Some advice for anyone seeking information on the university's employee health insurance program: Don't pay attention to politicians, news reports or co-workers.
That's because, despite the attempts of Springfield politicians to challenge the decision by Illinois Healthcare and Family Services to drop popular local health plans, the reality is quite simple:
"What we know is Central Management Services has come forward with their announcement," said Jim Davito, interim executive director of University Payroll and Benefits. "This is the decision and it's happening. Those are our marching orders."
Davito's office wasted no time in sending out emails to university employees after the CMS announcement, which followed the state's Executive Ethics Committee denial of protests filed by officials of Health Alliance and Humana HMOs.
With that May 24 ruling, university employees under PersonalCare HMO, Health Alliance HMO, Health Alliance Illinois, Humana Health Plans and Humana-Winnebago were given until June 17 to change their plans. Plans go into effect July 1.
The providers include HMO Illinois, Blue Advantage, PersonalCare Open Access Plan, HealthLink Open Access Plan and Quality Care Health Plan.
"The most important thing I'd like to tell people is the need to make an active selection," he said. "This is your chance to choose the plan that is best for you."
Enrollment must be done online. Anyone whose plan was canceled and fails to select a new health care provider by June 17 will be placed into the Quality Care Health Plan.
Davito said even if legislators were to find an effective way to repeal the HFS health-carrier decision, any challenge could take months and employees would already have been enrolled in the new plans.
A May 25 resolution by the General Assembly's Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability was pointed in its disagreement over changes made in state health plans, but an opinion offered by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said the resolution was non-binding on the HFS decision.
On May 31, the Illinois House sent a bill to Gov. Pat Quinn that would cancel the new health-provider contracts and reinstitute the old ones for two years, but observers say a Quinn veto is likely.
The current reality, said Davito, is that the UI employee health plan has changed and employees have until June 17 to make a new selection. He said any changes in the state's stance would be reported to CMS, followed by an official announcement from his office.
"Other (legislative) initiatives will go on as they go on, but it's not affecting our behavior today," he said. "We're on a path and we're moving forward."
"Make yourself aware of the different plans and the new options," he said. "You'll be happier with what you choose for yourself and we want to assist people in getting that choice made."
Open Access Plans have three tiers of coverage, which include an HMO and PPO network option and an Indemnity Plan option.
Selections must be made through the online NESSIE employee system at http://go.illinois.edu/BenefitChoice2012. A help link on every page gives users access to FAQs and telephone numbers to call for assistance. Employees also may make changes to dental, life and dependent coverage through NESSIE. Employees also may enroll or re-enroll in the Medical Care Assistance Plan and the Dependent Care Assistance Plan since previous enrollment in these programs does not continue into the new plan year.
For assistance on the Urbana campus, call 217-333-3111.
Davito advised employees to refer to the coverage map in the Benefit Choice Option Booklet to determine which carriers are available in their region. That booklet may be accessed at http://go.illinois.edu/BC_booklet12.
Davito said the extended choice period means his office will have less time to finish its health insurance work by the July 1 deadline.
"Generally we have the whole month of June," he said. "It shortens the window and we'll just have to work twice as hard. It won't be easy, but it's certainly doable."
Information sessions for university employees are available. Register at the Office of Business and Financial Services' website at http://training.obfs.uillinois.edu.