2017- 2019 State Budget Bill Signed - Domestic Partnership Impacts

On September 21, 2017, Governor Walker signed the 2017-2019 State Budget Bill. The budget bill contains a provision that eliminates the Chapter 40 domestic partnership program which will impact employees who are in a domestic partnership. At this time, the Department of Employee Trust Funds (ETF) is reviewing the signed budget bill to identify implications for the Wisconsin Retirement System and ETF-administered benefit programs (including health insurance, life insurance, dental insurance and vision insurance). We will update this article when we receive more information on the impacts.

Once ETF provides a review of the budget bill, a targeted communication will be sent to employees who currently cover a domestic partner/domestic partner’s child(ren) to inform them of the impacts and any action they may have to take.

Resource: ETF Initial Review of 2017-2019 State Budget

Source: UW System Human Resources

Health Plan Changes for 2018

The Group Insurance Board met on August 30, 2017 and approved the following health plan changes to the 2018 State Group Health Insurance program. If you are affected by these changes, please watch for information from your current health plan between now and the Annual Benefits Enrollment period from October 2 – 27, 2017 for 2018 coverage.

The following health plans have elected not to participate in the program in 2018:

  • Anthem Blue Preferred Northeast
  • Arise Health Plan
  • Health Tradition Health Plan
  • Humana Eastern and Western
  • UnitedHealthcare of Wisconsin

If you are currently enrolled in one of the plans listed, you will be required to select a new health plan during the Annual Benefits Enrollment period. Additional information on these changes and steps you will need to take will be sent to you.

In order to assist you in choosing a new health plan for 2018, in the Resources section below a map with health plan carriers available by county can be accessed.

Other Plan Changes

Network Health Northeast and Network Health Southeast will combine into Network Health to offer one coverage area. Participants will be auto-enrolled in the new combined plan, Network Health, unless they select a different plan during open enrollment.

Gundersen Health Plan, Physicians Plus and Unity Health Insurance will be offered under the name "Quartz". Participants of these plans will be auto-enrolled in either Quartz-Community or Quartz-UW Health and can select a different plan during open enrollment. You will see Quartz-Community or Quartz-UW listed as your health plan in Self Service during the Annual Benefits Enrollment period.

WEA Trust will replace WPS as the new administrator of the Access Plan and the State Maintenance Plan (SMP) for 2018. Participants will be auto-enrolled in the same plan with WEA Trust, unless they select a different plan during open enrollment.

Health Plans Being Offered in 2018

The Group Insurance Board approved the following health plan carriers to be available in 2018:

Health Plan and High Deductible Health Plan:

  • Dean Health Insurance and Dean Health Insurance-Prevea360
  • Group Health Cooperative of Eau Claire
  • Group Health Cooperative of South Central Wisconsin
  • HealthPartners Health Plan
  • Medical Associates Health Plans
  • MercyCare Health Plans
  • Network Health
  • Security Health Plan – Central and Valley
  • Quartz – Community and UW Health (formerly Gundersen, Physicians Plus and Unity)
  • WEA Trust – East, Northwest Chippewa Valley and Mayo Clinic Health System

Access Plan, Access High Deductible Health Plan and State Maintenance Plan (SMP):

  • WEA Trust


Click here for a health plan map to see which health plans are available in your county for 2018.

It is important to review the provider directory of the health plan you select to ensure that your preferred providers are covered.  Click here for a list of health plan provider directories.


 If you have questions, please contact your human resources office.

Source: UW System Human Resources

How are UW Employee Health Insurance Benefits and Costs Established Each Year?

Good question! For many employees, health insurance benefits are the most important fringe benefit offered by the UW System. Every year, we see changes to the health insurance program even if the only change is your monthly premium contribution. Then in the fall, during the Annual Benefits Enrollment (ABE) period, you have the opportunity to enroll in the health insurance program, make changes to your coverage level or change health insurance carriers. So let’s learn about the process of establishing those annual health plan options and costs.

What is the State Group Health Insurance Program?
The State Group Health Insurance program is an employer-sponsored program offering group health insurance to employees of state agencies, UW System, UW Hospital and Clinics Authority and participating local government employers.

The UW System does not determine the benefits, premiums, employee premium contributions or which health plans are offered. Changes for 2018 are expected to be approved by the Group Insurance Board (GIB) on August 30, 2017.

Who decides how much I have to pay for health insurance premium contributions?
The health plans submit premium bids to the Department of Employee Trust Funds (ETF) each July for the following year. The bids and required claims data is examined by the Group Insurance Board’s (GIB) actuaries and negotiations are conducted by ETF. The GIB must approve the premium rates for each health plan.

While most employees do not pay the full premium cost, the full premium cost does impact the amount of the employee monthly premium contribution. Each year, the monthly amount that employees are required to pay for health insurance is established by the state Division of Personnel Management (DPM). DPM determines the employee contribution towards premium based on the provisions in Wis. Stat. § 40.05 (4) (ag) and (ah). For most employees, the monthly premium contribution may not exceed 12 percent of the average premium cost of plans offered in each premium tier.

What are premium tiers?
ETF assigns each health plan to one of three premium tiers based on the relative efficiency with which a plan is able to provide the benefits and the quality of care that is required by the GIB. Plans are given extra credit in the tier assignment process if they scored well on measures of quality, patient safety, and customer satisfaction.

For most full-time employees, your monthly health insurance premium contributions are based upon the Tier in which your health plan is placed. A plan’s Tier may change from year to year but there will always be at least one Tier 1 plan offered in your area.

Who administers the State Group Health Insurance Program?
The Department of Employee Trust Funds (ETF) and the Group Insurance Board (GIB) have statutory authority for program administration and oversight [Wis Stat § 15.165 (2) and 40.03(6)]. All health plans follow GIB guidelines for eligibility and program requirements. The health plans (except the Access Plan and Access HDHP) all offer the same benefit package called Uniform Benefits (as well as the option of electing Uniform Dental coverage for a small additional cost) and compete in an annual competitive premium rates bid process.

Who decides what’s covered under the State Group Health Insurance Program?
The GIB generally determines the coverage offered by the health plans, however, the program must also comply with applicable state and federal laws. The GIB has a fiduciary responsibility to administer the program in accordance with state statute. The GIB decisions are based on ETF recommendations, GIB actuaries and other guidance.

Who decides which health insurance carriers are offered?
In today’s environment, the health plan decides if they want to participate in the State Group Health Insurance program and determines the counties in which they will offer plan providers.
The health plans must meet strict contractual requirements and their participation is authorized annually by the GIB if they meet the required criteria. If a health plan leaves the program, its members must select a new health plan during ABE.

Who is on the Group Insurance Board (GIB)?
The GIB is an eleven-member board that meet specified membership requirements. The GIB sets policy and oversees administration of the group health, life insurance and Income Continuation Insurance plans for state and UW employees and retirees and the group health and life insurance plans for local employers who choose to offer them. The Board also can provide other insurance plans, if employees pay the entire premium.

For more information about the GIB, please click here.

What is the role of the Legislative Joint Finance Committee (JFC)?
The 2017-2019 executive state budget included a requirement that any contracts for a self-insured health insurance program must be submitted to the JFC for review. The JFC then has a 21-day during which the JFC must decide if they will act to reject or modify the contracts.

The State of Wisconsin currently administers three self-insured benefit programs: pharmacy, Uniform Dental and the state-wide Access Health Plan. The other health plans currently offered are not self-insured (they are “fully-insured”). Because the JFC rejected the contracts for a self-insured health insurance program, all health plans, including the Access Plan, will be fully-insured in 2018. The pharmacy and Uniform Dental will remain self-insured.

Source: UW System Office of Human Resources & Workforce Diversity

Annual Benefits Enrollment: October 2 - 27, 2017

The Annual Benefits Enrollment (ABE) period, October 2 - 27, is the only annual opportunity you have to make changes to most of your benefits unless you have an eligible life event (family status or employment change) during the year. Changes made during ABE are effective January 1, 2018.

Watch for emails regarding benefits changes and your enrollment opportunities. The emails will be sent to you beginning in mid-September.

New this year, the UW System is are excited to introduce ALEX, an online personalized benefits counselor designed to simplify your ABE benefits election process. Through a series of easy, intuitive questions, ALEX will walk you through benefits options and suggest appropriate plans based on your answers. ALEX is in the final development stages, and the link will be released soon.

There are several things you can do now to prepare for ABE:

  1. Review your current benefits and visit the ABE website wisconsin.edu/abe for a preview of 2018 benefits changes.
  2. Plan to attend your campus benefits fair to meet with health plan representatives and other benefits vendors. For a list of fairs throughout the UW System: UW System Benefits Fairs.
  3. Plan ahead if you currently participate in a plan that requires re-enrollment each year to continue participation. Plans include:
    • Flexible Spending Account (FSA) including Health Care FSA, Limited Purpose FSA, Dependent Day Care FSA
    • Health Savings Account (HSA) requires that you enroll every year you are enrolled in a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP)
    • State Group Health Insurance Opt-Out Incentive

For questions please contact your human resources office.

Source: UW System Human Resources

UW Employees, Inc. Life Insurance Premium Decrease

Effective October 1, 2017, premium rates for the UW Employees, Inc. Life Insurance plan will decrease by approximately 25%. If you are currently enrolled in UW Employees, Inc., you may want to review the decreased premium rates.

This is also an opportunity to remind all current enrollees to review their current Beneficiary Designation for this life insurance plan. To make changes to your beneficiary designation, complete the Beneficiary Designation and Change Request. Mail the completed form to Minnesota Life Insurance Company, 400 Robert Street North, St. Paul, MN 55101-2098.

If you have questions, contact your human resources office.

Source: UW System Human Resources

WRS News Online, September 2017

External link: http://etf.wi.gov/news/WRS_news_09052017/WRS_News_09052017.asp

Introducing ALEX: A Personalized Benefits Counselor

The UW System is excited to introduce a new interactive benefits decision tool, called ALEX. ALEX is a personalized benefits counselor and can help you understand the benefits options that may be best for you and your family.

ALEX will be unveiled and available for the upcoming Annual Benefits Enrollment (ABE) period October 2 - 27, 2017. Before you make your benefits elections during ABE, we strongly encourage you to let ALEX walk you through your options. ALEX is engaging and efficient. In just a few minutes you will understand your benefits options and have peace of mind as you make your benefits elections.

Watch for more information about ALEX coming soon!

Source: UW System Human Resources

Earn Your $150 Well Wisconsin Incentive

Employees and spouses/domestic partners currently enrolled in the State Group Health Insurance Program are eligible for a $150 Well Wisconsin Incentive.  The incentive is administered by the StayWell Company.

Two steps must be completed to qualify and receive the incentive. The StayWell wellness portal provides more information on completing these steps: https://wellwisconsin.staywell.com.

Step 1:    Have a health screening and submit the results to StayWell

Step 2:  Take the StayWell health assessment

Both steps must be completed and submitted to StayWell prior to October 20, 2017 to receive a 2017 incentive payment.  Participants can claim the incentive instantly or have a Visa gift card mailed to their home address.  The incentive is taxable to the health plan subscriber (employee).

For questions or upcoming screening dates, visit https://wellwisconsin.staywell.com, or call the StayWell HelpLine at 800-821-6591.

Don’t miss the October 20, 2017 deadline!

Source: UW Service Center

Summer Prepay Deductions: Continuing Your Insurance Coverage During the Summer Months

What are Summer Prepay Deductions?                                                                

If you are a 9-month employee who will be returning to UW employment in the fall of 2017, or a 12-month employee who has a contract that does not include work for one or more summer months, then you had additional insurance premiums deducted from your March 31, May 1 and/or June 1 paychecks to continue your insurance coverage through the summer months.  These additional insurance premiums, taken along with your regular monthly insurance deductions, are referred to as ‘summer prepay deductions.’

You must be expected to return for the fall semester or must continue employment in a summer service/summer session appointment to have benefits coverage continue during the summer contract break.

If you did not have prepayments taken and are returning in the fall, contact your human resources office immediately. If insurance premiums are not collected through the summer prepay deductions process, you will be billed for premiums. In this case, you must remit timely premium payments to continue insurance coverage.

Verifying Your Summer Prepay Deductions

Check your spring earnings statements to verify if you had summer prepay deductions taken from your paychecks.  Summer prepay deductions appear as a lump sum with all pre-tax deductions added together and identified as  ‘PREBTX’ and all post-tax deductions added together under ‘PREATX.’  PREBTX stands for before tax or pre-tax and ‘PREATX’ stands for after tax or post-tax.

In the fall, your regular insurance premium deductions will resume as payroll deductions starting with your October 1 paycheck.

What Happens if You Have a ‘Status Change’ During the Summer?

Are you getting married this summer, adopting a baby, terminating employment? If you anticipate a status change during the summer, contact your human resources office immediately about the impact to your insurance benefits.

For example, if you are getting married and need to change from single to family health insurance coverage, you should complete a new health insurance application within 30 days of the date of your marriage. Your new spouse (and family) will be covered as of the date of the marriage.  The new rate will be deducted from your prepayments according to the new level of coverage, and you may have to pay an additional portion of the premium if the coverage increases.

If your anticipated fall 2017 employment status changes, refunds may be issued for premiums paid beyond your coverage end date. Your coverage will end at the end of the month in which your employment terminates.

If you will be terminating employment, and will not return in the fall, contact your human resources office immediately to determine when your insurance coverage will end.  


If you have questions, contact your human resources office.


Source: UW Service Center

WRS Contribution Rates to Decrease in 2018

The Department of Employee Trust Funds (ETF) has announced that contributions paid by Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS) employees will decrease for most employees effective January 1, 2018. WRS contribution rates are set and adjusted annually.  

According to ETF, the 2018 rate changes are primarily due to higher favorable WRS Trust Fund investment performance.

Contribution rates for UW employees are determined by WRS employment category. Most UW employees are covered by the General/Teacher WRS category. High level administrators (chancellors, presidents, vice presidents, provosts) are covered by the Executive category.  Employees whose main duties are related to law enforcement or the protection of the public (police officers, fire fighters) are covered by the Protective category.

2018 WRS Required Contribution Rates




Protectives w/Social Security








Employee Contribution








Employer Contribution








Total Contribution








The 2018 rates will apply to all paychecks paid in 2018 (beginning January 2, 2018 for Faculty/Academic Staff and Limited Appointees paid monthly and January 4, 2018 for University Staff paid bi-weekly).  As a reminder, WRS contributions are taken on a pre-tax basis for state and federal tax purposes.

 For More Information

Source: UW Service Center

Faculty, Academic Staff and Limited Appointees: Option to Bank Vacation in an Annual Leave Reserve Account

Faculty, Academic Staff and Limited Appointees (FA/AS/LI) with a 12-month appointment are eligible to bank vacation into an Annual Leave Reserve Account (ALRA) after they have completed 10 fiscal years of employment. 


  • Employee completes 10 fiscal years in May, 2016.
  • July 1, 2016 (beginning of 11th fiscal year) employee is eligible to accrue vacation to be banked.
  • July 1, 2017 (beginning of 12th fiscal year) employee is offered the option of banking up to 40 hours of vacation or vacation carryover as of 6/30/17.

Note: Employee is eligible to bank up to 80 hours per year of vacation in ALRA after completing 25 years of employment.

How is Vacation Allocated?

FA/AS/LI vacation is allocated on a fiscal year basis. Unused vacation can be carried over into the following fiscal year, but must be used by the end of that fiscal year or it will be lost. 

Your July 2017 Leave Report

Your July Leave Report will indicate how many hours of unused vacation you are eligible to bank into ALRA. You are allowed to bank any unused vacation or vacation carryover as of June 30, 2017 (up to the allowable hours).  If your institution uses Self-Service, you may be able to convert hours into your ALRA account via Self-Service with your July leave reporting.  Check with your Payroll Coordinator to see if you may use the Self-Service option.

If you meet the Eligibility Requirements for ALRA:

  • You may bank vacation in an ALRA account to use at a future date (banked hours do not expire).  You may accumulate up to 40 hours per fiscal year in your ALRA account after completing 10 fiscal years of employment and up to 80 hours after completing 25 fiscal years of employment. There is no limit to the total number of hours (balance) in your ALRA account.
  • With your supervisor\'s approval, you may use ALRA at any time. ALRA can be used in any circumstance in which you are allowed to use paid leave.
  • If you terminate employment, any unused ALRA will be paid to you at your current wage rate as a lump sum payment.
  • Banking Schedule (the amount of leave that can be banked is prorated if your appointment is part-time)
    • You are eligible to bank up to 40 hours of vacation into ALRA per year after completing 10 fiscal years of employment.  Option to bank is the fiscal year following eligibility. (See example above)
    • You are eligible to bank up to 80 hours of vacation into ALRA per year after completing  25 fiscal years of employment.  Option to bank is the fiscal year following eligibility. (See example above)
    • If you elect to bank hours to ALRA, the vacation hours you want to bank will first come from any remaining vacation carryover you had as of June 30, 2017. If you allocated more unused vacation to ALRA than you had as vacation carryover, the additional hours to be banked will come from your vacation balance as of June 30.

If you have questions, please contact the Payroll Coordinator.

Source: UW Service Center

WRS Annual Statement of Benefits Now Available in the Portal

If you were covered by the Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS) in 2016, your WRS Annual Statement of Benefits is now available in the MyUW portal for UW System institutions or for UW-Madison.

Log in to the portal. Go to the Benefit Information module and click on the Statements tab. Choose “2016 ETF Annual Statement of Benefits (WRS) Issued 2017” to view or print your statement.  The WRS Annual Statement of Benefits provides you with information about your WRS account as of January 1, 2016.

Understanding Your Statement

The Department of Employee Trust Funds (ETF) has published an introductory letter which highlights important information on the statement that you need to know.

The Explanation of Annual Statement of Benefits provides detailed information about each section of the statement. It is recommended that you review and verify each section of your statement using the explanation as a guide. The ETF Statement of Benefits web page provides additional resources including a Benefits Statement FAQ.

Sections of the statement include 2016 earnings and service, years of creditable service as of January 1, 2017, retirement benefit projections, separation benefit, death benefit and primary Beneficiary Designation(s) for your WRS account.

It is very important that you review your WRS account primary beneficiary(ies) on your statement.  Beneficiaries added before 1998 are not listed on your statement. Death benefits are always paid according to the most recent valid beneficiary designation form on file with ETF prior to an individual’s death. Your beneficiary information does not automatically change when a significant life event occurs, such as a divorce or a remarriage. You may add, change or remove beneficiaries by completing a Beneficiary Designation form(ET-2320) or Beneficiary Designation-Alternate form(ET-2321).  Mail your completed Beneficiary Designation directly to EFT at the address listed at the top of the form.


If you have questions about your statement, contact your human resources office.  The following webinar may also be helpful in understanding your statement and answering any questions you may have.

ETF 2017 Live Webinar: Understanding Your Annual WRS Statement of Benefits

Featured topics include WRS contributions, vesting status, years of service, and what happens to your account if you die before taking a benefit.  You should have your statement in hand while attending this webinar. The webinar is offered on the dates below. Register here.

  • April 21, 11:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
  • April 25, 12:00 p.m. – 12:30 p.m.
  • April 26, 11:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
  • May 2, 6:00 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.
  • May 16, 11:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
  • May 18, 12:30 p.m. – 1:00 p.m.
  • May 22, 11:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.

Source: UW Service Center

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