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UnitedHealthcare (UHC) in 2015 for Officers

Q. What is changing about the University’s healthcare offerings for Officers in 2015?

A. After a rigorous evaluation of the capabilities of our three healthcare plan vendors — Aetna, Cigna and UnitedHealthcare (UHC) — the University has selected UHC as the single healthcare plan vendor for the faculty and staff medical plans, effective January 1, 2015.

This decision stems from a recommendation by the Task Force on Fringe Benefits in 2011. The task force recommended that the University mitigate the rising costs of healthcare, and the impact on our institution, faculty and staff, by consolidating our medical plan offering.

Q. Why did the University choose UHC?

A. UHC was selected for several reasons, including the fact that their network of physicians and facilities most closely matches the providers that our employees and their dependents use. This provider match aspect of the transition to UHC as our single medical plan vendor is likely to be of the greatest importance to you and your dependents.

We are working closely with UHC to have as many as possible of the Aetna and Cigna in-network clinicians our employees visit available to you at UHC's in-network benefit level. The University recognizes this is especially important in the behavioral health sector.

In addition, we are working closely with the Columbia University Medical Center and the Faculty Practice Organization to ensure that you and your dependents have access to in-network services from the vast majority of the ColumbiaDoctors.

Q. How can I find out whether my current providers are participating in the UHC network?

A. You can review UHC’s network at http://columbia.welcometouhc.com/home.

When you visit the link, you can check under “Find a Doctor/Hospital” to see if your doctor is included in the UHC provider network.

In addition, this site includes a listing of ColumbiaDoctors who provide in-network healthcare services via UHC to Columbia’s faculty and staff and their dependents.

Q. What plans will be offered under UHC in 2015?

A. Via UHC, the same medical plan options that Columbia currently offers will continue to be offered. The plans will be called the Choice Plus 80, Choice Plus 90, and Choice Plus 100. Additionally, the HDHP — now called the Health Savings Plan (HSP) — will be offered through UHC.

Q. Do I have to enroll in UHC or will my current coverage automatically roll over?

A. If you currently have Columbia-provided medical coverage, you will need to enroll in one of UHC’s options or decline coverage during Benefits Open Enrollment this fall. Your current coverage will not roll over automatically.

If you are currently enrolled in a Columbia medical plan, but do not elect a medical plan for 2015, you will be defaulted to the lowest-cost medical plan, the Health Savings Plan (HSP).

If you do not currently have medical coverage through Columbia, you will not have to enroll for 2015 but, of course, if you are eligible you have the option to do so.

Q. When will I learn the details of how the healthcare plan will operate in 2015?

A. Generally, the four healthcare plans (the Health Savings Plan (HSP), Choice Plus 80, Choice Plus 90 and Choice Plus 100), will continue to work as they do now. For 2015 there will be some minor adjustments, mostly to comply with the Affordable Care Act and IRS changes. Complete information about any changes will be provided to you during the annual Benefits Open Enrollment in the fall.

Q. Does this change affect my dental coverage?

A. This change has no impact on dental coverage. The Aetna Columbia Dental Plan will continue to be offered in 2015, with no changes to the plan design or your monthly pre-tax contributions.

Q. When will I get my new UHC ID card?

A. New cards will be mailed in late December so that you will receive your new ID card prior to January 1.

All employees with Columbia medical coverage in 2015, even those who are currently enrolled in a UHC plan, will receive new medical plan ID cards.

As in prior years, you will also be able to visit www.myuhc.com and print a temporary card beginning January 1, 2015.

Your prescription drug coverage will continue to be administered by Express Scripts, so you will continue to use your current prescription drug ID card in 2015.

Q. I am currently seeing a behavioral health provider who is in Aetna’s or Cigna’s network, but not in UHC’s network. Will any provision be made for me?

A. UnitedHealthcare is actively recruiting behavioral health providers that Columbia’s employees are using in Aetna’s and Cigna’s networks. If your in-network behavioral health provider does not agree to join UHC’s network, you will be eligible for a “transition of care” benefit, which allows you to receive the in-network level of benefits for up to six months. 

Q. My primary care physician (including pediatrician or OB/Gyn) is in Aetna or Cigna’s network, but not in UHC’s network.  Can I continue to see this provider?

A. UnitedHealthcare is attempting to recruit a small number of primary care physicians who are not already in their network, but are seeing a large number of Columbia employees and dependents. However, as a general rule, if your primary care physician is not in UHC’s network, then you either need to switch to a UHC in-network provider or continue to see your current primary care physician and receive out-of-network benefits.

Q. If I’m in treatment for a particular condition and my current network provider is not in UHC’s network, will I be able to continue seeing my current provider?

A. Columbia is working with UnitedHealthcare to provide a transition of care arrangement for employees and their dependents being treated for cancer, pregnancy, transplants and recent major surgeries, as well as those individuals in active treatment for a serious condition.

If an individual with one of these conditions is being treated by an Aetna or Cigna network provider and that provider is not in UHC’s network, the individual will be eligible for a transition of care benefit and continue to receive the in-network level of benefits for up to six months. After six months, the individual will need to transition care to a UHC in-network provider or continue seeing their provider and receive the out-of-network level of benefits.

Q. If I happen to be in the small percentage whose physician isn’t covered by UHC, what do I need to do? 

A. If your medical situation is not covered by the transition of care provisions and you want to receive in-network benefits, you will need to change to a provider in the UnitedHealthcare network.  You also will have the option to go out-of-network to see your current physician, and receive the lower out-of-network reimbursement.

Q. I need help finding a UHC network provider or I have a question about the transition of care process. Who can help me?

A. You can contact UnitedHealthcare at 1-800-232-9357 or the Columbia Benefits Service Center at 212-851-7000.

In addition, a representative from UnitedHealthcare will be on site to answer your questions in person from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on the following dates and locations:

  • Monday, August 4: Studebaker, 4th Floor (Please check-in at the desk in the 4th floor lobby.)
  • Tuesday, August 5: Morningside, Uris Hall, Room 303
  • Wednesday, August 6: CUMC, Hammer Health Sciences Center, Room 301
  • Thursday, August 7: Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Geoscience Building, Conference Room 113

To reserve a 10-minute time slot, please contact one of our Benefits Service Center Specialists at 212-851-9740 or jf2906@columbia.edu. Walk-ins are welcome; however, they may be subject to some wait time.

Q. How does this change affect individuals on COBRA?

A. Anyone receiving continuation of their medical benefits via COBRA as of December 31, 2014 will be impacted by this change in the same manner that active employees are impacted.

Q. What was the purpose of the Task Force on Fringe Benefits?

A. With the support of senior executive leadership, the task force was charged with performing a comprehensive financial review of the University’s benefits offerings, in order to avert a serious budget issue in the fringe pool that funds healthcare, retirement and tuition benefits.

In April 2011, the Task Force presented its Preliminary Report, including recommendations on tuition, healthcare and retirement programs. For your reference, the Preliminary Report remains available online. You will need your UNI and password to access the report. To read it, visit: http://hr.columbia.edu/taskforcereport.

Q. Where can I go if I have additional questions?

A. Please contact the Columbia Benefits Service Center between the hours of 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. at 212-851-7000, or hrbenefits@columbia.edu.


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The HR/Benefits website is intended only to provide information for the guidance of Columbia University Officers, staff and union employees. The writers of the content have exercised their best efforts to ensure accuracy of the information, but accuracy is not guaranteed. If there are any discrepancies between the information on the website, verbal representations and the Plan documents, the Plan documents will always govern. The information is subject to change from time to time, and the University reserves the right to change or terminate these Plans at any time. The information contained on the website is not intended to replace the plan documents, nor is the information in any way intended to imply a contract.