New Year, Big Changes to Flexible Benefits and Open Enrollment

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Monday, September 5, 2016


Some significant changes to Lehigh’s medical benefit plan design and flexible benefits will take effect in January 2017. We wanted to update you on some highlights of the changes and give you exciting news about a tool we’re introducing to help you make the best flexible benefits choices for your own situation.  


As we get closer to Open Enrollment, which begins on November 7 this year, we’ll be providing more detailed information about our new plan design, including monthly premiums.




Over the past year we’ve been sharing information about potential changes to Lehigh’s medical benefits plan design in Spotlight. A thorough benefits review process took place during that time that included:


  • A faculty/staff survey
  • A review of the university’s current plan’s performance
  • Benchmarking of our plan design with a select group of higher education institutions selected by the Faculty Compensation Committee
  • A comparison of our HMO and PPO plans to those of similar employers


The recommendations that resulted from this process were released to campus for feedback via lunchtime meetings and comments on Spotlight. After reviewing the recommendations along with the faculty/staff feedback, the senior officers approved changes for the 2017 medical plan year as well as future years.


New Medical Plan and Voluntary Benefit Options


The key changes to Lehigh’s flexible benefits in 2017 will be:


  • Elimination of the comprehensive major medical plan
  • Introduction of a high deductible health plan (HDHP) with a health saving account (HSA) and limited purpose flexible spending account (LPFSA) options
  • Introduction of critical illness and accident insurance as voluntary benefits
  • Introduction of the BenefitFocus portal to provide convenient, user-friendly benefits information and enrollment to faculty and staff.

In general, the current PPO and HMO plans will remain unchanged with the exception that the separate out of pocket maximums for healthcare and pharmacy benefits will be combined into one overall maximum.


In order to better familiarize faculty and staff with the concept of the HDHP model of health insurance, we will be offering a special online reference guide to the plan in the next several weeks. An email introducing the website will be sent to all employees.



Introducing BenefitFocus: A New Way to Choose and Manage Your Benefits

We heard loud and clear from our faculty and staff benefits preference survey last year that employees felt the need for better tools to make important benefits decisions. Over the years, we’ve also received your feedback about the online enrollment system’s limitations. With the substantial changes on the horizon in the coming plan year, we thought it was a good time to investigate a twenty first century benefits portal that could provide an all-in-one solution.


A group of employees representing LTS, HR, ERAC, the FCC and the FFPOC were tapped to consider potential vendors over the summer. There were two finalists, both of whom made visits and presentations to the group. After deliberation, Benefitfocus was selected to provide this new service to our employees.


In his role as a member of the Faculty Compensation Committee (FCC), Mike Burger, Associate Professor, Neuroscience was a member of the cross campus group that selected Benefitfocus. We asked him what he had in mind when considering this choice.

“My primary concern was for Lehigh to find a vendor that would enable Lehigh faculty and staff to make informed decisions about their healthcare choices,” Mike said. “There are going to be important changes to benefits in the next few years due to the requirements of the Affordable Care Act, and I am confident that Benefitfocus’ support will help employees navigate the complexity of these changes.”

Mike says he appreciated that Benefitfocus has many colleges and universities in its portfolio of clients.  They also have established relationships with all of Lehigh’s benefits providers, including Capital Blue Cross, United Concordia, Express Scripts, and Limeade (managers of Lehigh’s Be Well wellness program). That will smooth the flow of data back and forth between Lehigh and its providers.


Some of the features of Benefitfocus that will positively impact employees’ benefits selection and enrollment process are:


  • A single-sign on portal with all information readily accessible at the click of your mouse or tap of your finger on any screen, from phone to tablet to desktop
  • The “shopping app” decision tool that will allow you to comparison shop for your medical plan as you would for anything else on the web. You can use your own medical expense history from the prior year or other scenarios for your comparison data
  • A step-by-step enrollment process that leads you through each of the flexible benefits elections you need to make to complete the process. You will be able to add dependents, upload supporting documents if necessary, and much more, all in one easy to use system
  • A team of trained customer service agents who will be knowledgeable about Lehigh’s benefits who can answer your questions by phone weekdays from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.



In the end, the goal of investing in a new robust system like Benefitfocus is to ensure Lehigh faculty and staff are prepared to make educated decisions that suit their lives.

“I think that for the first time, faculty and staff will have all the information easily at hand to evaluate the potential costs and benefits of the open enrollment choices they make,” Mike noted. “Hopefully, this will lead to healthcare that is better tailored for each of our employees and their families.”


The Lehigh Benefitfocus portal is currently under construction and will be ready to launch on November 7. We will continue updating faculty and staff about all of the changes and developments coming as we near Open Enrollment. Stay tuned!