Elwood & Goetz was founded in Athens, Georgia — home of the state’s flagship higher education institution, the University of Georgia. Over the years, we’ve had the privilege to work closely with the UGA and University System of Georgia communities.
Many of the clients we serve currently work within or have worked within USG, and we have multiple distinguished UGA professors on our advisory team. This has helped us become deeply familiar with the benefits and retirement plan options offered by USG, and we make it a priority to evaluate changes to the University System’s benefits plan leading up to open enrollment each year.
Our USG open enrollment guide is intended to provide clarity and high-level recommendations for our clients and other University System of Georgia employees as they navigate their benefit options. That said, this guide is not a substitute for personalized advice that considers all areas of your financial situation.
If you’re an E&G client, you can reach out to your planning team any time with questions about your benefits selections. If you’re not currently an E&G client but are interested in potentially partnering with our team, you can book a free discovery call to learn more about our comprehensive wealth management services.
Key reminders for 2024 USG open enrollment
- Open enrollment begins October 23, 2023 and ends November 3, 2023.
- When making health insurance plan changes, always check with your doctors to ensure they will remain in-network with the new plan.
Benefit Changes Highlights
- Tobacco and Working Spouse Surcharge: As part of the 2024 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 $150 monthly surcharge per covered person will apply. A Working-spouse surcharge of $150/month is applied if a spouse is covered by a USG health plan and the spouse has available coverage through an employer, and the employer pays a portion of the premium.
- There are few significant changes in USG’s benefits for 2024, although employees will see a slight ($3-$10) increase in monthly premiums.
- The Consumer Choice HSA increased the maximum annual out-of-pocket limit by $200 for employee only and $400 for family. Otherwise, coverage amounts for all four health insurance plans will remain the same from 2023 to 2024.
- You can find the full 2024 USG benefits comparison guide here.
University System of Georgia Employee Benefits and Recommendations
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 features lower premiums and offers access to a Health Savings Account with an employer match.
If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant in 2024, the HMO or Comprehensive Care plan may make sense for you given the more comprehensive maternity care coverage.
Health Savings Account (HSA)
In our view, the Health Savings Account is a significantly better alternative to the Flexible Spending Accounts (detailed below) and 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 HSA contributions can:
- Be invested into the market; and
- Accumulate from year to year
Maximum contributions (including employer match) to an HSA in 2024 are $4,150 for individual coverage and $8,300 for family coverage. An additional $1,000 catch-up contribution is allowed for employees over age 55. Keep in mind that the USG match (up to $375 for individuals and $750 for families) counts toward these maximum contribution limits.
At a minimum, we generally 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.
A final note on HSAs: 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 from January 1, 2024 - March 15, 2025 and submitted for reimbursement by March 31, 2025 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 annual contribution of $3,050.
- Money within this FSA can be used on qualifying out-of-pocket healthcare, prescription drugs, dental and vision expenses.
Limited Purpose FSA
- 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 ($4,150 for individuals and $8,300 for families).
- Maximum annual contribution of $3,050.
- Money within this FSA can be used on specified dental and vision expenses.
Dependent Care FSA
- If you have qualifying dependent care expenses — such as 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.
- Maximum annual contribution of $5,000 ($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.
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 $34.22 – $109.52 (employee – family)
- $1,000/person annual maximum benefit
- No orthodontia coverage
Dental Insurance High Option
- Monthly premium range of $42.30 – $135.36 (employee – family)
- $1,500/person annual maximum benefit
- Up to $1,000 of lifetime orthodontia coverage (in addition to $1,500 annual maximum)
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
- The University System of Georgia 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 for evidence of insurability. Employees can elect spousal coverage without enrolling for employee coverage. 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.
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.
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 for evidence of insurability is required for new participants enrolling in the plan.
Short-term disability can be used for women on maternity leave. If you are an employee of USG and expect to become pregnant within the next year, we recommend considering this policy. 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.
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. 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.
There are many options when it comes to open enrollment benefits. At times, it can seem overwhelming to evaluate all your choices and make the best decision.
We hope this guide has provided some level of simplification and clarity for this year’s open enrollment period with USG.
For more information and additional resources, you may want to check out the USG website where you may register for virtual sessions on open enrollment.
As always, if you’re an existing E&G client and have questions about your specific benefits options, please reach out to your planning team. We are here to help explain and evaluate all of your options and provide you with optimal recommendations.
If you’re not an E&G client but you’re interested in potentially working with our financial planning team, please reach out. Beyond benefits selection, we’re ready to help you plan for all areas of your financial life. Schedule a no-cost discovery call today to learn more.