Employees to see expanded medical benefits, increased contributions next year

Media Credit: Sophia Moten | Photographer

Tyler Anbinder, a member of the Faculty Senate committee on employee salaries and promotions, said officials' investment in employee benefits has been significant compared to the last 10 years.

Employees will see expanded coverage and increased contribution caps to certain medical benefits next year.

Officials announced last month that they will expand fertility and gender dysphoria benefits next calendar year while increasing some caps on life insurance plans and healthcare-related spending accounts. Members of the Faculty Senate and Faculty Association said the changes are a result of employee feedback.

“GW is committed to providing you with a dynamic benefits program that is inclusive, diverse and cost-effective,” this year’s benefits overview guide states.

To prepare for the upcoming open enrollment season, which runs from Oct. 7 through Oct. 25, officials are holding three benefits information sessions, three open enrollment fairs and two seminars to provide guidance to employees about how to pick a medical plan, according to the benefits website.

Increasing medical contributions
Faculty and staff participating in the medical plan will experience a 2 percent increase in employee medical plan contributions across all salary bands, according to the guide.

More than 65 percent of full-time medical plan participants will encounter a less than $5 per month increase, but the increase could range from less than $1 per month to about $16 per month, according to the guide.

Tyler Anbinder, a professor of history, said the increase is “very typical,” and officials have agreed to pay a higher proportion of the projected increase than they have in previous years. Officials made an “additional investment” in the overall subsidy to help offset the contribution increase, according to a University release.

“Over the last 10 years, what’s been more typical is more than an inch up – it’s been a jump up,” Anbinder said. “So the fact that it’s only inching up this year is good. That’s one of the reasons I’m happy.”

He added that the University works with a healthcare consultant to determine changes in cost to the medical benefits by examining the previous year’s expenses and market projections.

Expanding gender and fertility benefits
Employees will no longer need to meet the medical definition of infertility to qualify for an expanded fertility benefit under the new changes, the guide states.

The plan will cover additional treatments, like fertility preservation – which protects reproductive tissue for people with conditions that affect fertility – and preimplantation genetic screening. The new benefit has a $30,000 lifetime maximum payout, according to the guide.

Employees can receive an additional 24 treatments as part of the revamped gender dysphoria benefit, the guide states. The plan currently offers 17 male-to-female or female-to-male surgeries to employees signed up for the benefit.

The newly-covered associated procedures include calf, cheek, chin and nose implants, hair transplantation and trachea shaves, according to the guide. Eligible employees can also receive voice modification surgery, voice lessons and voice therapy.

Anbinder said the members of the benefits advisory committee heard from faculty that the existing gender dysphoria benefit was too limited, adding that the expansion was likely the result of employee dissatisfaction.

“Typically, if they just announced it that way, either this is the new norm and the University wants to follow the norm to be a good and attractive employer, or they’ve been getting complaints about it from employees,” he said. “That didn’t come to our committee, and they just decided to deal with it directly.”

Joseph Cordes, a member of the benefits advisory committee and a professor of economics, said the changes in benefits had been on the “radar screen” of the committee for about two years. Multiple faculty and staff told the committee they wanted to see these expanded benefits through surveys and conversations, he said.

“There was some discussion of whether we might want to consider moving in that direction,” he said. “We got some information on what it would cost and what it would mean for premiums and the like, and then this past year, with that information, we went ahead and included it in the plan.”

Increasing contribution caps
Officials will end the current maximum on life insurance policies, which is capped at 500 percent of an employee’s salary, according to the guide. Employees can carry up to $750,000 in the life insurance policy in $10,000 increments, the guide states.

Under the new benefit, employees can contribute an additional $50 to their healthcare and dependent day care flexible spending accounts, which help reduce taxes on medical and childcare costs respectively, according to the guide.

Officials also increased the maximum contributions for health savings plans, which allow employees to set aside pre-tax dollars for qualified medical costs, according to the guide. Employees enrolled in the individual coverage plan can contribute $50 more than before, while those using the family plan can contribute $100 more, according to the guide.

Cordes said it is not uncommon for these types of plans to have a cap, but some employees may prefer to contribute more to a life insurance plan to guarantee that their family could provide for themselves if the employee suddenly passes away.

“A lot of people are probably fine with the cap as it is, that is, they don’t really consider it a limitation for them because they wouldn’t want to buy more insurance anyway,” he said. “But there are going to be individuals who, because of their unique circumstances, may want to have a higher cap.”

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.