System News

The aurora forecast is predicting moderate to high activity at the end of March through the beginning of April. Photo by Monique Musick

UA Health Plan Changes and Open Enrollment Information

Open enrollment April 15 – May 16

To effectively participate in open enrollment and to make informed choices, employees should be aware of changes in UA health plan deductibles, out-of-pocket maximums, IRS revisions to flexible spending accounts, and expanded preventive benefits.

The below information is a summary of important revisions to be aware of.  For more detail, please visit the SW Benefits website at www.alaska.edu/benefits/

Positive enrollment
During the open enrollment period, beginning April 15 and extending through May 16, university employees will be asked to actively select into which health plan they and their dependents would like be enrolled. Any employee who does not make an active election will be placed in the middle tier, or the 750 Plan, along with their currently enrolled dependents.  This means that those employees who are on either the current Deluxe Plan or Economy Plan who do not submit a form will be moved to the new middle plan, the 750 Plan. 

In the past, employees who did not change their elections were automatically re-enrolled in their current plan. Due to the changes to the deductible and out of pocket maximums in the plans this year, the Joint Health Care Committee recommended that all employees be asked to  make an active and informed decision regarding their health care coverage and to be moved to the 750 Plan if they do not make an active election. Those employees who are currently opted out of the UA health plans will remain opted out if they do not make a different election.   

Employee contributions remain the same in FY12
For FY12 (starting July 1, 2011) employee charges – the amount deducted from the paycheck -- will remain exactly as  it was in FY11.  For FY13, employee deductions will likely need to be increased.  For now, anyone enrolled in the Economy Plan who chooses the High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) during open enrollment, will retain the same biweekly deductions so long as no other “life event” changes, such as the addition of a spouse or child, affect enrollment. The same is true for anyone currently in the Standard Plan who chooses the 750 Plan during open enrollment or in the Deluxe Plan who chooses the 500 Plan. Employees will receive more information on charges in open enrollment materials mailed to their home address and online. A chart with the FY11 charges, which will remain the same for FY12, can be found HERE.

Expanded preventive benefits
On a positive note, preventive services have been expanded in two ways: the dollar cap has been removed (it was previously $750), and the list of covered services has been expanded due to national health-care reform.  Employees can use preventive services for such things as annual physicals, well child care, flu shots, mammograms and, starting July 1, colonoscopies.  Preventive services are covered at 100% of allowable charges with no deductibles. The list of eligible preventive services can be found HERE.

Tobacco cessation opportunity
Research shows that tobacco use contributes significantly to health care costs. Many health plans include a tobacco use surcharge to partially cover the increased costs. UA has never had a surcharge but plans to implement a surcharge in FY13. The Joint Health Care Committee and several governance committees recommended the university take more time in developing and marketing effective tobacco cessation programs for employees before a surcharge is charged when employees or their dependents on the plan use tobacco. Once cessation programs are selected, they will be available at no cost to employees and their enrolled dependents.  The UA administration agrees with this approach.  As such, UA will delay the tobacco use surcharge until FY13, or starting July 1, 2012 (instead of July 1, 2011).  More information concerning tobacco cessation programs will be widely distributed when it becomes available.

Flexible spending accounts

Open enrollment is also when employees can establish Flexible Spending Accounts. A Flexible Spending Account (FSA) allows you to pay for certain medical and dependent day care expenses with pretax dollars.  The university’s FSA plan operates on a fiscal year (July 1 through the following June 30), not a calendar year. There are regulations and limits on FSAs.  Once a contribution level is selected it cannot be changed for that fiscal year unless a major “life event” occurs. 

Because of the tax-advantaged way in which the Medical and Dependent Care FSA operates, the IRS has established strict guidelines for their use. One of the guidelines is known as the “use it or lose it” rule. If you deposit money into your FSA and then do not incur enough eligible expenses during the plan year to meet the balance in the account, you will lose that remaining balance. By law, the forfeited amount will revert back to the University to be used to cover administrative costs.

Read more about flexible spending accounts HERE.

Deductibles and Out-of-Pocket Maximums increased

Deductibles are scheduled to increase between two to five times for the new tiers, depending on if you’re currently in the Economy, the Standard plan or the Deluxe plan and depending on if you’re looking at the individual or family deductible. These plans will be renamed the “HDHP” (for High Deductible Health Plan), the “750 Plan” and the “500 Plan.” A chart that illustrates the current tiers and deductibles compared to the new tiers and deductibles can be found HERE.

Pharmacy plan changes
FY12 retail pharmacy co‐pay costs will be: $5‐ generic (Tier I); $25‐ preferred brand (Tier II); $50‐non‐preferred brand (Tier III).

Generic drugs used to treat chronic problems due to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma will be paid fully by UA.  Eligibility for free generic drugs is contingent on the patient’s active participation in the Alere disease management program.
Name brand proton pump inhibitors such as Nexium and Dexilant, and Non‐Sedating Antihistamine drugs have generic and a number of over-the-counter alternatives. These brand‐name drugs will be moved to Tier III ($50 co‐pay) and will require preauthorization before prescriptions can be filled.

To encourage the use of the mail-order prescription service, starting on the third refill, co‐pays for retail maintenance prescriptions (those taken regularly over a long period of time) will double if the plan member does not use mail order fulfillment. Medications that could be damaged by freezing temperatures during shipment, such as insulin, are exempt. Caremark’s maintenance drug list can be found  HERE.

Dependent audit
The university asked ConSova, the vendor who is handling the dependent audit for UA, to give all employees until March 31 to postmark or submit documents pertaining to the verification of dependents. If you have not yet contacted ConSova, and wish to keep your dependents on the UA Health Plan, it is important for you to respond to the dependent audit by March 31. The university and ConSova will accommodate individual employees to grant additional extensions if employees are participating in the audit in good faith but are having difficulties in locating and producing documents. For example, some employees who are in the process of complying have already been given extensions until April 7, 2011. The importance of the March 31 date is that any dependents who ultimately are found ineligible will be removed from the health care plan retroactive to March 31. The university will individually review the circumstances before any enrolled dependent is removed from health coverage. This is the university’s decision and will not be made by ConSova. 

Additional information and FAQs on the dependent audit can be found HERE

FAQs and general information
Find additional information and resources on the statewide benefits website: http://www.alaska.edu/benefits/

The most current FAQs can be read HERE.


SAA Highlights

The Statewide Administration Assembly last met on March 9. Healthcare concerns were at the forefront again. SAA discussed the extension to the dependent audit, reviewed the preliminary findings of the audit, and discussed some of the problems that arose during the process; ranging from the problems encountered by persons travelling out of the country, negative reactions from some staff and faculty, even threats of lawsuits over privacy concerns.

SAA recommended that the tobacco surcharge not be implemented this fiscal year citing concern that employees need the opportunity to enter a cessation program to quit tobacco before the surcharge goes into effect.  It was pointed out that educating employees that a one-year tobacco free requirement will go into effect FY13 is very important as we enter FY12 .The group also reinforced their recommendation that employee contributions remain the same. 

Members brainstormed other possibilities for reducing plan costs that will be brought up to the Joint Health Care Committee. Due to the large number of changes to the health plan, Chief HR Officer Beth Behner told SAA members that this year the open enrollment will be an active process, meaning that everyone will be asked to review the materials and select their health plan options. Anyone not responding will default to the middle plan along with their eligible dependents.

The tuition benefit was also discussed and changes in regulation are currently under General Counsel review. If implemented, changes this fall may include a 6-month wait for new hires before the tuition benefit is available, and a performance requirement for the payment of tuition. Under the new rules an employee or dependent using the tuition benefit may have to reimburse the university for tuition if they fail a course that the university paid for. SAA will continue to monitor proposed changes to the tuition benefit.

Community campuses will be piloting a new wellness benefit program this year. Campuses are encouraged to create their own custom wellness program and request funding for the program or incentives. The union generated fund was formerly used to pay $100 to each employee who filled out a Personal Wellness Profile. That offer will no longer exist. Instead rural sites, which do not have the same wellness opportunities as the main urban campuses, will have an opportunity to create incentive programs for their staff.

For additional resources including meeting minutes and agendas please visit the SAA Website.

BOR will meet on the Mat-Su campus in Palmer April 7-8

The next meeting of the Board of Regents will be April 7-8, on the Mat-Su campus in Palmer. There will be opportunity for public comments each morning. The agenda includes a demonstration of upgrades to UAOnline regarding e-learning registration, presentations from the host school Mat-Su College, and resolutions of appreciation for Ashton Compton, Fran Ulmer and Steve Smith. For the full agenda and supporting information please visit the Regents'  Website.

Geotags and Your Privacy

Privacy is important to the University of Alaska. Nathan Zierfuss in the Office of Information Technology deals with issues of privacy and information security that are of concern to the system as a whole. He identifies priorities, addresses issues with constituent groups and acts as a point of contact and resource to ensure the university is maintaining compliance with laws & regulation as well as its commitment to information protection. The following is information he felt is of interest to the University of Alaska community regarding personal privacy. Feel free to contact him regarding UA security matters.

Geotags are metadata embedded in digital photos by GPS enabled devices that tell where the photo was taken. They are commonly but sometimes silently added to photos taken by most GPS enabled camera phones. Geotagging photos can be great for knowing exactly where you took a photo. If you are uploading frequently to social media sites however this information could be used to track you.

Knowing what information your mobile devices are distributing and how to disable them is important. Attached are instructions for disabling geotagging of photos should you choose to do so. A link to instructions for other popular cellphones can be found at the end. READ MORE....

Gamble lauds President Obama’s choice of Ulmer for U.S. Arctic Research Commission Chair

Pat Gamble, president of the University of Alaska System, released the following statement regarding President Barack Obama’s appointment of University of Alaska Anchorage Chancellor Fran Ulmer to a four-year term as chair of the U.S. Arctic Research Commission, an independent federal agency:

“Fran Ulmer has my personal and heartfelt congratulations on this prestigious appointment. I know Fran is going to represent Alaska’s interests very well at the commission, which is charged with developing a national policy on integrated Arctic research. Fran’s leadership qualities are exceptional, and all of us at the University of Alaska look forward to a continued strong relationship with her as she begins this exciting new position.”

Ulmer announced over a year ago that she would retire as UAA chancellor in 2011. Gamble announced in January his choice of former dean of UAA’s College of Business and Public Policy, Tom Case, to succeed Ulmer. The two have been working closely since and the transition is expected to be a smooth one.

Planning for disaster

Rick Forkel, front left, discusses the upcoming disaster training exercise with local fire department and medical personnel. Photo by Monique Musick

Disaster exercise to focus on key training objectives

A terrorist plot, law enforcement investigations, improvised explosive devices (IEDs), an explosive incident and large numbers of casualties– these are just some of the components coming together in preparation for a large scale exercise being designed to test the university’s emergency communications, community preparedness, on-site management using the incident command system, evacuation control, triage, and transportation of injured.

In a series of events July 26 – 28, a hypothetical terrorist attack on the UAF campus will test the skills of local law enforcement, fire and rescue, the Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, Bassett hospital, the American Red Cross, urban search and rescue crews, and UAF’s crisis-communications.  Organized by Rick Forkel of  UA’s Emergency Management department, under the oversight of Kathy Cavyell of the Alaska Division of Homeland Security, each entity involved in the scenario is identifying key areas of training they want their members to be able to practice during this drill.

On March 25, the key stakeholders met to review plans and establish joint objectives for the exercise. For instance the Fairbanks Memorial Hospital has just revamped their mass casualty plan and are requesting 30–40 patients to test their new patient delivery system. The University Fire Department will be training in urban search and rescue and will want to test their basic skills during the search for the injured following the mock explosion. The Borough Emergency Management office will assist local dispatch in allocating EMS resources for the transfer and treatment of the injured. UAF’s marketing and communications department will be testing campus emergency communications and will establish a Joint Information Center (JIC) to send out alert notifications, manage media, and direct the flow of public information.

The group will hold additional planning sessions in order to finalize the Master Sequence of Events List (MSEL) for the scenario. Impact on the campus will be kept to a minimum, including controlling the flow of traffic, and business will continue as usual throughout the exercise. For more information on the scheduled incident, and other aspects of the university’s emergency management program, please contact Rick Forkel at 450-8149.

Groundbreaking for Life Sciences Building

A groundbreaking ceremony for the Life Sciences Building will be held March 30, at 4 p.m. Rendering by Smith Group, Incorporated and Bezek Durst Seiser, Incorporated

Construction on Life Sciences Building to begin this spring

Activity surrounding the construction of the Life Sciences Building on the UAF campus will be increasing this spring. There will be a groundbreaking for the UAF Life Sciences Facility, Wednesday, March 30 at 4 p.m. Preliminary steps in the construction of the new Life Sciences building will begin right after the groundbreaking ceremony.

Impact on parking and roads
The Sheenjek parking lot (dirt parking lot) behind Irving I and Irving II will be closed  beginning March 25th until Spring 2014. All vehicles, trailers, etc. need to be removed by March 25th. Parking in lot 9F (directly behind Irving I and Irving II) will be unavailable for most of the summer, depending on the Life Sciences construction schedule.

Sheenjek Drive (in front of BiRD and Virology buildings) is also slated for closure in early April. Access to the parking behind O’Neill and WRRB will be accessible via Tanana Loop, behind the Elvey building. Signs will be going up soon that will help with wayfinding and detour routes. The normally closed North Tanana Loop will be open for contractor access only so please do not use this route.

There will be some noise associated with the construction. Initially, we can expect to see and hear loaders, excavators, dump trucks, and bulldozers. The associated noise will consist of backup alarms, diesel engines, tracks on the bulldozers, air horns from the dump trucks, etc.

There will be vibration associated with gravel compaction. April will likely be the noisiest month, as this is when the head house from the old WR Greenhouse will be taken down and the major excavation will occur.

In late June, a crane will be placed behind Irving I/Irving II, and there will be noise associated with steel erection. The construction noise should lessen by September, after the steel is up.

If you have any questions, please call Facilities Services at 474-1919.

Additionally, you can access either the construction Website.
or the UAF Life Sciences Facebook page.

SAA Elections

The Statewide Administration Assembly is designated to represent the interests of Statewide staff. SAA is the statewide voice to the university administration for work issues, a link to the decision-makers, and as such, having trustworthy representatives on the assembly is in everyone's best interest. There is no better way to find out all the issues affecting, or potentially affecting the university system, nor any more direct voice for making your opinion as a staff member heard.

Regents' policy, Chapter 3.01, established governance groups within the University of Alaska to provide the opportunity for faculty, staff and students to participate in the governance and effective operation of the university. This is considered to be an integral part of the university community's culture.

The policy establishes a vital two-way communication structure between faculty, staff and student representatives on various system councils, UA administration and the Board of Regents. System governance recommendations are sent directly to UA Administration or Board of Regents. Similarly, items initiated by the President, the President's designee or the Board of Regents affecting matters within the scope of staff, faculty and/or student governance, must be submitted to the appropriate system governance group in a timely fashion to allow sufficient time for adequate review and response prior to implementation.

Now is the time for new members to have an opportunity to become a part of the governance process. SAA nominations have been extended until April 8. If you know someone you think would be a good representative or are interested yourself, please send those names to sysaa@email.alaska.edu or drop them off at the System Governance Office in Suite 105, Butrovich. 

More people nominated means more choices during the upcoming SAA election.  SAA doesn't cost anything, but it does give Statewide employees a voice in workplace issues.

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