You should have received an email from University Human Resources at 4:45 p.m. yesterday announcing that the state of New Jersey extended health insurance open enrollment until Friday, November 4. Our union staff was finishing up the last of a series of town halls, so we were unable to notify you ourselves. Those of you deciding whether to change health plans to avoid a large premium contribution increase now have an extra four days.
Thanks to all of our members and our Coalition of Rutgers Unions for pressing the state for more time. The extension was granted because many of you flagged problems and misinformation in the state and insurance company calculators that made it impossible to compare the costs of the plans available to us. After our unions showed them this evidence, the state grudgingly acknowledged the problems and extended the deadline. Click here to see a newly created and accurate chart showing your annual costs under the NJ Direct and Omnia tiered network plans.
Unfortunately, the state hasn’t agreed to cap the large cost increases for many plans. But you can take the next four days to decide whether you want to change your enrollment. We will be holding additional town hall meetings later this week, where our union’s executive director, Patrick Nowlan, will discuss the different health plans, how they compare, and how to change plans (thanks to Patrick for his tireless work in helping us understand this mess!).
We’ll send out information about the additional town halls when they’re set up. Meanwhile, see the resources and information below to understand what your options are.
Becky and Todd
Rebecca Givan, President, Rutgers AAUP-AFT
Todd Wolfson, General Vice President, Rutgers AAUP-AFT
Resources for understanding your options
- Side-by-side comparison of the available health plans
- Side-by-side comparison of accompanying prescription plans
- Look up your annual premium contribution for the NJ Direct/2019 and Omnia tiered network plans. (To see how much would be deducted from your paycheck twice a month under these plans, divide the annual contribution by 24.)
- See your projected monthly plan costs for 2023 in Benefit Solver, the state’s online tool. (Login or create an account at https://my.state.nj.us/aui/Login; if Benefit Solver doesn’t appear, click “Need Help?”, then the Benefit Solver option, and follow the instructions from there. Important: The calculator should always show the monthly cost for the new NJ Direct/2019 plan (with the code (027) or (030)) to be LOWER than the Direct 15 plan monthly cost. If that’s not true for you, the calculator is inaccurate; take screenshots and email them to us at email@example.com.)
Earlier this fall, the state of New Jersey imposed a drastic increase, effective January 2023, in premium contributions from state workers in the following plans: PPO plans Direct 15, Direct 1525, Direct 2030, and Direct 2035; the HMO plan; and the two High Deductible plans. We have been trying to negotiate a cap on these increases but haven’t succeeded.
Premium contributions for the Direct PPO plans and the High Deductible plans will go up by 18.4 percent as of January 2023, and the HMO plan contribution will go up by 18.3 percent. If you are in one of these plans—as most people represented by our union are—the deduction in your biweekly paycheck for health insurance will increase by that percentage. If your current deduction is $100, for example, that would increase to $118.40 (or $118.30 for the HMO).
You may want to consider switching into the newer NJ Direct PPO plan (NJ Direct 2019 for more recent hires). As a result of union negotiations at the state level and here at Rutgers, the amount deducted from your paycheck for these plans will increase by only 3 percent starting in January. Deductions for the Omnia tiered-network plan will increase by only 2.25 percent.
The chief difference with the NJ Direct and NJ Direct 2019 plans is that they have a higher co-pay for specialist appointments ($30 compared to $15 for Direct 15) and urgent care and emergency room visits ($45/$150 compared to $15/$100). Prescription co-payments are also somewhat higher. If you have regular appointments with specialists or visit urgent care more often, you will want to estimate whether the greater out-of-pocket expenses outweigh the savings from premium contributions if you switch into one of these plans.
The Omnia tiered network plan has the lowest premium contribution of the available plans, but it is built for physicians and health care services in New Jersey (Tier 1 and Tier 2 providers). It is not the best option if you live out of state—all providers are Tier 2, and there are no out-of-network benefits.
All the details of the various plans are compared side-by-side in this document. You should be able to see the effect of the various premium hikes on a monthly basis in Benefit Solver, the state’s online tool for making plan changes. But remember that the calculator should show that the monthly cost for the new NJ Direct/2019 plan (with the code (027) or (030)) is LOWER than the Direct 15 plan monthly cost. If it isn’t, that’s an error; take screenshots and email them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.