Oct. 21, 2009

Benefits deadlines and decisions abound for employees

September through December are typically the times that employers and insurance vendors consider changes to health and dental plans that will be effective the following year. Cornell faculty and staff have a number of benefits plan decisions to make in the months ahead, many with different deadlines.

Medical and dental plans

Endowed employees must execute changes to their health and dental plans or sign up for Select Benefits during the endowed open enrollment period, Nov. 1-30.

Contract college employees make their determinations during the designated option transfer period, which will be set by New York state. The state does not inform Cornell when that period begins until the day it begins; it then lasts for 30 days.

Flexible spending accounts

In September, New York state sent Cornell's contract-college employees in the NYSHIP program a notice of the enrollment period for New York state flexible spending accounts, which are different from Cornell's select benefits accounts. Flexible spending accounts are for state employees who are not part of Cornell. Contract college employees interested in the pre-tax advantages of flexible spending accounts -- and especially employees receiving child care grants -- must enroll in Cornell's select benefits during the option transfer period.

Employees will soon receive the benefits annual report from Human Resources. The report will include a notice about contributions to Cornell's tax-deferred retirement accounts (TDA). Endowed and contract-college employees can enroll in or change the amounts they contribute to a TDA -- or transfer funds from one investment fund to another -- at any time during the year. However, if you decide to enroll in or change the amounts withdrawn from your paycheck and want that change instituted with your first paycheck in January, you must submit a new form with those changes by Nov. 30. If you don't care when the changes become effective, you can ignore this deadline.

Recap of dates for Cornell employees to remember

Oct. 19-30: Special enrollment period for Cornell's Group Life Insurance, open to endowed and contract college faculty and staff. See http://www.ohr.cornell.edu/whatsNew/whatsNewBenefits/whatsNewBenefitsLife10-09.html.

Nov. 1-30: Open enrollment in health, dental and Cornell Select Benefits Medical Care and Dependent Care accounts, open to endowed faculty and staff. See http://www.ohr.cornell.edu/benefits/openEnrollment.html. Federal law prohibits Cornell from accepting enrollments after Nov. 30.

For 30 days following New York state's announcement (to come) of 2010 health care rates: option transfer period for New York state health and Cornell Select Benefits Medical Care and Dependent Care accounts, open to contract college faculty and staff. See http://www.ohr.cornell.edu/benefits/openEnrollment.html. Federal law prohibits Cornell from accepting enrollments for select benefits beyond the 30-day option transfer period, or Dec. 31, whichever is earlier.

Nov. 30: The final date to ensure that changes to your TDAs are instituted by the first paycheck in January. However, federal law allows you to change your retirement contribution at any time.

Paul Bursic is director of Benefit Services.