Health Plan

Maintaining affordability and stability focus of 2024 health plan

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State employees* will see the same high-quality health care plan designs in 2024, and most will see low increases in contributions as part of a plan to secure the best balance of coverage, services, and cost-sharing for all benefits-eligible employees. 

Updates to 2024 plan contributions will see modest monthly increases for employees earning less than $140,000 each year — between 43 cents and about $12 a month depending on income, selected health plan, and number of family members on the plan — while maintaining the current “Lion Traditional” and “Lion Advantage” plan designs.

The updates to employee plan contributions will be the first in six years – since 2018 – and have been designed to minimize the impact on most employees while accounting for increasing health care expenses and maintaining Penn State’s commitment to pay 75% of employee health care costs. Penn State is self-insured, which means the University and its employees together cover the full cost of employee health care each year. Penn State’s move to Highmark for 2023 yielded savings that allowed the University to maintain health plan contributions and helped minimize the increase for 2024, while offering access to high-quality, in-network providers across the U.S. Since 2018, Penn State’s overall health care costs have increased by $70 million.

"Throughout this process, our top priority has been our employees, and finding the best path to continue to provide affordable, high-quality health insurance plans, while also addressing the reality of growing health care costs across the University," said Sara Thorndike, senior vice president for Finance and Business / treasurer. "We also have heard concerns from some of our employees about the necessary delays in planned general salary increases and our compensation modernization initiative."

"To our employees: I understand your concerns, and I want to personally thank you all for your patience and continued commitment to Penn State," said Jennifer Wilkes, vice president for Human Resources and chief human resources officer. "All these elements were on our minds as we worked with our stakeholders to choose the best path for 2024 premiums, which minimizes impacts for most, while maintaining the quality you expect and depend upon."

The approach for 2024 represents an expansion of the University’s existing salary-based model, which has been in place at Penn State since 2012. The model is designed to equitably share health care costs among employees using an employee’s exact annual base salary to determine how much each individual employee contributes for coverage.

Under the plan, which will go into effect starting Jan. 1, employees earning less than $140,000 will see modest, per-month increases of less than $1 up to about $12, as explained above, and as a result of a 2.2% rise in individual salary contributions for all employees. The plan also calls for raising the maximum salary cap on health care contributions from $140,000 to $200,000; this means that employees earning between $140,000 and $200,000 will see higher monthly contributions on a sliding scale.

All employees can estimate their 2024 health care premium by downloading the calculator, available here.  

Contribution changes and plan options for the 2024 health plan were discussed throughout 2023 with numerous stakeholders across Penn State, including the Faculty Senate Benefits Committee, Faculty Senate, Health Care Advisory Committee, and the University Staff Advisory Council.

“We know health benefits are critical to our employees, and we remain focused and committed to keeping increases to a minimum. We appreciate the open dialogue we have with all our stakeholders and have worked to take their thoughts and concerns into consideration as we have worked through updates to the health care plans,” Wilkes said. 

Additional information about benefits updates for 2024 is below. More information will be shared with employees through the fall as part of benefits open enrollment: 

Amwell Telemedicine* 

Amwell, a virtual service offered through Highmark, offers 24/7 access to doctors for employees participating in one of the medical plans. The plans are being enhanced to reduce cost share to $0 after the deductible for the Lion Advantage plan or $0 copay for the Lion Traditional plan. 

Additional dependent life insurance option*  

Penn State will continue to offer a $5,000 and $10,000 child life insurance plan, while adding a third coverage option of $20,000 for eligible dependents. Rates for dependent life insurance will remain the same for 2024 for the $5,000 and $10,000 plans, with the new $20,000 plan at $4.80 per month (or $2.21 bi-weekly). 

Benefit increase to Long-Term Disability (LTD)* 

Faculty and Staff participating in either the LTD or LTD/retirement income protection plan options will have an increase to the maximum disability payments available under the plan. Approved claims will receive 60% of employee salary up to a new maximum of $10,000 per month, which is increased from the prior $5,000 maximum. Employees will want to review their elections during the benefits open enrollment period to determine how this benefit increase may affect their payroll contributions for plan participation. 

New Employee Assistance Program (EAP) provider 

Curalinc will be the new EAP provider beginning January 2024. Curalinc will provide several advantages over Penn State’s current EAP provider, Health Advocate, including virtual behavioral health services, and greater access to free and confidential resources. 

New AblePay program 

AblePay is a free program offered to employees to help lower out-of-pocket medical expenses, offer flexible payment options on medical bills and provide a secure and convenient member portal to track and pay medical bills. 

EyeMed vision plan update 

As of Dec. 31, the Freedom Pass option, through Target for free frames will expire. However, employees will still be able to take advantage of other 2024 special offers from EyeMed through their app or website, such as, LASIK and Pearle Vision. 

*Does not apply to members of Teamsters Local 8.

Next steps 

A University mass email will be distributed to all full-time benefits-eligible employees on Tuesday, Sept. 19. The email will share detailed information about the 2024 benefits open enrollment, as well as information for the multiple educational webinars our faculty and staff can attend. During these webinars, which will run throughout October and November, employees can ask questions about their upcoming benefit options. Each webinar will include representatives from the Penn State Human Resources benefits team and Highmark. If you are not able to attend a webinar, the Highmark concierge team is also available to answer specific coverage and claim questions at 844-945-5509.

Benefits open enrollment officially begins on Monday, Nov. 6, and will run through 5 p.m. EST on Friday, Nov. 17. Employees will once again be able to take advantage of the Benefits Mentor decision tool, available on Workday, to compare plans using their past individual claim history prior to making changes to their 2024 benefits in Workday.