Benefits Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) - Officers

FAQ Contents:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Annual Benefits Salary

Q. For benefits purposes, I understand premiums and contributions are based on my "Annual Benefits Salary." What is my Annual Benefits Salary?

A. Annual Benefits Salary is the greater of: a) the base salary in effect on each July 1; or b) the prior 12 months’ gross compensation, plus certain additional and private practice compensation, to June 30. It is calculated as of July 1 each year. Thus, if you have worked full-time during the full 12-month period, ending June 30, your Annual Benefits Salary would include your clinical practice salary. Your Annual Benefits Salary is used to determine your medical contributions, Child Care Benefit eligibility, Life Insurance coverage and Long-Term Disability (LTD) coverage amount.

Dental

Q. How can I find a network dental provider?

A. To locate an Aetna participating dentist, go to http://www.aetna.com/dse/search?site_id=DirectLink&externalPlanCode=DPPO|Aetna_Network_Dentist. However, if you want to receive a higher level of reimbursement for dental services, use a dentist that participates in the Columbia University network. Columbia Preferred dentists are located throughout the Tri-state area. To locate a Columbia Preferred dentist, go to http://www.aetna.com/docfind/custom/columbia

Q. What is my reimbursement for dental services if I go out of the network?

A. If you go out of network, the reimbursement amount is limited to the network-negotiated fees. Since non-network dentists can charge you in excess of the network-negotiated fees, you total percentage reimbursement out-of-network will likely be much lower than if you had received dental services in-network.
 

Dependent Eligibility Verification

Q. I want to enroll my spouse/eligible same-sex domestic partner and/or children under my health coverage. How do I submit verification of their eligibility?
A. Scan and email the verification documents to the Columbia Benefits Service Center at hrbenefits@columbia.edu, or send a secure fax to 212-851-7025. For a list of required documentation, please see the Benefits Highlights available at http://hr.columbia.edu/officers-health-welfare. Please note: Eligible dependents must be enrolled within 31 days of a Qualified Life Status Change, such as a birth or marriage.

 

Disability Insurance

Q. Do I need to elect Basic Long-Term Disability coverage?
A. As a regular full-time Officer of Columbia University, you are automatically covered by Basic Long-Term Disability (LTD) Insurance through Cigna, as of your date of hire, at no cost to you. No active election is required.

Q. What benefits are provided by Basic Long-Term Disability?
A. Basic LTD begins after you have been disabled for six months. For the first six months, your LTD benefits payment is 66 2/3% of your Annual Benefits Salary up to $100,000 and it is reduced to 60% thereafter. Contributions to the Officers’ Retirement Plan continue if you become Totally and Permanently Disabled.

Q. If I did not elect Optional LTD at my date of hire, can I elect Optional LTD during Open Enrollment?
A. Yes, you may elect Optional LTD during Open Enrollment, but you will need to be approved for coverage by Cigna after submitting Evidence of Insurability (EOI). Note that your additional coverage and after-tax payroll deductions will not begin until Cigna has approved your application.

Q. What benefits are available through Optional Long-Term Disability?
A.  Optional LTD begins after you have been disabled for six months. For the first six months, your LTD benefits payment is 66 2/3% of your Annual Benefits Salary up to $300,000 and it is reduced to 60% thereafter. Once disabled, there is a 3% cost-of-living increase each year in the disability payment. Contributions to the Officers’ Retirement Plan continue if you become Totally and Permanently Disabled.
 

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Employee Assistance Plan (EAP)

Q. Who is eligible for benefits under the EAP?
A. As a Part-time or Full-time Officer of Columbia University, you and anyone living in your household are eligible for EAP benefits. There is no requirement that you or a member of your household participate or be eligible for the University’s medical plans.

Q. What other benefits are available under the EAP, in addition to the initial assessment and three confidential EAP counseling sessions per subject?
A. The EAP, provided by Humana, provides you or household members with concierge services, including everything from providing help finding a dog walker, picking up dry cleaning, obtaining theatre tickets, travel planning—and more.

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Health Savings Account (HSA)

Q. If I am enrolled in the HSA in 2016, do I need to re-enroll for 2017 to continue contributing?
A. For 2017, you must actively elect to continue participating in the HSA during Open Enrollment. Your current 2016 election will NOT automatically roll over for 2017. Remember: you may enroll or change your HSA contribution at any time during the calendar year, provided that you coninute to meet the eligibility requirements.

Q. What are the IRS maximum contributions to the HSA for 2016?
A. Your pre-tax contributions for 2016 cannot exceed $3,350 for Yourself only coverage and $6,750 for Yourself and Spouse\Same-Sex Domestic Partner\Child or Family coverage. If you are at least age 55 and you are not enrolled in Medicare, you can make “catch-up” contributions up to an additional $1,000.

Q. What are the IRS maximum contributions to the HSA for 2017?
A. Your pre-tax contributions for 2017 cannot exceed $3,400 for Yourself only coverage (increase of $50 over 2016 limit) and $6,750 for Yourself and Spouse\Same-Sex Domestic Partner\Child or Family coverage. If you are at least age 55 and you are not enrolled in Medicare, you can make “catch-up” contributions up to an additional $1,000.

Q. What are the restrictions on electing an HSA?
A. Under IRS regulations, if you enroll in an HSA, you cannot participate in any Healthcare Flexible Sending Account (FSA), including rollover amounts. In addition, if your spouse participates in a Healthcare FSA that permits reimbursement of your unreimbursed medical expenses, then you will not be eligible to establish or contribute to an HSA until you are no longer covered by your spouse’s Healthcare FSA. Finally, you will not be eligible to establish or contribute to an HSA if you are covered by another medical plan option that is not an HSA-qualified Health Savings Plan (HSP), such as an employer's non-HSP. Note that you can contribute to an HSA if you are over age 65 but only if you are not enrolled in any part of Medicare, including Part A. Also, same-sex domestic partners cannot reimburse themselves for their partner’s or their partner’s children’s unreimbursed medical expenses.

Q. Is the full annual election for the HSA available for reimbursement at the beginning of the calendar year?
A. You cannot access your funds in your Health Savings Account until you have contributed them.

Q. What happens if I have an HSA but elect the Choice Plus 90 Medical Plan for 2017?
A. Since you are not participating in the Health Savings Plan (HSP) for 2017, you may not make any additional contributions to the HSA for 2017. However, you may continue to use any balance in your HSA to reimburse yourself for any unreimbursed medical expenses for yourself or your eligible dependents.

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Imputed Income

Q. What is Imputed Income?
A. Imputed income is taxable income that reflects the value of a benefit you receive. An example is when you are taxed on the imputed value of same-sex domestic partner benefits—which occurs when you enroll your same-sex domestic partner in a Columbia medical plan. This value is reflected on your W-2 as imputed income, which is subject to taxes.  

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Long-Term Care Insurance (LTC)

Q. I am a resident of Connecticut, why can't I participate in the Genworth Long-Term Care Plan?
A. New York State insurance and licensure laws restrict Genworth from providing LTC benefits to residents in the following states only: Alabama, Colorado, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming.
 
Q. How do I pay the premiums for the Genworth LTC Insurance?
A. Genworth will send an invoice directly to you or the participating family member. Automatic payments can be set up from individual bank accounts.
 
Q. What if I currently have coverage with John Hancock?
A. If you currently have a John Hancock LTC insurance policy, it will remain in effect as long as you pay your premiums. You are eligible, however, to purchase coverage through the Genworth offer to supplement your current plan with the preferred underwriting approach. It is unlikely that replacing your current coverage with the Genworth Life Plan would be beneficial, as LTC premiums are based on your age at the time of purchase and the type of plan. If you need to contact the John Hancock Group please call 1-800-482-0022 Monday through Friday between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m.
 
Q. Where can I find more information about LTC Insurance?
A. To learn more about enrolling in Genworth LTC or for more information, go to www.genworth.com/columbia or speak to a Genworth LTC expert by calling 1-800-416-3624.

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Medical

Medical: General

Q. How can I find out whether my current providers are participating in the UnitedHealthcare (UHC) network?
A. You can review UHC’s network at http://columbia.welcometouhc.com/find-a-doctor to see if your physician is included in the UHC provider network. By scrolling down, you can also view a listing of Columbia Doctors who provide in-network healthcare services via UHC to Columbia’s faculty and staff as well as their dependents under “Columbia University Medical Providers” or “Columbia University Behavioral Health Providers."

Q. What plans will be offered under UHC?
A. Columbia University currently offers four medical plan options administered by UHC: 1) Health Savings Plan (HSP), 2) Choice Plus 80 Plan, 3) Choice Plus 90 Plan and 4) Choice Plus 100 Plan.

Q. Do I have to enroll in UHC or will my current coverage automatically roll over?
A. If you are currently enrolled in medical coverage through Columbia University, your coverage will automatically roll over for 2017. 
 
Q. Are there any changes in how the healthcare plan will operate in 2017?
A.  Generally, the four medial plan options, the Health Savings Plan (HSP), Choice Plus 80 Plan, Choice Plus 90 Plan and Choice Plus 100 Plan will continue to work the same way. However, beginning January 1, 2017:

  • all plan deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums will be increased. For more information, please go to http://hr.columbia.edu/2017-oe-news
  • the prescription drug vendor Express Scripts wil be replaced by OptumRx
  • the Choice Plus 100 Plan will have a $200 per individual deductible for network services where a copay is not charged
  • Virtual physician visits will be covered in all four UHC plans as well as a new Women's Health Program

Q. How does the In-Network deductible work in the Choice Plus 100 Plan?
A. The In-Network deductible of $200 per person only applies to services with no copay such as:

  • Diagnostic tests and imaging outside the hospital
  • Physician & Surgeon fees in the hospital and in an outpatient facility
  • Home health care
  • Skilled nursing care
  • Durable medical equipment

Q. How do I learn more about Virtual Physican Visits and what is covered?
A. Virtual Visits allow online access to physician 24/7 through your mobile phone, tablet or computer. You can speak with a physician in real-time to obtain a diagnosis or a prescription drug, if necessary. Go to www.myuhc.com and log in with your username and password. If you have not set up a username and password, you must do so before getting started. Once you are registered, choose a virtual provider group. You will then be moved into the virtual waiting room. During your visit, you will be able to see and speak with a U.S. Board-Certified physician about your health concerns. For more information go to http://hr.columbia.edu/virtual-visits.

Q. What are the Women's Health Programs available for all the Unitedhealtcare Medical Plans?
A. There are several different resources and services that make up the Women's Health Programs. For additional information, please visit http://hr.columbia.edu/womens-health-programs.

  • The Maternity Support Program helps ensure you and your baby receive the best care from pregnancy through the first few months of your baby’s life. 
  • The Reproductive Resource Service can help if you are one of millions dealing with infertility issues.  A team of specialized nurse consultants can work with you through out the treatment process.
  • Neonatal Resource Service can help if your baby is born preterm or with a serious health problem. A dedicated team of nurse managers and social workers as well as other resources are available to assist you and your baby.

Q. Will I get a new UHC ID card for 2017?
A. Yes, all 2017 participants in the UnitedHealthcare medical plans will get a new ID card to be used for Medical, Prescription Drug (OptumRx) and Vision before January 1, 2017. his card should be used at your physician's office and pharmacy in 2017 to identify yourself as a UnitedHealthcare and OptumRx participant.

Q. I need help finding a UHC network provider. Who can help me?
A. Contact UHC at 1-800-232-9357 or search for in-network providers at http://columbia.welcometouhc.com/find-a-doctor.

Q. What is the difference between preventive and diagnostic services?
A. Preventive care includes immunizations, lab tests, screenings and other services intended to prevent illness or detect problems before you notice symptoms. Diagnostic medical care involves treating or diagnosing a problem you are having by monitoring existing problems, checking out new symptoms or following up on abnormal test results. Examples of diagnostic medical care include a mammogram to follow up after the deduction of a breast lump or a colonoscopy to evaluate rectal bleeding.

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Medical: In-Network Coverage

Q. How do I find a Columbia physician who is in the network of my Columbia University medical plan?
A. To see if a Columbia physician is part of the UHC network, go to http://columbia.welcometouhc.com/physicians-facilities. Before you decide to use a ColumbiaDoctors physician, call the physician's office, identify yourself as a Columbia University employee, and ask if the physician accepts Columbia University "in-network" medical insurance.

Q. How do I know if my provider stops participating in the network?
A. It is the provider's responsibility to notify you if he/she leaves the network. When you see your physician, especially if it's infrequently, check with his/her office to make sure that they are still participating in your network.

Q. Is a colonoscopy considered preventive care in-network?
A. Yes. Colonoscopies are considered preventive, provided the physician bills for the procedure as a preventive screening and it falls within the preventive guidelines (usually associated with an age). For further details, please see the Summary Plan Description (SPD).

Q. If I go to an in-network physician for an exam and the doctor takes a specimen for a lab test, do I need to pay the $30 office copay plus the coinsurance for the cost of the lab test?
A. Yes, even if the lab work is done in the physician's office, it will be unbundled from the office visit and any labs tests will be subject to the deductible and coinsurance. In addition, if you receive a separate bill from the lab, or if you go to a separate facility for test(s), those fees will be billed separately and subject to the plan's deductible and coinsurance.

Q. How are in-network outpatient lab and radiology charges covered under the UHC Choice Plus 100 Plan?
A. In general, if you receive the lab or radiology service in a hospital, you will be billed a $150 copay. Alternatively, if you use a free-standing facility outside of the hospital, you will be covered at 100% after the deductible. It is important to note that there is no copay if you use certain designated New York-Presbyterian (NYP) Hospital locations for hospital-based outpatient laboratory and radiology services. Please see the list of locations (PDF).

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Medical: Out-of-Network Coverage

Q. What is the Medicare Maximum Allowable Charge (MAC)?
A. Under the Columbia University medical plans, out-of-network reimbursement for covered medical services in all plans is indexed to 190% of the Medicare Maximum Allowable Charge (MAC). For examples of how this works and a list of charges, see the Medicare MAC information sheet (PDF). Out-of- network outpatient Mental Health or Substance Abuse counseling and programs are covered at 70% of 190% of the Medicare MAC.

Q. Do I or my covered dependents need to obtain preauthorization for out-of-network outpatient behavioral health counseling?
A. No. If you see a provider who does not participate in your medical plan's network, you and your covered dependents will no longer need to obtain preauthorization for outpatient Mental Health or Substance Abuse counseling services. However, if you or a covered dependent needs inpatient care or outpatient programs, you are still responsible for obtaining preauthorization. As a reminder, all treatment must be considered medically necessary in order to be reimbursed by your medical plan.

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Medical: Annual Deductibles, Coinsurance and Out-of-Pocket Maximum

Q. Is there a dollar limit on how much I pay out of pocket in the medical plans?
A. Yes, once you reach the in-network out-of-pocket maximum, the plan pays 100% of in-network covered expenses.
Please refer to the chart below for the 2016 in-network out-of-pocket maximums for Officer Medical Plans:

The 2017 in-network out-of-pocket maximums for Officer Medical Plans will be available on October 17th at http://hr.columbia.edu/2017-oe-news.

Q. Do copays accumulate toward the deductible?
A. If you participate in any of the Choice Plus plans, your copays do not accumulate toward the annual deductible; however, they do accumulate toward your annual in-network out-of-pocket maximum. The deductible also applies to your annual out-of-pocket maximum. Prescription drug copays also count toward the medical plans' in-network out-of-pocket maximums. If you are enrolled in the HSP, non-preventive prescription drugs are subject to the deductible. After you meet the deductible, prescription copays will apply. Prescription copays accumulate toward the annual in-network out-of-pocket maximum. (The deductible does not apply for preventive prescription drugs.)

Q. Do out-of-network covered charges accumulate towards both the in-network and out-of-network deductible? What about the out-of-pocket maximums?
A. In the Choice Plus 80, 90 and 100 plans, out-of-network Eligible Expenses accumulate towards both the in-network and out-of-network deductible. In-network Eligible Expenses only accumulate toward the in-network deductible. The out-of-network coinsurance amount, accumulates towards both the in-network and out-of-network out-of-pocket maximum. For out-of-network providers, Eligible Expenses are limited to 190% of the Medicare Maximum Allowable Charge (MAC). However, if you enroll in the HSP there is no crossover of in- and out-of-network claims. In addition, if you cover more than one family member there is no individual in-network or out-of-network out-of-pocket maximum.

Q. I am considering moving to the HSP for 2017. What should I understand about how the plan works?
A. You must meet the in-network deductible of $1,500 individual/$3,000 family for non-preventive medical and prescription expenses before the HSP starts to pay for covered expenses. There is no individual deductible or individual out-of-pocket maximum if you elect family coverage (more than one covered person). After you reach the deductible, any additional medical expenses are shared between the Plan and you, 90% Plan/10% you. When your deductible and prescription copays reach the out-of-pocket maximum, the Plan pays 100% of your remaining covered services, including prescription drug costs for the remainder of the calendar year. Only preventive medical care is covered at 100% with no deductible. Preventive drugs are subject to a copay but no deductible. You also have access to the UnitedHealthcare Choice (UHC) network and can contribute to an HSA on a pre-tax basis through payroll deductions.

Q. Can you give me an example of how a non-preventive drug would be processed in the Health Savings Plan (HSP)?
A. For example, if your spouse had the flu and was prescribed Tamiflu at the beginning of January, the full OptumRx price of the medication would be subject to the $3,000 family deductible. The OptumRx estimated cost of 30 DS Tamiflu is $293. Since your spouse’s physician’s office visit of $130 is the only year-to-date claim, the full cost of the Tamiflu ($293) would have to be paid at the pharmacy. Remember, you could reimburse yourself from the HSA, since you elected to contribute the full $6,700 to the account for family coverage. If you pay the pharmacy with a credit card, you would have time to fund the HSA to pay the credit card bill.

In another example, let’s say your spouse has arthritis and is prescribed 50MG/ML of Enbrel, a specialty drug. You need to contact BriovaRx to order the prescription by mail. You once again elected the HSP with family coverage and put $6,700 in the HSA. Let’s say you have only used $500 of your $3,000 family HSP deductible. You would have to pay Accredo approximately $970 for the prescription. However, you could use your HSA to reimburse yourself.

Q. Can you give me an example of how a preventive drug would be processed in the HSP?
A. In the HSP, prescription drugs that are categorized as “preventive” are not subject to the annual deductible, so you are only responsible for paying the appropriate copay. For example, if your spouse has asthma and is prescribed Singulair in early January, the preventive medication bypasses the deductible and your spouse will be responsible for the $45 multi-source copay. Prescription copays accumulate toward the HSP out-of-pocket maximum, so if you met the family out-of-pocket maximum for the year, you would no longer be responsible for the prescription copay. The OptumRx preventive drug list will be available soon.

Q. Where can I go if I have additional questions?
A. Contact the Columbia Benefits Service Center by emailing hrbenefits@columbia.edu or call 212-851-7000 between the hours of 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.

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Medical: Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA)

Q: What is the Cadillac Tax that begins in 2020?
A: The ACA applies a 40% tax on employers who provide benefits to employees that exceed certain costs. Benefits subject to the cadillac tax include all employer-sponsored medical coverage, premiums, flexible spending accounts, health reimbursement accounts and health savings accounts. The employer pays the tax to the Internal Revenue Service. Beginning in 2020, healthcare reform limits benefits costs up to $10,200 for single person coverage and $27,500 for other coverage, including family coverage. These amounts will be updated and indexed to inflation before the tax takes effect in 2020.

Q: What is the Employee Notice of Coverage Options, also known as the Employee Notice of the Exchange?
A: All employers subject to the Fair Labor Standards Act (which includes most employers) are required to notify all employees by October 1, 2013 of availability of the new Health Insurance Marketplace (also known as the Exchange) to purchase health insurance.

Q: What is an Exchange?
A: As of January 1, 2014, the law requires a new Health Insurance Marketplace, also known as a Health Insurance Exchange, be established in every state. The Health Insurance Exchange is a new way for individuals and small businesses to purchase health insurance that is run by state, federal or combined governments. Exchanges offer individuals standard health plans at five levels of coverage ranging from 60% to 100% of covered costs: bronze – at least 60%; silver – at least 70%; gold – at least 80%, platinum – at least 90%; and catastrophic –100%. This program will help make health insurance more affordable for those receiving a Federal Premium Subsidy (financial assistance).

Q: What is a Marketplace?
A: The ACA has a provision which requires the establishment of a Health Insurance Exchange in every state beginning January 1, 2014. In the spring of 2013, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) started calling this program the Health Insurance Marketplace. To access the Health Insurance Marketplace, individuals living:

Q: What is the individual mandate?
A: The ACA imposes tax penalties on individuals who do not maintain minimum essential coverage beginning March 31, 2014 and is referred to as the individual mandate. The penalty is on a sliding scale for three years and is 1/12th of the greater of:

  • For 2014: $95 per uninsured adult in the household or 1% of the household income over the filing threshold
  • For 2015: $325 per uninsured adult in the household or 2% of the household income over the filing threshold
  • For 2016: $695 per uninsured adult in the household or 2.5% of the household income over the filing threshold
  • Beginning in 2017, the penalties will be increased by a cost-of-living adjustment

Q: How can the minimum essential coverage provisions be satisfied?
A: Individuals satisfy the minimum essential coverage requirement with one of the following:

  • Eligible employer-sponsored coverage
  • Individual health plan
  • Grandfathered health plan
  • Medicare part A
  • Medicaid
  • Children's Health Insurance Program
  • TRICARE (military health system)
  • Veterans Affairs
  • Other coverage as may be designated by the Department of Health and Human Services
  • Coverage purchased through a state insurance exchange or the federal exchange

Q: What are the ACA rules related to W-2 reporting of the value of employer-sponsored health coverage?
A: Starting with the 2012 tax year, the ACA required employers who distribute 250 or more Form W-2s for the tax year to include the value of applicable employer-sponsored coverage on each employee's Form W-2. This is not considered taxable income and is for information purposes only.

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Prescription Drugs

Q. Who will be the prescription drug vendor for 2017 and how do I transfer my prescriptions?             
A. OptumRx will replace Express Scripts effective January 1, 2017. For more information on your new new prescription drug benefits, go to: http://hr.columbia.edu/new-prescription-drug-plan.

Q. What is the difference between generic, single-source and multi-source prescription drugs?             
A. Each of the below categories requires different copays. More information is available at http://hr.columbia.edu/officers-prescription-drug-coverage.

  • Generic – A generic drug is generally comparable to the brand-name drug in dosage, strength, and intended use. Generic drugs typically cost less than brand name drugs.
  • Single-Source – Single-source drugs are those brand-name drugs that do not have a generic equivalent or generic alternative.
  • Multi-Source – Multi-source drugs are those that are available both as the brand-name drug, and as generic equivalents or generic alternatives.

Q. How do I obtain specialty medications (calendar year 2016)?     
A. Express Scripts has contracted with Accredo to provide direct mail-order delivery of specialty medications. If you use a pharmacy other than Accredo, you will responsible for the entire cost of the medication. By filling your specialty prescriptions through Accredo, Plan copays will apply. Call 877-895-9697 to speak to a patient-care representative. Specialty-trained pharmacists and nurses are available 24/7 to answer your questions and assist you in managing your condition.

Q. How do I obtain specialty medications (calendar year 2017)?     
A. OptumRx has contracted with BriovaRx to provide direct mail-order delivery of specialty medications. If you use a pharmacy other than BriovaRx, you will responsible for the entire cost of the medication. By filling your specialty prescriptions through Briova, plan copays will apply. Call 855-427-4682 to speak to a patient-care representative. Specialty-trained pharmacists and nurses are available 24/7 to answer your questions and assist you in managing your condition.

Q. How do I order refills of specialty medications (calendar year 2016)?                                                                                                      
A. Accredo will contact you regularly to schedule your next refill and see how your therapy is progressing. Some specialty medication refills can be ordered online, safely and securely, at https://www.express-scripts.com/.

Q. How do I order refills of specialty medications (calendar year 2017)?                                                                                                      
A. BriovaRx will contact you regularly to schedule your next refill and see how your therapy is progressing. 

Q. What drugs are considered “preventive” for the purposes of the Health Savings Plan (HSP)?                                                        
A.  Preventive Drugs are not subject to the deductible in the HSP. OptumRx has adopted the 2016 Columbia University Express Scripts Preventive Drug list, so there will be no changes in 2017. The following list, which is subject to change, provides the therapeutic classes of prescription drugs, and the conditions for which drugs may be prescribed, that are considered “preventive” under federal guidelines:

 

AnticoagulantsDiabetesMental Health/ Substance Abuse Agents
Antihypertensive Agents (high blood pressure)Heart DiseaseOsteoporosis
Asthma/COPDHepatitis CPrenatal Vitamins
Cholesterol Lowering AgentsImmunosuppressant AgentsThyroid Disease


For more information, through the end of 2016 please call Express Scripts at 800-230-0508. Begining January 1, 2017, please call OptumRx at 866-533-6977.

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Retirement Plans

Retirement: General

Q. Does Columbia University provide retirement programs to Officers?
A. Yes, the University provides the following retirement programs to its Officers: 1) the Columbia University Retirement Plan for Officers, Support Staff and Supporting Staff Association; and 2) the Voluntary Retirement Savings Plan (VRSP). Full-time and Part-time Officers of Columbia University can begin contributing to the VRSP as soon as you are employed and receiving a paycheck.

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The Voluntary Retirement Savings Plan (VRSP)

Q. If I enroll in the VRSP, do I have to wait until the next Open Enrollment to change my contributions?
A. No. You may elect to change or discontinue your contribution at any time during the year at www.hr.columbia.edu/benefits. All contributions made to the VRSP are made by you and are forwarded to the vendor for investment immediately after each pay date.

Q. Will participation in the VRSP reduce my Social Security benefits?
A. No. Pre-tax contributions to the VRSP reduce taxable compensation for federal (and in some instances, state) income tax purposes only.
 
Q. How can I invest my VRSP account?
A. You can select investment funds for your contributions from one or both of the plan carriers: TIAA and Vanguard. Please contact the carriers directly to review the investment choices available to you via their contact information below or at www.hr.columbia.edu/benefits:

Q. What are the maximum pre-tax dollars I can contribute?
A.  For 2016, the IRS annual limit on pre-tax contributions is $18,000. If you are age 50 or over, you can contribute an additional $6,000 in catch-up contributions for 2016. If you contributed to another employer’s pre-tax retirement savings plan during the calendar year in which you are hired by Columbia, be sure the contribution percentage you elect for the VRSP does not bring your contributions over the IRS annual limit.

Q. What is eligible pay for the VRSP?
A. In general, eligible pay for the VRSP is your gross compensation reported as W-2 pay, and excludes imputed income on the value of certain gifts and rewards.

Q. Can I roll over my 401(k) or 403(b) account balance from my previous employer?
A. Once you have set up your VRSP account, fill out a Rollover form. You may also be required to coordinate this rollover with your former employer and the selected carrier. Note: You cannot rollover funds into the Officers’ Retirement Plan account.

Q. How can I access my VRSP account balance?
A.  Following, are ways to access your VRSP account balance:

  • When you reach age 59½ you may withdraw up to 100% of your total account.
  • You can take a loan if you have funds invested with TIAA. As an active employee, if you have a VRSP balance, you may be eligible to apply for up to two concurrent loans through TIAA. If your money is not invested with TIAA, you must first request an asset transfer from Vanguard to TIAA. Please contact TIAA at www.tiaa.org or call them at 800-842-2252 to complete the necessary paperwork. Please allow approximately 2 to 3 weeks for processing.
  • Hard hardship withdrawals are also permitted from the VRSP if you are under severe financial distress.

Q. What criteria do I need to meet to be eligible for a hardship withdrawal?
A.  You must have exhausted the maximum number of loans (2) available to you under the VRSP. Under the IRS guidelines, a hardship withdrawal can only be requested under the following circumstances:

  • The purchase of a primary residence
  • Tuition fees for higher education
  • Payments necessary to prevent eviction from or foreclosure on your primary residence
  • Burial or funeral expenses for immediate family
  • Payment of certain unreimbursed medical expenses
  • The repair of casualty damage to your principal residence

The amount of the hardship withdrawal cannot exceed the exact amount needed to cover your financial need, plus any income taxes or penalties.

Q. When am I eligible for a distribution from the VRSP?
A. Generally, if you withdraw assets prior to age 59½, the IRS will impose a 10% penalty tax, in addition to the normal tax consequences. If you meet one of the following criteria, you will not be subject to the 10% tax penalty.

  • Upon reaching age 59½
  • Retiring on and after the year in which your turn 55
  • Disability
  • Death

Q. When must I withdraw money from my VRSP account?
A. Generally, you must begin to take withdrawals from your VRSP account no later than April 1 of the year following the year in which you turn age 70½. If you are still working, you can delay withdrawal from your VRSP account until April 1 following the year in which you retire.

Q. What is Automatic Enrollment?
A. If you were hired on or after July 1, 2013, and do not make a contribution election to the VRSP, you will be automatically enrolled to contribute 3% of your eligible pay on a pre-tax basis,  60 days following your date of hire. You can change the default contribution percentage at any time via the Columbia University Benefits Enrollment System at http://hr.columbia.edu/officers.

Q. I was automatically enrolled. Where is my money invested?
A. Since Vanguard is the default carrier, your contributions will be sent to Vanguard and invested in the Target Retirement fund closest to when you reach age 65.    

Q. What if I don't want to contribute the full 3% to the VRSP?
A. You can change the 3% default contribution and/or the default Vanguard carrier election at any time by logging in to the Benefits Enrollment System at http://hr.columbia.edu/officers.


Q. I was rehired but my contributions began with my first paycheck and I thought I had 60 days. Was I automatically re-enrolled?
A. If you are rehired within 30 days of your termination date, and you had an active VRSP election, your deductions will be automatically reinstated.

Q. How do I opt out of making contributions to the VRSP?
A. Log on to the Benefits Enrollment System at http://hr.columbia.edu/officers and navigate to the VRSP election page. Then, choose the "Opt Out" option.

  • You have 90 days following your automatic enrollment in the VRSP to opt out of the VRSP and receive a refund. The 90-day period begins 60 days from your date of hire.    
  • Your pre-tax contributions deducted from your pay (adjusted for gains or losses) will be returned by Vanguard as soon as administratively possible.  

Q. Will the money returned to me be considered taxable income?
A. Yes. Any money returned will be taxed as ordinary income and a 1099R will be issued to you by Vanguard. Note: There is no penalty for having the money returned.

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Retirement: Columbia University Retirement Plan for Officers ("Officers' Retirement Plan")

Q. When am I eligible to participate in the Officers’ Retirement Plan?
A. All regular full-time, paid Officers of the University are eligible to participate in the Officers’ Retirement Plan. However, some Officers must work for two years before becoming eligible. Please refer to Your Columbia University Retirement Savings Program brochure for more detailed information.

Q. What is eligible pay for the Officers' Retirement Plan?
A. In general, eligible pay for the Officers’ Retirement Plan is your W-2 pay but does not include special compensation, guaranteed income from clinical activities (CUMC), grants, allowances, other University contributions and fringe benefits.

Q. How often are contributions made to the Officers’ Retirement Plan?
A. Contributions are calculated on a payroll basis and automatically allocated to your plan account once you are eligible.

Q. Do I have access to my Columbia University Retirement Plan money (e.g., loan or hardship) as an active employee?
A. No. Loans and hardship distributions are not available from your Officers’ Retirement Plan account.

Q. How can I invest my Officers’ Retirement Plan account?
A. You can select investment funds for your contributions from one of the plan carriers, either TIAA or Vanguard. Please contact the carriers directly to review the investment choices available to you via their contact information below.

Q. What happens if I am enrolled in the Officers’ Retirement Plan but I do not choose a carrier/fund?
A. If you do not select a carrier or fund, Vanguard will be your record keeper and all contributions will be invested in the Vanguard Target Retirement Fund closest to when you reach age 65.  

Q. How can I transfer my Officers’ Retirement Plan account money that was defaulted to Vanguard to TIAA?
A. You must complete an asset transfer from Vanguard and contact TIAA to complete any paperwork they may require. Your total balance including investment earnings will be transferred.

Q. As an Officer, when can I access my account in the Officers’ Retirement Plan after termination?
A. Officers are eligible to access their account after they leave the University. If you withdraw your money after age 55, you will not have to pay the early withdrawal tax penalty.

Q. What is the difference between core contributions and matching contributions?
A.  The University makes core contributions on your behalf to the Officers' Retirement Plan based on age, eligible pay and years of eligible service. Matching contributions are also contributed by the University but require your participation in the VRSP and are held in the Officers' Retirement Plan (not the VRSP).

Q. What are matching contributions?
A. The University provides up to a maximum of 3% matching contributions to an eligible Officer's VRSP election. Matching contributions are based on the percentage of eligible pay you contribute to the VRSP from each paycheck, not on the total amount you contribute during the year. Matching contributions are allocated monthly to the Officers’ Retirement Plan.

Q. Who is eligible for matching contributions?
A. Officers hired on or after July 1, 2013, or rehired after a five-year break in service, are eligible for matching contributions, provided they are enrolled in the VRSP and are eligible for core contributions under the Officers’ Retirement Plan.

Q. If I am hired as a Junior Officer, when will the matching contributions begin, and do I have to do anything?
A. As a Junior Officer of the University, you have a two-year waiting period before you will receive the University's core contributions. Matching contributions will start once you have met the waiting period, provided you have not had a break in service.

Q. Are the University matching contributions 100% vested?
A. Yes. All contributions to the Officers' Retirement Plan are 100% vested.

Q. I contributed the maximum VRSP contribution ($18,000 for 2016) but didn't receive my full 3% matching contributions. Why?
A. The Matching contributions are based on the eligible pay for the Officers' Retirement Plan. It is possible that you reached the VRSP limit before you could reach the maximum matching contribution. Please refer to “Your Columbia University Retirement Savings Program” brochure to see how you can receive the maximum matching contribution from Columbia.

Q. If I choose to have the automatic contributions returned to me and decide to enroll in the VRSP one year later, will I still get matching contributions?
A. Yes. If you make an election and enroll in the VRSP at a later date, you continue to be eligible for matching contributions once you meet the waiting period.

Q. If I opt out of the VRSP during the 90-150 day period, what will happen to the matching contributions and earnings on this money?
A. Your VRSP contributions will be returned to you by Vanguard. The matching contributions and any applicable earnings will be forfeited. All VRSP contributions will stop being deducted from your pay. Additionally, you will receive a Form 1099-R for the year in which the contributions were returned.
    
Q. My VRSP contributions are allocated as a 50-50% split between Vanguard and TIAA. Why can’t I split my matching contributions between the two carriers?
A. Unlike the VRSP, University contributions can only be directed to one carrier at a time.

Q. Can I take an in-Service withdrawal or loan from my matching contributions?
A. No. The matching contributions are University contributions and are treated just like the University core contributions to the Officers' Retirement Plan.

Q. What will happen to my matching contributions if I take a hardship withdrawal?
A. If you take a hardship withdrawal, your VRSP contributions will cease for six months and you will not receive matching contributions.

Q. If I want to contribute the maximum annual IRS Limit amount for the VRSP, are matching contributions included in this limit?
A. No. Matching contributions are not included in the annual IRS limit you can contribute from you pay on a pre-tax or Roth after-tax basis to the VRSP.

Q. I was rehired but have not received matching contributions. Why?
A. Rehires are returned to the Plan in which you were participating at the time you left the University, provided you are rehired within five years.  

Q. I am leaving the University and my last day of work will be before the end of the month when the contributions would normally be sent to TIAA or Vanguard. Will I forfeit the matching contributions?
A. No. Matching contributions calculated on pay before your termination date will be remitted to the carrier at the end of the month.

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Retirement: Retirement Planning

Q. How can I learn more about planning for my retirement?
A. The Columbia University Benefits department sponsors retirement planning workshops several times a year. Workshops are designed to give participants an overview of the retirement planning process and provide education on topics including, taxation, income requirements and estate planning. You may register on the Benefits website under “Events.” In addition to the workshops, the University’s investment carriers provide one-on-one counseling with participants to assist with decision making on investments and personal planning for retirement. You can register at the appropriate vendor websites.

Q. I am thinking of retiring. What do I need to do?  
A. Contact the Benefits Service Center at hrbenefits@columbia.edu or call 212-851-7000 to discuss your options by phone or to schedule a meeting with a Benefits Specialist.

Q. Am I eligible for Retiree Medical coverage as an Officer?
A. You may be eligible for this coverage if you leave the University on or after age 55 and have completed at least 10 years of full-time benefits-eligible service with the University after the age of 45. Contact the Benefits Service Center at hrbenefits@columbia.edu or call 212-851-7000 to discuss your options by phone or to schedule a meeting with a Benefits Specialist.

Q. I am turning age 65 and still working at Columbia University. Do I need to apply for Medicare?
A. No. You do not need to apply for Medicare if you are still employed by the University and eligible for benefits. If you are 65 or older and decide to retire, contact Medicare at www.medicare.gov or call 877-267-2323 60-90 days ahead of your retirement date to discuss your options.

Q. I am turning age 65 and am about to retire. Do I need to apply for Medicare if I elect a Columbia University Retiree Medical Plan?
A. To enroll in a Columbia University retiree medical plan, you must enroll in Medicare Parts A and B. The Supplemental plans offered by Columbia University are secondary to Medicare. These plans also include credible drug coverage so there is no need to enroll in Medicare Part D (prescription drug coverage).

Q. What is Medicare Cross-over?
A. All members (retirees and their eligible dependents) covered by the Columbia University Retiree Indemnity Medical Plan and the UHC Choice Plus 100 Retiree Plan – Post 65 who are over age 65 or disabled employees on Long-Term Disability for 24 months, are eligible to receive Medicare Cross-over. Medicare Cross-over is the process by which Medicare, your primary insurance coverage, sends the information regarding claims they’ve processed for you directly to your secondary insurance coverage. Your secondary carrier then processes the remaining portion of your claim and sends you an Explanation of Benefits (EOB) and any payments owed directly to you or your provider/facility.  

Q. What do I need to do to enroll in Medicare Cross-over as a new enrollee in either the Indemnity or the Choice Plus 100 Plan – Post 65?
A. Call UnitedHealthcare Member Services for Columbia University plan members at (800) 232-9357, Monday-Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. to sign up for or change the status of your Medicare Cross-over.

Q. What options do I have as a retiree for dental coverage?
A. If you are enrolled in the Aetna Dental Plan you may continue this coverage for up to 18 months under COBRA. You will receive a COBRA packet in the mail and have 30 days in which to enroll. 


Q. Can I use my Life Insurance after I leave Columbia University?
A. You can convert your life insurance coverage to an individual policy by contacting Cigna at 800-423-1282. Rates will be based on your current age. Evidence of insurability will not be required as long as you apply within 31 days after retirement.

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Retirement: Roth

Q. What is a Roth contribution?
A. Roth contributions are after-tax contributions. You pay tax on the contributions today and when you take a qualified distribution, you won’t have to pay taxes on the contributions and the investment gains/losses on those contributions. The distribution will be tax-free. Unlike pre-tax contributions to the VRSP, you’ll pay taxes on Roth contributions along with the rest of your pay, before they are allocated to the Plan.

The money you contribute on a Roth basis will be taxed as part of your current pay. Unlike pre-tax contributions, Roth contributions don’t reduce your current taxable income. However, if you receive a payout of your Roth savings from the Plan for a qualified distribution, you’ll pay no future taxes on your Roth savings and their investment earnings. So, the tax advantage comes later, after your employment ends, when you receive a payout from your VRSP account.

Q. Can I make additional age 50+ Roth catch-up contributions?
A. Yes; both standard VRSP contributions and catch-up contributions may be made as Roth contributions.
 
Q. How are Roth contributions different from pre-tax contributions?
A. Roth and pre-tax contributions are generally different in three ways:

  1. At the time you contribute:
    • Roth: You pay taxes on the Roth contribution in the same pay period in which you contribute.
    • Pre-tax: Pre-tax contributions are not taxed when you contribute them; they lower your current income for tax purposes.
  2. When you take a distribution for retirement:
    • Roth: You don’t pay taxes on your distribution at retirement, provided it is a qualified distribution. Neither the Roth contributions nor the investment gains/losses that have accumulated will be subject to income tax when you start living off your VRSP savings at retirement. A qualified distribution occurs when:
      • You reach age 59½; and
      • Five years have passed since you started making Roth contributions to an employer plan. This five-year period starts on January 1 of the year you make your first Roth contribution. If you begin making Roth contributions anytime within the year, your five-year period will be measured from January 1st of that year.
      • You can also withdraw Roth funds tax free if you become disabled and have had Roth in the plan for at least five years. If you die, your beneficiary will be eligible to make a tax-free withdrawal as long as your Roth contributions have been in the Plan for at least five years.
    • Pre-tax: You’ll pay taxes—on both your pre-tax contributions and their investment earnings—whenever you receive them from the VRSP.
  3. If you need to take a loan from your balances in the VRSP:
    • Roth: Your savings in the Roth under the VRSP will not be available when you want to take a loan. If you need a loan, it must be funded through your pre-tax balances.
    • Pre-Tax: You may take a loan on the maximum loan amount available to you through your pre-tax accounts.

Q. Are Roth contributions to the VRSP the same as contributions to a Roth IRA?
A. There are similarities and differences:

  • Similarities. All Roth contributions are after-tax contributions. Generally, if you hold your contributions in either the VRSP or an IRA for at least five years (starting from the January 1 of the year you first contribute) and are age 59 ½, distributions from the VRSP Roth accounts and a Roth IRA are tax-free. This means both the contributions and investment gains/losses on those contributions won’t be taxed when you start your distributions.
  • Differences. The differences between Roth contributions to the VRSP and Roth IRAs are primarily tax related and highly dependent on your individual income and tax situation. Roth IRAs have rules limiting whether you can contribute to them based on your income situation. They also have special rules regarding minimum required distributions when you turn age 70 ½.

Q. How can I start saving Roth in the VRSP?
A. To make Roth contributions, you elect a percentage of pay to contribute, just like you do when you make pre-tax contributions.

Q. How much can I contribute to a Roth?
A. You can contribute up to 80% of your pay in Roth and/or pre-tax contributions, up to the IRS annual contribution limit. For 2016, the limit is $18,000, or $24,000 if you are age 50 or over at any time during the year. The limits apply to your combined contributions, that is, Roth and pre-tax.

Q. I started making Roth contributions but changed my mind. Can I change my Roth contributions to pre-tax contributions, or can my Roth contributions be refunded to me?
A. No. Roth contributions cannot be changed to pre-tax or refunded to you. Once they are in the Plan, they remain in the Plan until you take a distribution. To stop making Roth contributions, update your VRSP savings percentage.


Q. I’m eligible for a matching contribution. If I make Roth contributions, am I still eligible for the match?
A. A. Yes. Both pre-tax and Roth contributions are eligible for matching contributions. 


Q. Am I vested in Roth contributions?
A. A. Yes. You are always 100% entitled to the value of your Roth and pre-tax plan savings, adjusted for investment performance.

Q. I have a Roth IRA. Can I roll it into the VRSP?
A. No. Tax law does not allow Roth IRAs to be rolled over into the VRSP.

Q. I have a Roth account in another employer’s 403(b) or 401(k) plan. Can I roll it into the VRSP?
A. A. Yes.  Roth accounts from your prior employer’s 401(k) and 403(b) accounts may be rolled directly into the VRSP. If you roll over Roth contributions from a previous employer’s plan, that plan’s record keeper must issue the rollover directly to your VRSP account. The VRSP will not accept rollovers of Roth contributions if the distribution is made directly to you even if the distribution is rolled over within 60 days.

The five-year requirement to receive tax-free Roth retirement income begins as of the date you first made Roth contributions to your prior employer’s plan, and applies to any future Roth contributions you make to the Columbia VRSP. For example, if you started making Roth contributions to a previous employer’s plan on September 1, 2012, your five-year period would begin as of January 1, 2012 and be met as of December 31, 2016. You would be able to receive a tax-free payout (what you rolled over plus your Roth contributions to the VRSP, plus investment earnings on all your Roth money) any time after December 31, 2016, as long as you are at least age 59½.

Q. Can I take a loan from my Roth account?
A. A. No. Loans from the Officer’s Plan are not available.

Q. What are the tax implications of Roth with excess contributions?
A. A. There are two possibilities: 1) If you notified Columbia University in writing by March 1 of excess deferrals in the prior calendar year and those excess deferrals were returned to you on or before April 15, the excess deferrals should be taken into account with your taxes for the year that they were contributed; 2) if you missed the April 15 deadline, you will be double-taxed, which means you will be taxed in both the year that you contributed and in the year you receive a distribution. In all cases, when your excess deferrals are returned to you, you will receive investment gains/losses attributable to the period in which your excess deferrals were in your account.

Q. Will matching contributions that are based on my Roth contributions have the same tax advantages as the Roth in the VRSP?
A. A. No. Contributions made by Columbia University (either in matching contributions or core contributions) will be taxed at the time you take a distribution. The tax benefits of Roth contributions are only associated with those contributions—they do not follow or transfer to any other type of contribution you may receive from Columbia.

Q. My tax advisor told me to convert my University core contributions to Roth as an in-plan rollover. Can I do that?
A. A. No. Columbia University does not allow for in-plan rollovers in any of the plans sponsored by the University.

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Same-Sex Domestic Partner Benefits Provisions

Q. I currently cover my same-sex spouse. How does the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on DOMA affect my contributions toward our health coverage?
A. Effective September 16, 2013, same-sex spouses receive the same favorable federal tax treatment as opposite-sex spouses. This means that payroll contributions made to a Columbia medical plan will be deducted on a pre-tax basis. In addition, the cost of medical coverage will no longer be subject to imputed income.

Q. How does the DOMA ruling affect other taxation restrictions formerly imposed on my health benefits programs?
A. These taxation changes also mean that same-sex spouses of Officers will now be eligible for tax-free reimbursement under the Healthcare and Dependent Care Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs), as well as under the Health Savings Account (HSA) associated with the UHC Health Savings Plan (HSP).

Q. If I cover my same-sex spouse, will I continue to receive the $1,000 domestic partner credit?
A. No. Since your coverage is no longer subject to imputed income, you are not eligible to receive the $1,000 credit that previously offset the federal imputed income.

Q. I am legally married to my same-sex spouse. If I want to cover my same-sex spouse under my Columbia medical plan, what taxes am I subject to?
A. If you live in a state that legally recognizes same-sex marriage, state taxes will not be withheld on the healthcare premium you pay for your same-sex spouse. If your state of residence does not legally recognize same-sex marriage, the healthcare premiums you pay to cover your same-sex spouse may be subject to state taxes.

Q. I am not married, but would like to cover my same-sex domestic partner under my health coverage. Is he/she eligible for coverage under my healthcare plan?
A. Yes, provided you meet the eligibility requirements described in Benefits Highlights.

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Spending Accounts

Healthcare Flexible Spending Account (FSA)

Q. What is the maximum annual contribution limit allowed under the Healthcare FSA? If I start contributing mid-year can I contribute the full amount?
A. The maximum amount you can contribute to a Healthcare FSA is $2,550 annually. If you are hired mid-year, you can elect to contribute the full amount provided you have not contributed during the current calendar year to an FSA with Columbia University. If you are married, your spouse may also contribute $2,550 to an FSA sponsored by his/her employer. Any amounts rolled over from the previous year do not count towards these contribution limits.

Q. Will UnitedHealthcare’s Medical and Vision, Aetna Dental and OptumRx out-of-pocket claim amounts be automatically rolled over to my Healthcare FSA?
A. With UHC’s convenient auto-rollover feature, when your medical, vision, prescription drug or dental claim is processed, your out-of-pocket amounts will automatically be submitted to your Healthcare FSA for reimbursement. You will receive a check at your home mailing address (or you can sign up for direct deposit) without needing to submit a claim form.

Q. What if I prefer to manage my FSA funds and choose which expenses are reimbursed?       
A. If you prefer to manage your claim submission, you can opt out of the claim auto-rollover at any time by logging into UHC’s website at www.myuhc.com. You will need to opt out of the claim auto-rollover every year. If you opt out, you will need to file reimbursement claims online or manually with UnitedHealthcare FSA.

Q. How can I use my Healthcare FSA to pay for my eligible healthcare expenses?     
A. You can pay for eligible healthcare expenses from providers that are in the UHC and Express Scripts network (prescription copays) with your Health Care Spending Card. If the card is accepted, no substantiation will be required. If you are unable to use your card at the time of purchase, keep your receipts as you will need to submit (1) a medical claim to UHC or a dental claim to Aetna and allow the auto-rollover feature for the FSA to work; , or 2) for other eligible healthcare expenses, submit your expenses to UHC, the FSA Claims Administrator, either manually via a form by mail or online at www.myuhc.com. The deadline to submit current expenses is March 31 of the following year.

Q. What happens if by the end of the calendar year, I have not incurred enough out-of-pocket healthcare expenses to use my full annual healthcare FSA?                                                                                      
A. The IRS has strict guidelines regarding FSAs. Only a balance of up to $500 in your Healthcare FSA can be rolled over for the next plan year. Thus, it is important to estimate your expenses carefully, incur your claims before December 31 and make sure that your claims for the calendar year are received by UHC no later than March 31 of the following year. The full annual allocation to the Healthcare FSA is available at the beginning of the year for reimbursement, even though contributions are prorated during the calendar year. Please note that if you leave the University or become ineligible for benefits, you can only be reimbursed for expenses incurred prior to your employment end date or the date you became benefits ineligible. Any remaining funds will be forfeited. Note: There is no rollover at the end of the year for the Dependent Care FSA, and only amounts contributed are available for reimbursement.

Q. If my divorce is finalized mid-year; can I reduce my contributions to the Healthcare FSA?
A. Yes, a divorce is a Qualified Life Status Change that allows you to make a change in your Healthcare FSA contribution within 31 days of the event. You may reduce your contributions for the remainder of the year, but you cannot reduce the annual amount below your year-to-date contributions.

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Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account (FSA)

Q. What is the annual contribution limit under the Dependent Care FSA?
A. The maximum amount you can contribute to a Dependent Care FSA is $5,000 annually; the minimum amount is $120. If your prior year W-2 wages exceed $120,000, Columbia Benefits may contact you to inform you whether your contributions must be capped as a result of mandatory IRS testing. If your spouse also contributes to a Dependent Care FSA at his/her employer, your combined annual contribution cannot exceed the IRS limit of $5,000. For details, see http://hr.columbia.edu/officers-spending-accounts.

Q. What dependent care expenses are eligible for reimbursement from the Dependent Care FSA?
A. You can be reimbursed for the cost of dependent care services for a dependent child under age 13 or other dependent adults, while you work or attend school. If you are married, your spouse must also work or attend school. Adult dependents include a parent, spouse or adult child who is physically or mentally unable to care for himself or herself.

Q. How can I pay for my eligible dependent care expenses and receive reimbursement from my Dependent Care FSA account?
A. You can pay for your eligible dependent care expenses at participating locations using your Health Care Spending Card. The card will only authorize amounts up to the balance in your account. If your card is accepted for payment, no substantiation will be required.  You may also pay out of pocket and submit your expense receipts to UHC, the FSA Claims Administrator, either manually via a form by mail or online at www.myuhc.com. The deadline to submit current expenses is March 31 of the following year. Note: Unlike the Healthcare FSA there is no $500 rollover to the next year.

Q. Can I still enroll in the Dependent Care FSA if I elect the Health Savings Plan (HSP) and Health Savings Account (HSA)?            
A.
Yes. You may participate in both an HSA and Dependent Care FSA if you elect the HSP. Remember to enroll each year during Benefits Open Enrollment. You cannot, however, contribute to both the Healthcare FSA and the HSA during the same calendar year.

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Transit/Parking Reimbursement Program (T/PRP)

Q. Can I enroll in the Transit/Parking Reimbursement Program or change my monthly pre-tax contribution at any time during the year?
A.
Yes, you may enroll or change your monthly contribution at any time. Your 2016 monthly contribution will automatically rollover into 2017. After Open Enrollment, changes made on or before the 20th of the month, will be effective the first of the following month. A change made after the 20th of the month will be effective the first of the second month following the change date. For example, a change made on January 20 will be effective February 1, but a change made January 21 will be effective March 1.

Q. How does the Transit/Parking Reimbursement Program work?
A.
The Program provides a convenient way to pay for commuting expenses using pre-tax dollars. You may participate in either the Transit Reimbursement Program or Parking Reimbursement Program, or both. You choose a monthly contribution amount from $10 up to the IRS limit which is deducted from two paychecks in equal installments. Currently, the IRS monthly limit for Transit is $255 and $255 for Parking. The full monthly contribution is available for reimbursement from EBPA for eligible expenses as of the first of the month.

Q. What is considered eligible commuter expenses for transit reimbursement?
A.
You can be reimbursed up to $255 per month for commuting expenses on any public transit system for commuting to work. Examples of eligible expenses include Amtrak, Long Island Railroad, New Jersey Transit, Metro North and New York City Transit Authority buses and subways. Examples of ineligible expenses include transit expenses for your family, airfare, amounts above the IRS limit, taxis, Uber and limo services and bridge, tunnel and highway tolls, including E-Z Pass.

Q. What is considered eligible parking expenses for reimbursement?
A.
You can be reimbursed up to $255 per month for parking if you drive to work or to a location where you board mass transit for work. Ineligible expenses include parking near your residence, parking expenses for your family members and an amount in excess of the monthly IRS limit.

Q. Can I participate in the parking program if I drive to work and park in a University-owned lot or at New York-Presbyterian Hospital?
A.
  You may only participate in the Parking Program with EBPA if your University Parking pre-tax deduction is less than $255 a month and you have another parking space outside of the University- or NewYork Presbyterian-owned lot. If you drive to work and park in a University- or New York Presbyterian-owned lot, you have agreed to pay with pre-tax deductions from your paycheck. This monthly pre-tax deduction counts toward your monthly $255 IRS limit. Your combined pre-tax deductions cannot exceed the $255 monthly IRS limit. Please check your paycheck to confirm the amount of your monthly Columbia Parking pre-tax deduction.

Q. How do I access the funds in my Transit/Parking account(s) for reimbursement?
A.
After you enroll for the first time, you will be sent an EBPA Benefits Card. Your Transit and/or Parking pre-tax contributions will be loaded to the card each month. If you have a card from the previous year, it will be loaded with your 2017 monthly contributions. You may swipe your card to pay for eligible commuting expenses up to the monthly IRS limit, or pay out-of-pocket and submit your claims to EBPA. Note: Parking claims require receipts for manual claim submission.

Q. What happens if I do not use my full monthly contribution?
A.
Any unused contributions will roll over for use in future months. However, you may never be reimbursed for transit or parking expenses in an amount above the monthly IRS limit. For example, assume your usual monthly railroad ticket is $280 and you contribute the maximum IRS allowable amount of $255 a month. You go on vacation for the entire month of July, and do not stop contributions. Your balance as of August would be $260. However, you may only be reimbursed $255 for your August railroad ticket. You could stop contributions for a month, in order to bring down your balance to $0. This is especially important to remember if you are considering leaving the University.

Q. What happens if I have a Transit/Parking balance and leave the University?
A.
If you do not incur enough eligible commuter expenses before you leave the University, to bring your balance to $0, you will forfeit any unused funds.

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Child Care Benefit

Q. For 2017 who is eligible to elect the Child Care Benefit?
A.
Full-time, benefits-eligible Officers with an Annual Benefits Salary of $120,000 or less for 2017 are eligible to receive up to a $2,000 contribution from Columbia University to a Dependent Care FSA. You must also have a dependent child under the age of five, not yet attending kindergarten who has been verified by the Columbia Benefits Service Center as an eligible dependent and meets the definition of an IRS tax dependent. The benefit will be pro-rated if elected as a new hire or with a Qualified Life Status Change. There is a limit of one Child Care Benefit per family. However, you may also contribute pre-tax personal funds to the Dependent Care Account so that the combined total account equals up to $5,000.

Term Life Insurance

Q. Do I need to elect Basic Life Insurance coverage?
A
. As a regular Full-time, salaried, active Columbia University Officer or a regular Part-Time Officer of Administration working at least 20 hours per week, you are automatically provided with Basic Term Life Insurance by Columbia University, as of your date of hire, at no cost to you. No active election is required and the coverage is with Cigna.

Q. What Benefits are provided by Basic Term life Insurance?
A.
The Life Insurance Plan pays a lump sum benefit to your beneficiary of one times your Annual Benefits Salary up to a maximum of $50,000, in the event of your death while actively employed by Columbia University. In addition, if you become terminally ill, you may elect to have the Plan pay out a benefit while you are still living. Any amount you receive will reduce the benefit paid to your beneficiary.

Q. Can I elect Optional Term Life during Open Enrollment?
A.
Yes. During Open Enrollment you may elect an additional 1x your Annual Benefits Salary (rounded to the next highest $1,000), up to the Guaranteed Issue amount (the lesser of 3x your Annual Benefits Salary or $1,000,000 - not counting Basic) without Evidence of Insurability. If you elect coverage above the Guaranteed Issue (up to the lesser of 6x your Annual Benefits Salary or $1,750,000 including Basic) or more than 1x your Annual Benefits Salary, you must provide Evidence of Insurability to Cigna. All contributions are after-tax and based on your age as of January 1.  

Q. Can I elect Dependent Life Insurance during Open Enrollment?
A.
Yes, you may elect Spouse/Same-Sex Domestic Partner Life Insurance: $10,000, $30,000, $50,000 or $100,000 of coverage. You cannot elect dependent life in excess of your own coverage amount. Contributions are after-tax and may require Evidence of Insurability. Child Life Insurance of $10,000 per child is available at one after- tax premium rate, no matter how many dependent children you have. You may add or drop coverage within 31 days of a Qualified Life Status change, such as marriage or the birth of a child.

Q. How do I add a beneficiary for my Term Life Insurance?
A.
To add a beneficiary, go to http://hr.columbia.edu/officers and click “CU Benefits Enrollment System.” You will then be prompted to log in using you UNI and password. Select “Life Insurance Beneficiaries,” then click and follow directions to add your beneficiary (ies). When finished, be sure to select “Save & Continue.”

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Tuition Programs

Tuition Exemption Benefit for Officers

The following FAQs provide general answers to frequently asked questions. For more detailed information, please consult the Tuition Exemption Policy.

Tuition Exemption: General

Q. Who is eligible?
A.
You and your eligible family members are eligible for Tuition Exemption if you are a regular Full-Time Faculty or Officer of the University (including Officers of Instruction, Administration and Libraries and Research), and you have met the applicable waiting periods.

Q. Is there a waiting period?
A.
Eligibility depends on your hire date and years of service. As an Officer, you must meet a service requirement of two (2) years of regular full-time continuous service before you become eligible for Tuition Exemption for yourself. You can print your Tuition Eligibility Form from the CU Benefits Enrollment System to determine if you have met the waiting period. After the waiting period is met, your eligibility begins at the start of the next full term that begins after the eligibility date.

Q. What happens if I have a break in full-time continuous service?
A.
If your break in service is greater than 31 days, your rehire date or reappointment date will be used to measure your years of service and waiting period. You will need to re-meet the applicable waiting period(s). However, if you have been involuntarily moved to part-time employment, you will not have a break in service for twelve (12) months.

Q. Can I take courses if I haven’t met the two (2) year continuous service (waiting period) to be eligible for Tuition Exemption or courses above the Tuition Exemption limit?
A.
Yes. As a supplement to the Tuition Exemption Benefit, a reduced Employee Rate for tuition cost is available at Columbia University only. You are responsible for 65% of the tuition cost and a fee, 35% of your tuition is exempted. You must be accepted and enrolled in the school you wish to attend.

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Tuition Exemption: What's Covered and What's Not Covered

Q. What does the Tuition Exemption Benefit cover?
A.
The Tuition Exemption Benefit Program pays undergraduate or graduate tuition costs for Officers each term, depending on date of hire, degree matriculation and waiting period as outlined in the Tuition Exemption Benefits Policy. Print your Tuition Eligibility Form from the CU Benefits Enrollment System to determine exactly what you are eligible for. 

Q. How is tuition paid?
A
. When you submit your eligibility form to the school's billing department, your tuition will simply be exempted.

Q. What is meant by degree matriculation?
A.
Degree Matriculation refers to being officially accepted and enrolled in a degree program.

Q. Are Post-baccalaureate certificate programs covered?
A.
Yes, at Columbia University only. Post-baccalaureate certificate programs are considered graduate degree programs for Tuition Exemption Benefit purposes.

Q. How does the Tuition Exemption Benefit cover courses taken during the Summer Term?
A.
The Summer Term at Columbia comprises several sessions. Individual summer sessions do not count as separate terms. Tuition Exemption covers your available number of courses spread out over the entire Summer Term.

Q. What courses are not covered under the Tuition Exemption Benefit?
A.
For courses that are not covered under the Tuition Exemption Benefit, see Page 8 of the Officer Tuition Exemption Benefit Policy.

Q: If I am laid off, how will it affect my eligibility for Tuition Exemption?
A:
Tuition Exemption for that term will not be revoked. However, Tuition Exemption will not be granted for any subsequent term. For other status changes, review pages 8-10 of the Officer Tuition Exemption Policy.

Q. Can I drop a course without losing the Tuition Exemption benefit?
A.
Yes, as long as you drop the course before the close of Change of Program Period.

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Tuition Exemption: Reduced Employee Rate

Q. Can I take courses if I haven’t met the two (2) year continuous service (waiting period) to be eligible for Tuition Exemption?

A. Yes. As a supplement to the Tuition Exemption Benefit, before having met your waiting period, a reduced Employee Rate for tuition cost is available at Columbia University only.  You are responsible for 65% of the tuition cost and a fee,  35% of your tuition is exempted. You must be accepted and enrolled in the school you wish to attend. (See Appendix: Tuition Benefit Supplement – Reduced Employee Rate for Officers)

Q. If I want to take courses above what’s covered under the Tuition Exemption Benefit for my Officer group, can I take additional courses?

A. Yes. As a supplement to the Tuition Exemption Benefit, a reduced Employee Rate for tuition cost is available at Columbia University only.  You are responsible for 65% of the tuition cost and a fee,  35% of your tuition is exempted. You must be accepted and enrolled in the school you wish to attend.  (See Appendix: Tuition Benefit Supplement – Reduced Employee Rate for Officers)

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Tuition Exemption: Spouse/Same-Sex Domestic Partner

Q. Is my spouse or same-sex domestic partner eligible for Tuition Exemption benefits?
A.
The eligibility of your spouse or same-sex partner depends on your date of hire. Spouses and same-sex domestic partners of Officers hired, rehired, appointed or promoted after July 1, 2011, are not eligible for tuition exemption benefits. If you were hired as an Officer on or before July 1, 2011, your spouse/same-sex domestic partner is eligible for Tuition Exemption of 100% of tuition cost each term for an undergraduate degree program that began by the Fall Term 2011 at Columbia only, until that degree is completed. Spouses/same-sex domestic partners who have received a bachelor’s degree from any accredited academic institution are not eligible for this Tuition Exemption Benefit. 

Q: If I am laid off, how will it affect the Tuition Exemption eligibility of my spouse or same-sex domestic partner?
A.
Tuition Exemption for that term will not be revoked. Tuition exemption will not be granted for any subsequent term.

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Tuition Exemption: Children

Q. When are my children eligible for Tuition Exemption benefits?
A.
Eligibility of your children to receive Tuition Exemption benefits depends on your hire date and years of service.

  • If you are hired, rehired, appointed or promoted to Officer after July 1, 2011 – you must complete four (4) years of regular full-time continuous service, without a break in service longer than 31 days, before your children are eligible. Once the waiting period is met, your children are eligible to receive Tuition Exemption of 100% tuition for the next full term that begins your eligibility date
  • If you are hired, rehired, appointed or promoted on or before July 1, 2011 – you do not have a waiting period before you children are eligible to receive Tuition Exemption of 100%.

Q. Do my children have to meet certain eligibility requirements?
A.
Yes. Eligible children must be:

  • 25 or under, at the time they begin matriculation for their undergraduate degree; and
  • Be the biological child, adopted child, step child or under legal guardianship of:
    • A regular, full-time Officer of Administration, Instruction, the Libraries or Research; or
    • The spouse or same-sex domestic partner of a Full-Time, regular Officer.

Q. How does my child remain eligible for Tuition Exemption?
A.
Until the end of the month in which your dependent child turns age 26, your child must maintain matriculation in the degree program they started in order to be eligible to for the Tuition Exemption Benefit.

Q. Does my child have to be registered in an undergraduate degree program to be eligible?
A.
Yes, your child must be registered in an undergraduate degree program at Columbia College, Barnard College, the School of General Studies or the Fu Foundation of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

Q. Is there a limit on the number of semesters for which my child can receive the Tuition Exemption benefit?
A.
There is no limit on the number of semesters for which an Officer’s child can receive the Tuition Exemption Benefit at Columbia University, as long as the courses are credited toward the child’s first undergraduate degree. Note: There is an 8-semester limit for Tuition Exemption at Barnard College.

Q. Is my child eligible for graduate-level Tuition Exemption Benefits?
A.
Eligibility for graduate tuition depends on your date of hire, rehire, appointment or promotion as a regular Full-Time Officer:

  • If you were hired after June 30, 1993 – there is no Tuition Exemption for graduate school or graduate-level courses for your child(ren).
  • If you were hired between July 1, 1987 - June 30, 1993 and you have been continuously (regular full-time) employed by the University since then – your child’s Tuition Exemption Benefit for graduate school or graduate-level courses is equal to 50% of tuition cost, regardless of age, financial dependency or marital status. Note: Children of Officers employed in the Law School are not eligible for this benefit and those of other Officers may not use the benefit for courses in the Law School or at Teachers College.
  • If you were hired before July 1, 1987 and you have been continuously employed (regular full-time) since then – your child’s Tuition Exemption Benefit for graduate school or graduate-level courses is equal to 100% of tuition cost, regardless of age, financial dependency or marital status. Note: Children of Officers employed in the Law School are not eligible for this benefit and those of other Officers may not use the benefit for courses in the Law School or at Teachers College.

Q. What if both parents are Officers at Columbia University?
A. 
If you are both Officers hired, rehired, appointed or promoted after July 1, 2011, your child can only receive Tuition Exemption through one parent’s eligibility. If you were both hired, rehired, appointed or promoted on or before July 1, 2011, and have not had a break in continuous service more than 31 days after July 1, 2011, your child can receive Tuition Exemption benefits through both parents. The two benefits will be added together, up to no more than 100% tuition cost. A separate Tuition Exemption Form must be submitted for each Officer.

Q. What if my child wishes to study abroad, will it be covered by Tuition Exemption?
A.
Yes, if the courses count toward the undergraduate degree and Columbia or Barnard College bills for the tuition costs. If another accredited academic institution bills for the tuition cost, it would not be covered under Tuition Exemption, but may be eligible under the College Tuition Scholarship (CTS) benefit.

Q. If I am laid off, how will it affect the Tuition Exemption eligibility of my child?
A.
Tuition Exemption for that term will not be revoked. Tuition exemption will not be granted for any subsequent term.

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Tuition Exemption: How to Apply

Q. How do I apply for Tuition Exemption?
A.
You must complete the application process at the beginning of each term. You must submit your Tuition Eligibility Form for yourself and/or your family member, to the Student Service Center in Kent Hall (Morningside) or Registration & Financial Services at the Black Building (CUMC) during the Change of Program Period. The Tuition Eligibility Form details the Tuition Benefits in which you and/or your family member is eligible. You and/or your family member must be accepted and enrolled in the school you wish to attend.

Q. What if my graduate courses are job related?
A.
You must complete and certify the Job-Related Graduate Education Certification form, for either a Degree Program or Non-degree graduate-level courses. Your supervisor must sign to certify your graduate level education is job-related. You must then attach the Job-Related Certification form to your Tuition Benefit Eligibility Form, and submit both documents to Student Service Center at Kent Hall or Registration & Financial Services at CUMC, Black Building.

Q. What if the name of my family member does not appear on my Tuition Exemption form in the CU Benefits Enrollment System?
A.
Your dependent must be verified with the Columbia Benefits Service Center before you will be able to print out the Tuition Benefit Eligibility Form for the appropriate dependent. You will need to submit proof of relationship to the Columbia Benefits Service Center, which may consist of the following:

  • Spouse/Same-sex domestic partners – marriage certificate; see the Benefits Highlights for guidelines
  • Dependent child – birth certificate, adoption papers or guardianship papers
  • Child of a same-sex domestic partner – birth certificate, adoption papers or guardianship papers, and domestic partnership documentation as described in Benefits Highlights.

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College Tuition Scholarship (CTS)

The following FAQs provide general answers to frequently asked questions. For more detailed information, please consult the College Tuition Scholarship (CTS) Policy.

CTS: General

Q. What is the College Tuition Scholarship (CTS) benefit?
A.
The CTS benefit pays 50% of a student’s undergraduate tuition at accredited higher education institutions outside Columbia (up to an annually defined limit), for up to eight semesters (or the equivalent trimesters or quarters). 

Q. Who is eligible?
A.
Your children are eligible if you are a regular Full-Time Officer of the University (including Officers of Instruction, Administration and Libraries and Research).

Q. When can I get CTS for my child?
A.
There is a waiting period which is based on your hire date and years of service.

  • Officers who were hired on or prior to July 1, 2011 — do not have a waiting period
  • Officers who were hired after July 1, 2011 — are eligible to receive CTS for the next full term following the completion of four (4) years of continuous regular full-time service.

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CTS: How the CTS Benefit Works

Q. What does accredited academic institution mean?
A.
The institution must be recognized by the American Council on Education.

Q. How many semesters are covered?
A.
Eight (8) semesters (or the equivalent number of trimesters or quarters).

Q. Are winter semesters covered?
A.
The CTS program will cover a student for winter terms, but the winter semester will count against the eight (8) semester limit.

Q. Are courses during the summer covered?
A.
The CTS program covers courses in the summer term. This is in addition to the eight (8) semesters (or the equivalent number of trimesters or quarters)provided the summer courses are taken after your child has matriculated for the first semester. In addition, summer courses must be taken during the years in which the student is eligible for the fall or spring term CTS, and before the degree is completed.

Q. Are study abroad programs eligible for CTS?
A.
Yes. To be eligible for CTS, the study abroad program must be sponsored by an accredited institution. Study abroad programs are either for a full semester or summer term. Additional requirements include:

  • Your dependent child must continue to be matriculated in an undergraduate degree.
  • The courses taken as part of the Study Abroad Program are credited toward the undergraduate degree at the college or university your child is attending.
  • The Study Abroad Program is not billed through Columbia University.

Q. What if my child has awards or scholarships?
A.
First, the Actual Tuition Cost is calculated, which is equal to the Tuition cost, minus tuition-specific awards, scholarships, grants, etc. Other awards, scholarships and grants which are not tuition-specific and which may be applied to all other cost and fees, such as housing, are not deducted from tuition expenses.

Q. I’ve retired from Columbia University; do my children remain eligible for this benefit?
A.
To retire with this benefit, an Officer must be 55 years or older and have completed ten (10) years of regular full-time, continuous service (as an Officer) after age 45. Your children are eligible for the CTS benefit in effect for active Officers at the time the CTS application is submitted.

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CTS: How to Apply

Q. How do I apply for the CTS benefit?
A.
Please refer to the CTS Checklist. The following forms and documentation must be completed and submitted to EBPA as part of your College Tuition Scholarship (CTS) benefit. CTS applications without the required documentation will not be processed until all required documentation is received. This documentation must be submitted each term. Required documentation for your application includes:

  1. Form: Tuition Scholarship Outside of Columbia University for Dependent Children (Active Officers: Print your College Tuition Scholarship - Checklist & Application Form from the CU Enrollment System; Retired Officers: use the CTS Application Form for Retired Officers)
  2. Copy of the itemized tuition bill, along with official documentation of any grants and/or scholarships your child is receiving. Please include the college or university mailing address.
  3. Summer term documentation (if applicable), including a Student in Good Standing Letter (Sample Letter).

If this is your first time applying for this benefit, or your child is not listed on this form – you will need to add him/her by using the link “Add a Dependent Child” on the main menu of the CU Benefit Enrollment System. You must be prepared to provide proof of relationship (copy of birth certificate, adoption certificate/court records) to the Columbia Benefits Service Center, via email at hrbenefits@columbia.edu or secure fax to 212-851-7025.

Once the Columbia Benefits Service Center has verified the dependent relationship and your record is updated, you will be able to reprint the Tuition Scholarship Outside of Columbia University for Dependent Children form with your newly added dependent listed on the form.

  • To apply for the benefit, complete the College Tuition Scholarship (CTS) Checklist & Application form. You must complete all sections and sign date the form.
  • Provide the itemized tuition bill: You must request a copy of the itemized tuition bill, along with copies of official documentation for any grants and/or scholarships for the term for which you are applying. Please include payment mailing address for the college or university’s Bursar’s Office or Financial Services.
  • Summer term documentation, if applicable: If your child is taking summer courses, please provide written proof from the college or university on the institutions letterhead that your dependent child is a student in good standing and that the summer courses are part of his or her academic program. Please see the Student in Good Standing Letter (Sample Letter).

Q. How long does it take EBPA (CTS benefit administrator) to process a completed application and to send the CTS award payment to the college?
A.
Please allow up to 15 business days for CTS awards to be processed and paid.

Q. If I have questions about my CTS application or the status of the payment processing, who can I call?
A.
Please email EBPA at tuition@ebpabenefits.com, or call EBPA Customer Service at 1-888-456-4576.

Q. How will I know the CTS payment has been made to my child’s college or university?
A.
EBPA will send you a CTS Claims Payment Notification letter by mail confirming the CTS amount paid to your child’s college or university.

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Primary Tuition Scholarship (PTS)

The following FAQs provide general answers to frequently asked questions. For more detailed information, please consult the Primary Tuition Scholarship (PTS) Policy.

PTS: General

Q. What is the Primary Tuition Scholarship (PTS) benefit and whom does it cover?
A.
The PTS benefit pays between 10% and 35% of your dependent child’s tuition in grades K-8 at a private school within the five boroughs of New York City, based on family income, or 50% of your child’s tuition for grades K-8 at The School at Columbia University. 

  • If you were hired on or before 7/1/2011 and both parents are eligible Officers – you can receive two scholarships simultaneously, adding up to 70% at a private school or 100% for grades K-8 at The School at Columbia.
  • If you were hired after 7/1/2011 and both parents are eligible Officers – you can receive one scholarship per child.

Q. Who is eligible for the PTS benefit?
A.
You are eligible if you are a regular Full-Time Faculty or Officer of the University (including Officers of Instruction, Administration and Libraries and Research). If you are a visiting Officer of instruction or research, or you are a Postdoctoral Research Scientist/Scholar/Fellow or Clinical Fellow, you are not eligible for PTS. Both you and your child must live within the five boroughs of New York City and the accredited private school must also be located within the five boroughs of New York City.

Q. When will my child be eligible for the PTS benefit?
A.
Immediately. There is no waiting period. 

Q. How is the academic year defined for PTS?
A.
The academic year for PTS runs from September to June (10 Months).

Q. What if I am newly hired after the start of the school year?
A.
You will be partially covered for a school year. You will receive a percentage of the PTS, based on your month of hire.

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PTS: How the PTS Benefit Works

Q. Is there a limit to the number of scholarships I can receive?
A.
You may receive as many scholarships as you have eligible children.

Q. Does the PTS benefit cover tuition and other program fees?
A.
No. It covers only tuition for grades K-8. Other fees such as health services, food, student activities and books are not covered. If the bill from the school combines these fees, you must request from the institution’s bursar that the tuition fees be displayed separately.

Q. Will PTS cover nursery school or pre-kindergarten?
A.
No, nursery school and pre-kindergarten are not covered under the PTS Policy.

Q. If my child needs to repeat kindergarten will PTS cover a second year of kindergarten?
A.
No. PTS will only cover one year of kindergarten.

Q. How is qualifying income determined?
A. The total tax you pay is subtracted from your taxable income*, resulting in the qualifying family income, which is used to determine the percentage of tuition covered (10%-35%). *The most recent year’s federal, state and city income tax return(s) of the child’s family are used.
     Note: Does not apply to PTS for The School at Columbia University.

Q. What if I do not wish to submit tax return information?
A. If you do not submit tax return information, your PTS will be 10% of the school’s tuition. (Established Administrative Practice)

     Note: Does not apply to PTS for The School at Columbia University.
 
Q. What happens if my employment status changes?
A.
If you have a status change that is one of the following: layoff, involuntary termination, involuntary transfer to Part-Time employment, voluntary resignation or voluntary transfer to Part-Time employment, leave of absence, promotion to Officer, retirement or death, please consult the PTS Policy; or contact the Columbia Benefits Service Center by sending an email to hrbenefits@columbia.edu or by calling 212-851-7000.

Q. I’ve retired from Columbia University; do my children remain eligible for this benefit?
A.
To retire with this benefit, an Officer must be 55 years or older and have completed ten (10) years of Full-Time continuous benefits-eligible service (as an Officer after) age 45. You are eligible for the benefit in effect at the time the PTS Application is submitted.

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PTS: How to Apply for the PTS Benefit

Q. How do I apply for the PTS benefit?
A.
Please refer to the PTS Checklist and Financial Worksheet. The following forms and documentation must be completed and submitted to EBPA as part of your Primary Tuition Scholarship (PTS) benefit. PTS applications without the required documentation will not be processed until all required documentation is received. This documentation must be submitted each term. Required documentation for your application includes:

  • Form: Tuition Scholarship Outside of Columbia University for Dependent Children, specifically the Primary Tuition Scholarship (PTS) – Eligibility & Application Form (Active Officers: Print your PTS Form from the CU Online Benefits Enrollment System; Retired Officers: use the PTS Application Form).
  • Copy of the itemized tuition bill, along with official documentation of any grants and/or scholarships your child is receiving. Please include the school's mailing address.
  • Financial Information: Copies of last year’s federal, state and city tax returns for the child’s family, if applicable.

Q. How do I apply for the PTS benefit for the School at Columbia University?
A.
Please refer to the PTS – The School at Columbia Checklist. The following forms and documentation must be completed and submitted to EBPA as part of your Primary Tuition Scholarship (PTS) benefit. PTS applications without the required documentation will not be processed until all required documentation is received. This documentation must be submitted each term. Required documentation for your application includes:

  • Form: Tuition Scholarship Outside of Columbia University for Dependent Children, specifically the Primary Tuition Scholarship (PTS) – Eligibility & Application Form (Active Officers: Print your PTS Form from the CU Online Benefits Enrollment System; Retired Officers: use the PTS Application Form).
  • A copy of the first page of your Enrollment or Re-Enrollment contract from The School at Columbia, confirming your child's seat.

Q. Where do I find the forms and how do I provide the documentation?
A.
All forms are on the CU Benefits Enrollment System and the HR website.

Q. How long does it take EBPA (PTS benefits administrator) to process a completed application and to send the PTS award payment to the college?
A.
Please allow up to three weeks for PTS awards to be processed and paid.

Q. If I have questions about my PTS application or the status of the payment processing, who can I call?
A.
Please email EBPA at Tuition@ebpabenefits.com or call EBPA Customer Service at 1-888-456-4576.

Q. How will I know the PTS payment has been made to my child’s school?
A.
EBPA will send you a PTS Claims Payment Notification letter by mail confirming the PTS amount paid to your child’s school.

Q. When should I submit the Reimbursement form?
A.
You should submit the application to EBPA as early as possible, preferably before the beginning of a school year. Note: EBPA cannot process applications for the fall before June 1 each year.
 

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PTS: The School at Columbia University

Q. What is the Primary Tuition Scholarship (PTS) benefit and whom does it cover?
A.
The PTS benefit pays 50% your dependent child’s tuition in grades K-8 at The School at Columbia University.

  • If you were hired on or before 7/1/2011 and both parents are eligible Officers – you can receive two scholarships simultaneously, adding up 100% for grades K-8 at The School at Columbia.
  • If you were hired after 7/1/2011 and both parents are eligible Officers – you can receive one scholarship per child.

Q. Who is eligible for the PTS benefit?
A.
You are eligible if you are a regular Full-Time Faculty or Officer of the University (including Officers of Instruction, Administration and Libraries and Research). Both you and your child must live within the five boroughs of New York City.

If you are a visiting Officer of Instruction or Research, or you are a Postdoctoral Research Scientist/Scholar/Fellow or Clinical Fellow, you are not eligible for PTS.

Q. When will my child be eligible for the PTS benefit?
A.
Immediately. There is no waiting period.

Q. How is the academic year defined for PTS?
A.
The academic year for PTS runs from September to June (10 Months).

Q. What if I am newly hired after the start of the school year?
A.
You will be partially covered for a school year. You will receive a percentage of the PTS, based on your month of hire.

Q. How do I apply for the PTS benefit for the School at Columbia University?
A.
Please refer to the PTS – The School at Columbia Checklist. The following forms and documentation must be completed and submitted to EBPA as part of your Primary Tuition Scholarship (PTS) benefit. PTS applications without the required documentation will not be processed until all required documentation is received. This documentation must be submitted each term. Required documentation for your application includes:

  • Form: Tuition Scholarship Outside of Columbia University for Dependent Children, specifically the Primary Tuition Scholarship (PTS) – Eligibility & Application Form (Active Officers: Print your PTS Form from the CU Online Benefits Enrollment System; Retired Officers: use the PTS Application Form).
  • A copy of the first page of your Enrollment or Re-Enrollment contract from The School at Columbia, confirming your child's seat.

Click the following links to learn more about How the PTS Benefit Works or How to Apply for the PTS Benefit.

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Vision Benefits

Q. Do I need to make a separate election for vision coverage?
A.
No, Vision benefits are part of all of the UHC medical plan options. Once you enroll in a Columbia University medical plan, you will be automatically enrolled Vision benefits.

Q. How do I find a vision provider in the UHC Vision network?
A.
For a listing of vision providers, visit www.myuhc.com and select “Benefits & Coverage”, “Vision” and then “Vision Benefit Highlights.” You will be taken to the UHC vision website where you can search for a provider under “Find a Provider.”

Q. How do I file a vision claim?
A.
If you go to a network provider you do not need to file any claims. However, if you go to an out-of-network provider, print the UHC Out-of-Network Vision Claim Form and fill out the form and mail or fax with the receipts to:

UnitedHealthcare Vision
Attn: Claims Dept.
P.O .Box 30978
Salt Lake City , Utah 84130
Fax: 248-733-6060

Q. I am in the Health Savings Plan (HSP) and I had to pay the full price of my vision exam. Is this correct?
A.
The UHC HSP vision benefit covers one vision exam per covered adult every 12 months. The Plan pays 90% after you meet the deductible, so if you haven’t met the $1,300 (individual coverage) or $2,600 (Employee +1 or family coverage) deductible, you will have to pay the full discounted price for an in-network vision exam.
 

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