As an Athens, Georgia-based financial planning firm with three distinguished professors from the University of Georgia on our team, we have deep ties to UGA and the University System of Georgia.

Our experience and relationships have allowed us to build advanced expertise around benefits and retirement planning for university professors, faculty, staff, and retirees. We have the honor of serving dozens of clients who have worked or are currently working as professors, deans, and university administrators.

One of the most important aspects of any financial plan and career is benefits. And each year, benefit plans can change. 

We developed this open enrollment guide to help our clients and other University System of Georgia employees better understand this year’s changes and navigate the benefit options available to them. 

Noteworthy reminders about USG open enrollment

  • Open enrollment began on October 25, 2021 and ends November 5, 2021.
  • There are few significant changes in USG’s benefits for 2022, and employees will see a slight ($1-$21) increase in monthly premiums.
  • When making health insurance plan changes, always check with your doctors to ensure they will remain in-network with the new plan.
  • As part of the 2022 enrollment process, you will need to certify tobacco user status for yourself, your spouse (if covered under the plan), and any adult dependents.  If you are a tobacco user or do not complete the certification, a $100 monthly surcharge per covered person will apply.

Benefit Changes Highlights

  • The Consumer Choice HSA increased the maximum annual out-of-pocket limit by $300 for employee-only and $600 for family plans. Otherwise, coverage amounts for all four health insurance plans will remain the same from 2021 to 2022.
  • You can read the full USG 2022 Benefits Comparison Guide here.

University System of Georgia Employee Benefits and Recommendations

Health Insurance

Because the Comprehensive Care and Consumer Choice HSA plans have more provider flexibility, offering both in-network and out-of-network coverage options, we recommend these plans over the HMO plan options in most cases.

The Consumer Choice HSA plan should be strongly considered (even for people with higher medical expenses) given its lower premiums and the available Health Savings Account with an employer match.

If you are planning to become pregnant in 2022, the HMO or Comprehensive Care plan may make sense given the more comprehensive coverage for maternity care.  

Health Savings Account (HSA)

The Health Savings Account is a significantly better alternative to the Flexible Spending Accounts (detailed below) but is only available to employees who participate in the Consumer Choice HSA health plan.

Money is contributed to an HSA on a pre-tax basis and can be used for qualifying out-of-pocket healthcare, prescription drug, dental, and vision expenses. Unlike Flexible Spending Accounts, any unused money contributed to an HSA is allowed to accumulate from year to year and can be invested.

Maximum contributions (including employer match) to an HSA in 2022 are $3,650 for individual coverage and $7,300 for family coverage (up from $3,600 and $7,200 in 2021). An additional $1,000 catch-up contribution is also allowed for employees over age 55. Please keep in mind that the USG match counts toward these maximum contribution limits.

At a minimum, we recommend redirecting the premium savings resulting from choosing the Consumer Choice HSA plan (rather than the Comprehensive Care plan) to your HSA account, which will also allow you to take advantage of the employer dollar-for-dollar match up to $375 (individual) or $750 (family).

Please note that contributions to HSAs are not allowed for employees enrolled in Medicare Part A or who are receiving Social Security benefits. You may choose to opt out of Medicare Part A until retirement.

Flexible Spending Account (FSA)

Money is contributed to an FSA pre-tax and can be used for qualifying out-of-pocket healthcare, prescription drugs, dental, and vision expenses. Unlike the Health Savings Account, contribution amounts cannot be rolled over from year to year.

All eligible expenses must be incurred by March 15, 2023, and submitted for reimbursement by March 31, 2023 to avoid losing the unused balance. 

Contributions cannot be changed throughout the year unless you have a qualifying event. 

FSA Plan Options

Health Care FSA

  • Only available for employees who do not participate in Health Savings Account
  • Maximum contribution of $2,750
  • Money within this FSA can be used on qualifying out-of-pocket healthcare, prescription drugs, dental and vision expenses.

Limited Purpose FSA

  • Because qualified expenses are more limited with this FSA plan, we only recommend this option for USG employees who are already contributing the maximum allowable amount to a Health Savings Account ($3,650 for individuals and $7,300 for families)
  • Maximum contribution of $2,750
  • Qualifying expenses include specified dental & vision expenses

Dependent Care FSA

  • If you have qualifying dependent care expenses — like preschool, summer day camp, before or after school programs, and child daycare — we strongly recommend you participate in the Dependent Care FSA. Contributions are made on a pre-tax basis, allowing you to save on dependent care expenses and reduce your overall tax liability.
  • Contribute up to $5,000 a year ($2,500 if married filing separately)
  • Eligible expenses include dependent care expenses for children who are under age 13 or disabled
  • Both parents must be employed in order to qualify for this account

Dental Insurance

If you receive regular cleanings & exams (i.e., every 6 months), participating in the dental insurance plan is close to a break-even. Any additional dental work will likely result in the dental plan being a better financial strategy than paying for your expenses out-of-pocket.

Dental Insurance Base Option

  • Monthly premium range of $31.98 – $102.32 (employee – family)
  • $1,000/person annual maximum benefit
  • No orthodontia coverage

Dental Insurance High Option 

  • Monthly premium range of $39.52 – 126.46 (employee – family)
  • $1,500/person annual maximum benefit
  • Up to $1,000 of orthodontia coverage (in addition to $1,500 annual maximum)
Photo of Melissa Barron, financial planner at Elwood & Goetz

Vision Insurance

USG health plans (except for the HMO plans) already cover employees’ annual eye exams. However, they do not cover contact lenses or eyeglasses. You should consider the vision plan if you or a covered family member use eyeglasses or contacts.

  • Monthly premiums range from $6.90 - $20.34 (employee – family)
  • Benefits include $25 copay for single vision lens and a $150 allowance for eyeglass frames and/or medically necessary contact lenses

Life Insurance

Typically, if you are in good health and a non-smoker, it will be less expensive to obtain individual (non-group) life insurance coverage as compared to employer-based group life insurance. 

If you are an existing client interested in exploring this option or are unsure whether you need additional life insurance coverage, please contact your planning team, and we are happy to assist. If you’re not an existing client but you may be interested in working with one of our advisors, please reach out to us to learn more.

  • The University provides $25,000 of basic life insurance and $25,000 of Accidental Death and Dismemberment (AD&D) insurance at no cost to the employee.
  • Employees can obtain additional group life insurance coverage, up to 8 times their salary; however, proof of good health (i.e., underwriting/evidence of insurability) is required for coverage increases exceeding 1 times salary and for coverage amounts exceeding 3 times salary or $500,000. 
  • Spousal coverage is available up to $500,000, but any increase in coverage requires underwriting/evidence of insurability. Employees can elect spousal coverage without also enrolling for employee coverage. Please note that spouses who are both USG employees cannot obtain spousal coverage on each other.
  • Additional Accidental Death and Dismemberment (AD&D) coverage is only paid out under certain conditions. We recommend that any life insurance needs be met through the traditional group insurance coverage available through USG or through private, individual (non-group) life insurance coverage. 
  • Remember to check your beneficiary designations.

Short-Term Disability Insurance

In general, if you have an emergency fund already in place, short-term disability insurance is not required. However, your and your family’s medical history should be considered in making this decision. 

For short-term disability insurance, underwriting/evidence of insurability is required for new participants enrolling in the plan.

Short-term disability can be used for women on maternity leave. Therefore, if you are an employee of USG and expect to become pregnant within the next year, this policy should be considered. 

Existing E&G clients can contact their planning team to discuss this strategy further. Please note that if you are already pregnant and do not currently have short-term disability coverage, you may not be covered under this plan. 

Long-Term Disability Insurance

We strongly recommend participating in USG’s long-term disability plan. If you’re unable to work for a long period of time because of an injury or illness, USG’s long-term disability insurance will replace 60% of your salary, up to $15,000 per month. The cost to enroll is based on your USG salary.

Critical Illness and Accident Insurance

Because these plans cover limited and specific critical illnesses, we do not recommend these policies in general. That said, you should consider your and your family’s medical history while making this decision. If you have a critical illness that qualifies for this coverage, it may make sense for you to participate.

If you have questions about your specific situation, we encourage you to reach out to your E&G financial planning team. We can help you evaluate the options and provide you with a financially optimal recommendation.

Lifestyle Benefits Packages

USG also offers lifestyle benefits packages for employees. Plan participants can receive discounts for services like roadside assistance, identity theft protection, pet care, and more.

Whether you should enroll depends on your specific needs and interests. Because these services are specific and not universal needs, we do not have a general recommendation. That said, if you are interested in participating, we encourage you to talk with your benefits provider to better assess the quality of the services and vendors covered by the lifestyle benefits package.

Conclusion

There are a lot of variables and options when it comes to open enrollment benefits. Sometimes, it can be tricky or a little overwhelming to review all of the options and make the decisions that are best for you. 

We hope this guide has provided some clarity and direction for this year’s open enrollment period with USG.

For additional information and resources, you may want to check out the USG Virtual Benefits Fair, happening daily through October 29, 2021. Each day has special live presentations and the opportunity to chat one-on-one with benefits representatives from USG. On-demand recordings from the benefits fair will be available beyond October 29. 

Examples of sessions from the USG Virtual Benefits Fair include:

  • Understanding your pharmacy benefits
  • Plan your retirement (particularly helpful for retirees and those planning to retire soon who are interested in exploring retirement healthcare benefits)
  • What retirees need to know about USG and Medicare Open Enrollment 

Remember, 2022 open enrollment ends on November 5, 2021.

If you’re an existing E&G client and USG employee, please reach out to your planning team with any questions. We can review your options with you alongside your comprehensive financial plan.

For USG employees who are not currently working with E&G, we hope you found this guide equally as helpful. If you’re interested in working with a financial advisory team to help manage all areas of your financial plan — including benefits and retirement planning — we hope you’ll take a look at our services, learn more about our team, and whenever you’re ready, reach out to us to schedule a consultation meeting.