Human Resources Tips
Notice about Insurance - Health and other insurance benefits for employees and retirees are subject to change based on available State funding. The Texas Legislature determines the level of funding for such benefits and has no continuing obligation to provide those benefits beyond each fiscal year. The current outlook for the Group Benefits Program is available in the: http://www.ers.state.tx.us/home.aspx
ERS Annual Enrollment: July 11 – August 5, 2011
The Employees Retirement System of Texas (ERS) has set the Annual Enrollment period for Plan Year 2012. Enrollment will start Monday, July 11 and end Friday, August 5. ERS is starting enrollment later this year because of the uncertainty surrounding the state budget funding that will be available for the ERS Texas Employees Group Benefits Program. Until ERS knows what funding will be available, they cannot finalize insurance contribution rates or benefit design. The ERS Board will meet in May and June to consider these issues. ERS has prepared a handout that details how the health insurance program could be affected if it doesn’t receive the funding requested in the Legislative Appropriations Request.
ERS Dependent Audit
Securing the documents you provide in the dependent audit
Aon Hewitt, the independent company conducting the dependent verification audit for ERS, is following a number of processes to ensure the security of your documents. Aon Hewitt will send you an audit letter and email reminder asking you to send copies of documents to prove that the dependents you cover in health insurance in the Texas Employees Group Benefits Program (GBP) are eligible. Please don't send your documents to Aon Hewitt before you get your letter.
When you send the requested dependent documents, remember to black out Social Security numbers, monetary amounts, and account numbers on the copies. Don't send the original documents, because Aon Hewitt will destroy all documents when the audit is complete. If you do not wish to mail, fax, or upload your documents, you may bring them and your Aon Hewitt request letter to the ERS office, 200 E. 18th Street, Austin, TX 78701 starting May 2. Specially trained Aon Hewitt staff will be at ERS to scan your documents into the Aon Hewitt system from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. CT Monday through Friday for a limited time.
Please note: Some employees have indicated that they would like Aon Hewitt to contact them about the audit. Individuals who request a call from Aon Hewitt have given them a telephone number and the best time to call. Aon Hewitt will not ask the individuals for any portion of their Social Security number in connection with these calls. If you have questions about the audit, or if you need to drop an ineligible dependent at any time, call Aon Hewitt toll-free at 800-987-6605 Monday-Friday 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. CT and Saturday 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. CT. To learn more, go to the ERS website.
ERS Website Change: They Listened to You
The ERS website has changed with hopes to educate, inform, and engage their stakeholders: YOU. Through focus groups and usability studies, ERS has learned they need to use less jargon and an easy-to-use structure to help you find information on their website. They updated and redesigned the website to improve our experience, They hope you find the new site useful. Let them know what you think!
- Content divided by visitor groups (employees, former employees, retirees),
- A common tasks section called “I want to…” located on the homepage,
- An events and milestone section to help you with transitions in your life,
- A better, faster search engine to help you find information, and
- Self-service tools, such as:
- News About Your Benefits
- Event calendar
- Rate calculator
- Service purchase request form
- Retirement eligibility
Have you moved or changed your phone number or email address?
Update your new contact information in your ERS account by May 27, 2011 at 5 p.m. so you can receive benefits information from ERS this summer.
- Log in to your account from the ERS website. Click the Sign In button at the top. You may need to register your account.
- Click the appropriate link under My Personal Information to make your changes.
Beneficiary Social Security Numbers Required
If you have not reviewed your "Beneficiary Summary" on ERS OnLine and provided your beneficiaries' Social Security numbers for your ERS death benefit disbursements, please do so today. If ERS does not have this information, in the event of your death, payment of benefits to your beneficiary may be delayed or payment could be made to your estate instead of the named beneficiary. Follow the instructions on the ERS OnLine link. Click on your "Beneficiary Summary," which includes beneficiaries you have designated for your optional term life insurance and Basic Term Life policy. Check each one to make sure it is current and includes the beneficiary's Social Security number.
Changing Your Beneficiaries
You may request to change your life insurance beneficiaries at any time in ERS OnLine. If you do not have Internet access, you can call ERS to request this change. Whenever you request a beneficiary change, ERS will send you a confirmation notice verifying the change. You must sign and return the form to ERS. For your protection, the beneficiary change will not be valid until this form is signed by you, witnessed, and returned to ERS. If you do not change a beneficiary, but add a Social Security number, ERS will send you a confirmation letter, but the confirmation letter will not require a signature or return to ERS.
Don't miss important Summer Enrollment information. Check your address in ERS OnLine to make sure it's correct. Many eligible changes can be made through ERS OnLine. More information will be forthcoming on Summer Enrollment.
Check Flex Card Status At Any Time
TexFlex members can check the status of their TexFlex account at any time. To access, go to the ERS website, click on "TexFlex," scroll down and click on "VisitPayFlex website." Then, click on My Account and "debit card status." You will see either "active" or "inactive."
People Advantage Self Service (P.A.S.S.) is available to all UHV employees. The link can be found on the UHV Human Resources web page here. All employees are encouraged to log into P.A.S.S. and discover the benefits of a secure environment to view their own insurance benefits, paychecks/pay history, sick and vacation accruals and also change their home address, telephone information, direct deposit, marital status and name if applicable. Employees also have the capability to request a reprint of their W2 for past years up to 2001. There are also related links to ERS and Tex Flex.
Certificate required to cover common law spouses
If you wish to enroll a common law spouse in our health insurance and other coverage (e.g. dental, dependent life, Flexible Spending Account (TexFlex) or long term care) under the Texas Employees Group Benefits Program (GBP) after January 1, 2011, you must file a Declaration of Informal Marriage at your county courthouse.
Before this rule, employees and retirees could use utility records, bank statements, and the Declaration of Informal Marriage as proof of a common law marriage for GBP coverage. Now, GBP coverage requires you to file a Declaration of Informal Marriage before enrolling in coverage. Filing a Declaration of Informal Marriage is a qualifying life event which allows you to add your common law spouse to your benefits at that time.
As in the past, if you cover a common law spouse on your insurance, and later want to remove the dependent spouse from coverage, you must present a divorce decree, except during Annual Enrollment. You may also have to present a divorce decree for this marriage if you want to add another spouse to your GBP coverage in the future.
Optional Benefits – AFLAC & METLIFE
The University of Houston System is partnering with Aflac and MetLife to sponsor several optional benefits plans for System benefits-eligible employees through payroll deduction. These supplemental benefits are in addition to the benefits currently offered by the Employees Retirement System of Texas; however, the cost of each product will be the employee's sole responsibility and will not be supplemented in any way by the university or System. In addition, these supplemental benefits will be available for coverage of domestic partners. The products being offered are Aflac's Accident, Cancer, Critical Illness and Hospital Protection plans, and MetLife's Universal Life with Long-Term Care plan.
Did you receive disability insurance payments in 2010?
If you received Short-term or Long-term Disability Insurance payments in 2010, you should have received a W-2 in January from Fort Dearborn Life Insurance Company (FDL). This W-2 reflects any taxable and nontaxable amounts paid under the ERS disability plan. You should include this W-2 with all other documents you provide to your tax preparer. Consult with your tax advisor regarding the tax implications of any benefits you received. After consulting with your tax advisor, if you wish to initiate or change the withholding of federal income taxes from your monthly Long-term Disability benefit, please contact your Claims Representative at (855) ERS-LIFE (377-5433) and request a copy of form W-4S.
Age 26 dependents and the Affordable Care Act
If you have a dependent who turns 25 this year, ERS knows you are eager to learn how your dependent will be affected by the Affordable Care Act. Dependents who turn 25 before September 1, 2011 will be dropped from health coverage. In order to stay insured, they can elect to have COBRA coverage. The future of the Affordable Care Act is still uncertain, so we cannot provide final information at this point. However, ERS’ initial policy, unless something changes with federal or state legislation, is that health plan participants will be able to enroll dependents under age 26 in coverage without evidence of insurability (proof of good health), regardless of COBRA coverage. The enrollment period may coincide with the Annual Enrollment period in July, or there may be a special enrollment period. The re-enrollment would be effective September 1, 2011. Please keep in mind that federal health care reform is subject to several state and federal law revisions, which may affect how the health plan complies with this provision.
Texa$aver (457) participants should update beneficiaries
More than half of all Texa$aver* participants have not selected a beneficiary. It is important for 457 participants to select an individual to receive their Texa$aver account balances if they die. Texa$aver is mailing a beneficiary form and pre-paid postage envelopes to 457 participants who do not have beneficiaries on file. Beneficiaries for your life insurance are separate from Texa$aver beneficiaries. Texa$aver participants designate their Texa$aver beneficiaries on a Texa$aver form NOT through the University of Houston. To update a beneficiary, participants must complete the form and return it directly to Texa$aver. You can return the form three ways:
- Mail the form in the pre-paid postage envelope you receive in the mail;
- Scan and email the form to firstname.lastname@example.org; or
- Fax the form to Texa$aver at 866-745-5766.
Participants don’t have to wait for the letter. You can update their Texa$aver beneficiaries today using the Beneficiary Designation Governmental 457(b) Plan Form. If you have questions, call Texa$aver toll-free at 800-634-5091, 8 a.m.-7 p.m. CT, Monday through Friday.
The Texas Legislature has proposed a bill that could affect our longevity pay. This House Bill (HB 3168) proposes the elimination of longevity pay for state employees and the creation a structured merit pay program. The bill is still in the legislature being considered by House. You may view the bill at the website of the Legislative Budget Board. We will let you know if there are any changes to your longevity pay.
Retirement Manager News!
The Retirement Manager website has been updated and we are pleased to announce several new and easy ways to manage and learn about your retirement benefits. With this Retirement Manager upgrade you are able to:
- Further protect your financial data by creating your own unique User ID, and selecting security questions and images customized to your preferences.
- Navigate easily to important tasks related to your retirement plans.
- Quickly locate retirement plan information and investment provider contacts.
- Access important financial topics and information about current market trends.
Please be assured that these changes do not require any action on your part, and your existing Retirement Manager website address will not change. You may access a Quick Reference Guide by clicking on the “Retirement Manager Demo” link on the website. This Guide has been designed as a “road map” to assist in exploring the new features on Retirement Manager. This Quick Reference Guide will also be available on the Retirement Manager website in the “Help” section. Should you have any questions, please feel free to contact the HR office at 361-570-4803 and we would be happy to assist you.
Visit the State of Texas discount purchase program website.
Employees, retirees, and their immediate families can use the site to get discounts on many products and services, from computers to theme park passes. There's no sign-up fee, registration, or cost to you. Visit today to start saving.
TRS/Benefits Information for Retirees:
For additional information please contact Denise Prescott, Payroll/Benefits Manager at 361-570-4803 or by email.