Frequently Asked Questions

This is a financial settlement issue. There are two primary types of insurance. The first is a fully insured product in which an outside carrier, such as Blue Cross and Blue Shield, assumes all the risk of any and all health insurance claims. The employer would pay the insurance company a flat amount of money per month, per employee. Here, the insurance company assumes all of the claim risk. A self-insured product means that the employer assumes the risk for all the insurance claims. The employer pays the insurance company only an administrative fee. The insurance company bills the employer every week for all the claims that they paid during that week. Here, the employer assumes the risk for all of the insurance claims incurred by its employees.

Some of the self-insured products the University offers its employees are: State Plan 3 Plus, Iowa Select, CHIP II, UI Choice, UIGRADCare, Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP), and dental insurance. Products that are handled through a managed-care organization are fully insured, such as United, Blue Access and Blue Advantage.

You may add an individual to your insurance plans only if there is a qualifying event or during an "open enrollment" period. An event is defined as a birth, adoption, death, marriage, divorce, a dependent gaining or losing dependency status, and in some cases relocation. You must notify the benefits office within 30 days of the event that occurred.

Outside of the previously listed events, you may add an individual during the annual "open enrollment" period. The ability to add individuals during the "open enrollment" period depends upon whether or not the insurance carriers involved will permit this to occur. You should watch for the annual notices concerning the "open-enrollment" periods and the restrictions that might apply.

For more information, visit the Benefit Change page.

Each year the State of Iowa and the University establish open enrollment dates for their various benefit programs. During this open enrollment period, Merit employees may change health insurance plans. Faculty, Professional and Scientific staff may change any of their benefits. Each year, these enrollment dates are established based upon when final rates are obtained from vendors and materials are available for disbursement on campus. The open enrollment periods generally occur in late fall. Employed graduate students have their open enrollment periods at the beginning of each semester. The open enrollment dates vary year by year. You will receive notice of your annual open enrollment period.

Individuals moving to or from another state agency or Board of Regents institution may transfer their original hire date, sick leave and vacation accumulations. No other benefits transfer among the state agencies or Board of Regents institutions. This is because each of the other benefit programs is unique to that particular institution.

The University contributes toward the cost of benefits for all full- and part-time, permanent staff members who work at least 50% time.  If you are in a position covered by AFSCME or COGS, your benefits and the contribution levels from the University are negotiated between the University and each of the respective unions. This applies for all benefits except retirement, which is determined by state statute.

Faculty/P & S Staff:  The University, in conjunction with a Faculty and Staff committee, establishes a contribution level based upon the financial resources available to the University from the State and other sources. It is important to remember that your compensation package at the University includes not only your pay, but also the cost of the benefits that the University contributes for you.

The University currently contributes 100% of the cost of 2.0 times your salary for life insurance, your long-term disability plan, and single health & dental insurance. The contributions toward the cost of your health and insurance depends upon your family status.  The cost can vary from free to a substantial amount depending upon the plan selected. It is important to review the products and prices annually to insure that you are making an appropriate choice in consideration of you and your family’s usage of medical/dental care.

Merit Staff:  The University covers the full cost of single health and dental insurance and life insurance coverage of 2.0 times your salary.  Family health and dental contributions are based on bargaining.

Graduate Assistants:  Contributions are based on bargaining between COGS and the University.

If you experience an increase or reduction in the percentage of your appointment, (such as 50% to 100%, 80% to 90%, or 100% to 75%), some of your benefits will be affected, others will not. Only the benefits that are related to salary will be affected if you have a percentage change of appointment. This means that life insurance, disability, retirement, vacation, sick leave, and social security will be affected. Health and dental insurance contributions are not affected by salary.

If an individual accepts a change of classification that moves them from one employment group, Faculty and Professional and Scientific to Merit or reverse, then the individual must change their benefit selections. A change of this type requires that the benefits of the person at their current position must terminate the end of the month of that position change. The benefits for the new position take over the first of the next month. Individuals will be required to go through a new orientation meeting because the benefits are different.

Benefits are available to individuals who have a regular and 50% time or greater appointment. If your position changes from temporary to regular or vice versa, you will either be eligible for or lose your benefits.

The term COBRA stands for Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act. This act mandates that most employers offer temporary continuation of group health coverage to plan participants and certain family members at group rates in situations where coverage would otherwise end.

All employees and their dependents who had group health plan coverage through the University as a result of employment are eligible. This includes employed students and their dependents with an RA or TA position, house staff/fellows and their dependents, post doctoral scholars/fellows and certain temporary staff. COBRA is not available to the domestic partners of merit staff.

An employee and their dependents are eligible to carry COBRA for up to 18 months. If it is found that you are disabled, you are eligible to extend the COBRA plan for up to 29 months. Dependents coming off the plan are eligible for up to 36 months (due to a divorce, no longer qualifying as a dependent, or death of policy holder).

There are two options for paying for COBRA. You can opt to have it come out of a savings or checking account OR you may opt to be billed monthly. If paying by automatic deduction, the premium will come out of the account the first working day of the month. If paying by bill, you will receive a bill the first week of the month which will state the date payment is due. COBRA coverage will be terminated due to nonpayment.

Once your termination or reduction in hours is in the University system you will receive information, or you may request it by contacting the Benefits Office. Please include your name, University employer ID number and the date of termination. For events other than termination or reduction in hours, you need to notify the Benefits Office so information can be sent to the affected dependent.

The University of Iowa covers dependents until the end of the calendar year in which they turn 26.

If they are a full-time student or permanently disabled, they may remain on the policy regardless of age.  Dependents of Faculty and P&S staff can be married as long as they meet the criteria above. The spouse and children of the married dependent are ineligible for coverage.

Check the University Benefits Office website for more information on adult child coverage for: Faculty, P&S, Merit Supervisory Exempt Staff, Merit Confidential, or, Merit Staff.

Yes, you are eligible to change plans when enrolling in COBRA and again during open enrollment, which is held at the same time as open enrollment for active employees. You must remain within the group of plans offered to active employees in the classification you were in while employed by the University.

Only the dependents covered at the time of the event are allowed to be covered under COBRA. The exceptions  to this rule are in the event of marriage, birth or adoption. Only those affected by the event may be added at  that time.

Yes, you may cover just your spouse/domestic partner/dependent, but they are only eligible for 18 months. There is no COBRA coverage for Merit domestic partners.

You need to contact a local insurance provider to pick up coverage in the state that you reside.

The UIChoice plan will cover you at either 60% or 90%, depending on the type of service provided.

The UI GRADCare, Blue Advantage and Blue Access plans will cover you in the event of an emergency. They will not cover anything routine, such as physicals. If you are on UI GRADCare and living outside of the area, please notify the University Benefits Office to be marked out-of-area. If you are on the Blue Advantage or Blue Access plan, contact Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield.

Non-participating providers can bill you for the difference between what Blue Cross and Blue Shield will pay for service and what they charge for billing (balance billing). More information can be found in the health insurance section of the Benefits Office web site.

You have 60 days from the last day of coverage to pick up COBRA.

COBRA terminations must be in writing.  You can send it through U.S./campus mail or via e-mail.  Include your name, Social Security number and the date you wish to have the coverage terminated.  Coverage will be cancelled the first of the month after receiving the termination notice, or the current month, if requested.

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