Penn Faculty Benefits News

Penn Faculty Benefits News: April 21, 2015

Benefits Open Enrollment Has Begun

oe_groupPenn Benefits Open Enrollment began April 20 and ends May 1. Now is the time to consider your healthcare coverage needs and update your elections for the 2015-2016 plan year. Read on for all you need to know about how to enroll and make changes.

How to Enroll

From Monday, April 20 through Friday, May 1, make changes to your benefits coverage online at Penn's secure Benefits Enrollment website using your PennKey and password.

If you prefer to enroll by phone, contact the Penn Benefits Center at 1-888-PENN-BEN (1-888-736-6236), Monday through Friday, between 8am and 6pm EDT.

Making Changes During Open Enrollment

During Open Enrollment you need to determine if your current benefits still meet your needs or if you need to make a change, such as:

  • Enrolling in a health care plan for the first time, or dropping an existing plan.
  • Switching to a different medical, dental, or vision plan.
  • Increasing or decreasing your life insurance coverage.
  • Changing how much you contribute to a flexible spending account.
  • Adding or dropping a dependent from your benefits coverage*.

*If you add a new dependent, you’ll receive a letter requesting that you provide verification of that dependent’s eligibility under Penn’s plan rules. You’ll also need to provide verification if you re-enroll a spouse/partner who had previously been covered.

If You Don’t Enroll

If you don’t make changes during Open Enrollment, you’ll receive the same coverage you had last year.

It is important to remember that under the Affordable Care Act, if you waive your University coverage, you are still responsible for obtaining coverage through some other source. For example, you can obtain coverage through a spouse’s or domestic partner’s plan, your parent’s plan (if you are under age 26), or via the Health Insurance Marketplace.

Making Changes After Enrollment

The choices you make during Benefits Open Enrollment will remain in effect through June 30, 2016, unless you experience a qualifying event. Qualifying events include the birth or adoption of a child, marriage or domestic partnership, divorce or separation, death of a dependent, and change in your dependent’s eligibility for benefits. Keep in mind that the IRS limits the types of changes you can make for qualifying events. If you experience a qualifying event, please contact the Penn Benefits Center within 30 days at 1-888-PENN-BEN (1-888-736-6236), Monday through Friday, between 8am and 6pm EDT.

When Are Changes Effective?

Changes made during Open Enrollment will be effective as of July 1, 2015. New rates for all plans will be reflected in your July 2015 paycheck. Your pay must support your contributions for the benefits elected. If that is not the case, then your enrollment cannot be processed.

More Information

Learn more about the 2015-2016 Open Enrollment period from the following resources:

  • Review the Open Enrollment materials delivered to your home address.
  • Visit where you can access 2015-2106 rates, benefit comparison charts, contribution charts and online provider directories. You’ll also find information about upcoming presentations and fairs.
  • Contact the Penn Benefits Center at 1-888-PENNBEN (1-888-736-6236), Monday through Friday, between 8am and 6pm EDT.
  • Contact Human Resources at

Summer Income and Your Retirement Savings

summer_savings_class_outsideTaking on an extra position for the summer has benefits, from more time to research or connect with students to the additional income. The extra pay also increases your retirement savings if you make automatic contributions to one of Penn’s retirement savings plans.

Generally, that’s good news. We all want to save more for retirement. But keep this in mind: The summertime boost to your retirement savings can have unintended consequences. If you don’t actively manage your automatic contributions after summer, you could reach the annual IRS contribution limit earlier than expected. That could also cause you to miss out on some of Penn’s matching contributions. This is especially true if you participate in both the Penn Matching Plan and Supplemental Plan.

For example, a faculty member has an annual salary of $125,000. She makes a 5% contribution to the Penn Matching Plan, which equals $520.83 a month, and $6,250 for the year. If she makes an additional 9% contribution to the Penn Supplemental Retirement Account (SRA), she saves an additional $11,250 ($937.50/month) toward retirement, bringing her total annual contribution to $17,450, just under the $18,000 maximum. If that faculty member also has a three-month Summer Research position that increases her annual salary by $30,000, then her 5% contribution will increase and cause her to reach the $18,000 contribution limit in November. This means that she’ll also miss out on Penn’s matching contribution in December.

So how do you avoid a situation like this? Simply call Penn’s Retirement Call Center at 877-PENN-RET or 877-736-6738. Plan representatives can tell you if you’ll approach your contribution limit and, if so, recalculate your monthly contributions to help you maximize the matching contributions from the University.

Under the IRS annual contribution limits for retirement savings, the maximum amount an individual can contribute to his or her retirement plans (pre-tax and Roth contributions combined) in 2015 generally cannot exceed $18,000. For those 50 years or older, the maximum is $24,000. If you’ve worked for Penn 15 years or more, your limit could be as high as $27,000.

For more information about Penn’s retirement plans, visit the Saving for Retirement webpage. Benefits-eligible faculty members can also take advantage of free, one-on-one retirement investment counseling from Penn’s retirement plan providers, TIAA-CREF and Vanguard.

*In 2015, the IRS limits employer contributions to salary up to $265,000.

Your Life, Your Decisions

your-life_decisions_emailWe all value the freedom to make decisions to improve our lives and the lives of those around us. But what happens when we are no longer able to make those choices or share them with our loved ones?

  • What if you were hospitalized and you couldn’t speak? Who would speak for you?
  • What if your parent slipped into a coma and was not expected to recover? Do you know her last wishes?
  • What if you’ve recently remarried? Are you sure that all your financial and legal records reflect your current family situation?


Ideally, everyone would be lucid and peaceful at the end of a long life. Unfortunately, many common but serious conditions such as ALS, cancer, Alzheimer’s, lung and heart disease, and brain injury can impair thought and expression. Illness and unexpected injury can take away our ability to communicate, but advanced directives can protect our dignity and insure that our wishes are carried out.

“In many ways, an advanced directive is a gift we give not only ourselves but our loved ones by providing clarity and understanding at times we cannot communicate directly,” says Heather Sheaffer, DSW, LCSW, Director, Patient and Family Services, Abramson Cancer Center.

Sheaffer recently led Advance Directives: Who Needs Them? When? What Do They Do?, a free Penn faculty and staff workshop centered on difficult, yet rewarding conversations around end-of-life care. At this event, she recommended resources such as and discussed these key pointers from the website:

  • It’s okay to just start thinking about advanced directive issues.
  • You can start out by writing a letter—to yourself, a loved one, or a friend.
  • You might consider having a practice conversation with a friend.
  • Having the conversation may reveal that you and your loved ones disagree. That’s okay. It’s important to simply know this, and to continue talking about it now—not during a medical crisis.
  • Having the conversation isn’t just a one-time thing. It’s the first in a series of conversations over time.


In addition to Quality of Worklife workshops such as Advance Directives, Penn provides many related support services to benefits-eligible Penn faculty and staff, such as:

Aetna Life Essentials
Aetna Life Essentials provides a range of services in case of disabling or life limiting conditions—from financial planning to physical support. 

    For added peace of mind, be sure to properly name your Penn life insurance and retirement plan beneficiaries. This convenient checklist guides you through
the process.
Everest is an independent consumer advocate who can help you make informed decisions about funeral planning and related issues.      

Penn Employee Assistance Program (EAP)
Penn’s EAP provides free, confidential professional counseling for emotional health, as well as legal resources and financial information for those interested in living wills and power of attorney. 

Health Advocate
Health Advocate helps members navigate complex healthcare and insurance-related issues. 

Source: National Healthcare Decisions Day,


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