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Benefits director outlines changes, answers questions on new options

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Elizabeth A. Thomson
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In 2004, a medical task force was charged with examining the cost and quality of medical services and health insurance coverage provided by MIT to its students, employees, retirees and postdocs. In November 2005, the task force concluded that the existing MIT model for providing health care and health insurance has performed well historically, that the MIT community is generally highly satisfied with it and that it can continue to serve MIT well in the future. A working group led by Sherwin Greenblatt, then executive vice president and treasurer, reviewed the task force's 41 recommendations and issued a progress report last month. The members of the working group were Tricia Fay, director of benefits; Dr. William Kettyle, director of MIT Medical; Jim Morgan, controller; and Israel Ruiz, director of finance.

Here, Fay responds to questions from around the Institute regarding benefits.

Q: Is there a possibility that retirees can be covered under a dental plan?

A: We are exploring offering a dental plan to retirees in 2008 and have received preliminary information from Delta Dental. While it is simple to develop and design a plan, the real question is making sure that the plan is affordable and can be administered efficiently.

Q: Can orthodontia be covered for active employees?

A: We are looking into the possibility of a dental plan choice that will include orthodontia benefits in 2008.

Q: Health care premiums have been getting steadily more expensive. Is there relief in sight?

A: Health care costs continue to increase, which impacts both the Institute and the individuals who purchase their health insurance through the Institute. In 2007 we changed our pricing and cost-sharing strategy so that contributions are now based on the overall value of the plans vs. the underlying claims experience. MIT increased its overall commitment to healthcare from 61 to 63 percent. We continue to seek opportunities to reduce the increase in health care costs, such as adding more wellness programs and disease management services to our plans.

Q: I only cover myself and one other person, but MIT does not offer a two-person health insurance option thereby forcing me to purchase family coverage. Has MIT considered changing the health care options so that I would not have to purchase family coverage?

A: We intend to implement four-tier pricing in plan year 2008 that would offer four options: 1) individual, 2) family, 3) individual plus spouse (or spousal equivalent) and 4) employee plus one or more children (but no spouse). Under the new four-tier pricing program, many employees who are currently paying for family coverage will be able to reduce their costs by buying employee plus spouse or employee plus children coverage.

Q:  I travel a lot and I wanted to find out what emergency assistance services MIT has for its faculty and staff when they travel on business outside of the country.  Where can I find this information?

A:  MIT has recently contracted with a company called International SOS to provide faculty and staff with emergency medical and security evacuation services when they are outside of this country on MIT business.  More detailed information about this new program can be found on the Insurance Office web site at HYPERLINK ""

Q: What happens if I am disabled and cannot work for six months or more?

A: Part of the Institute's benefits package includes coverage for long-term disabilities lasting longer than six months. Under this program you will receive 60 percent of your base annual salary for the length of your disability or until you reach age 65.

Q: I am a faculty member who is planning to take a sabbatical next year. What health insurance options will I have?

A: Your health insurance options will not change. If you are planning to travel while on your sabbatical you should make sure that you enroll in one of our plans that extends coverage outside of the local area. The MIT Flexible Health Plan offers coverage for the treatment of illness while outside the plan but would not cover routine medical care such as physicals and preventive services. The Blue Cross PPO and POS plans offer complete flexibility under what is called the "Blue Care" program. The Blue Care program allows enrollees in these plans to use any Blue Cross provider in the United States and internationally and receive in-network coverage. Coverage is also provided for non-network providers, however, you will need to pay a larger share of the cost for the non-network providers.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on May 23, 2007 (download PDF).

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