Care Spending Account (HCSAccount)
The HCSAccount could reduce your 2019 income taxes (payable in 2020) by allowing you to set aside pre-tax salary earned in 2019 to pay for health, dental and vision care expenses that are not reimbursed by your health insurance or other benefit plans. Visit www.flexspend.ny.gov to enroll online, or call 1-800-358-7202 for more information or to enroll by phone. If you are currently enrolled in the HCSAccount, you must re-enroll to continue your participation in 2019.
November 16 – Productivity Enhancement Program (PEP)
PEP allows eligible full- and part-time employees in a job title at or below grade 24 to exchange previously accrued annual leave and/or personal leave in return for a credit which reduces their share of the NYSHIP premium on a biweekly basis. If you are currently enrolled in PEP, you must re-enroll to continue in 2019.
November 30 – Pre-Tax Contribution Program (PTCP)
Under the PTCP, your share of the health insurance premium is deducted from your wages before taxes are withheld, which may lower your tax liability. In exchange for this reduction in your tax liability, you agree to maintain the same pre-tax health insurance deduction for the entire plan year, unless you provide timely notification (within 30 days) of a qualifying event, which would allow you to make a change or cancel your coverage.
In November, if you are enrolled in PTCP, you can make the following changes:
1) Change your PTCP election;
2) Change from family to individual coverage, while your dependents are still eligible, when there is no qualifying event;
3) Change from individual to family coverage without a qualifying event (late enrollment provisions will apply); and,
4) Voluntarily cancel your coverage, while you are still eligible for coverage, when there is no qualifying event. Requests made during the PTCP election period are effective beginning the 2019 plan year.
Deadline date to be announced – Annual Option Transfer Period
During the annual option transfer period, employees may change their NYSHIP health plan option, including enrolling in the Opt-out Program, if eligible. Unlike other NYSHIP options, enrollment in the Opt-out Program does not continue automatically from year to year. If you currently participate in the Opt-out Program and wish to continue receiving incentive payments in 2019, you must re-elect the Opt-out Program during the annual option transfer period.
Deadline date to be announced – Young Adult Option (YAO) Enrollment
The YAO provides coverage to children of NYSHIP enrollees up to age 30. The open enrollment period for the YAO will coincide with the annual option transfer period. During this time, eligible adult children of NYSHIP enrollees can enroll or switch plans. For more information, visit www.cs.ny.gov/employee-benefits/young-adult-option/.
Quest labs rejoins Empire Plan network
Effective January 1, 2019, Quest Diagnostics will rejoin The Empire Plan as an in-network laboratory provider. Quest has 6,000 in-network patient locations nationwide. LabCorp will also remain an in-network option.
You can use United Healthcare’s Empire Plan online provider directory to find a Quest Diagnostics lab near you. Go to www.cs.ny.gov/employee-benefits and choose your group and plan, if prompted. From the New York State Health Insurance Program (NYSHIP) online home page, select ‘find a provider,’ then scroll down to the Medical/Surgical Program.
If you have questions about Quest Diagnostics or need assistance finding a lab, call 1-877-769-7447, and press or say “1” for the Medical/Surgical Program. — Deborah Stayman