Open enrollment for benefit plans set for April 8-26

Rice’s annual open enrollment for health and welfare benefits will be April 8-26 — and there are no increases to medical plan premiums this year. In addition, a new group legal plan and medical consultation services are being offered to benefits-eligible employees.

Rice’s annual open enrollment for health and welfare benefits will be April 8-26. Rice is self-insured, and premiums are a direct reflection of faculty and staff’s use of their health plan. Staying in-network, utilizing urgent care instead of emergency rooms when appropriate and using generic prescription drugs all contributed to premiums remaining the same for 2019-20.

The new group legal plan, UltimateAdvisor® from ARAG, offers reliable counsel on issues such as disputes with contractors, traffic tickets or estate planning through access to a nationwide network of attorneys. The monthly premium is $22.25.

Expert Medical Opinion Services will be offered early in the new fiscal year, which begins July 1. It will provide access to consultation with experts in hundreds of medical subspecialties at no cost.

Additional changes for 2019-20 include:

  • The price of employee supplemental and spouse life insurance will be 5 percent lower than in 2018-19.
  • An enhanced DHMO plan removes copays for preventive dental care visits and adds coverage for implants.

The enrollment portal, powered by Benefitfocus, contains helpful tools such as a cost calculator to help employees determine which plans are best for them. Employees will be able to access reports on their enrollment status, dependents and coverage levels, and the portal serves as the repository for documents such as dependent eligibility verifications and life event documentation.

To access the portal beginning April 8, employees can follow these steps:

  1. Visit
  2. Select the “Enroll in Benefits” icon located on the far right to access the enrollment portal.
  3. After logging in using your Rice NetID and password, you will be directed to the benefits portal.
  4. Select the “Enroll Now” icon on the far right.
  5. Click “Get Started.”
  6. Add dependents as needed.
  7. Enroll in or edit your medical coverage.
  8. Make your election for or decline medical flexible spending account.
  9. Follow through for all other remaining benefits that are offered to you. For each benefit that is not fully employer funded, you may decline if you do not wish to enroll. If you are currently enrolled in an option, you can access it by selecting edit coverage. Before you can continue your elections, you will be required to view options that must be elected every year, as well as new benefits and the beneficiary designation section.
  10. Once all sections have been completed and you have selected the green “Complete Enrollment” icon at the bottom of the screen, you will receive a confirmation number stating you have completed your enrollment.

Employees who do not make changes to their benefits will be automatically re-enrolled in their current plans. However, renewing contributions to a flexible spending or a health savings account is not automatic. Employees must re-enroll each year to set their medical, dependent-care and health savings account contributions.

Employees can also access the portal on a mobile device by downloading the Benefitfocus mobile app from Google Play or the Apple Store (enter company code “Rice” when prompted).

For assistance with navigating the portal, understanding health and welfare benefits or making changes due to a qualifying life event, employees can contact the Rice Benefits Service Center from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday through Friday by calling 713-348-2363 or emailing In addition, the benefits department will hold special office hours in the Cambridge Office Building, Room 114, as follows:

  • April 15, 1-3 p.m.
  • April 16, 9-11 a.m., 1-2 p.m.
  • April 18, 1-3 p.m.
  • April 25, 9-11 a.m.


Medical plan options for the 2019-20 fiscal year will remain largely unchanged. Plan premiums will be the same as in 2018-19.

Accountable Care Organization (ACO)

This is a plan with a specific network of doctors and hospitals affiliated with Memorial Hermann, with a primary care physician, or PCP, guiding each patient’s care with assistance from a specified team of professionals dedicated to that patient’s overall care.

Memorial Hermann ACO
Employee only $83
Employee plus spouse/partner $318
Employee plus child(ren) $277
Employee plus family $541


Health Maintenance Organization (HMO)

In this plan, an employee selects a PCP who serves as a “gatekeeper” for all medical services. Under this plan, patients must consult with their PCP before receiving services from most specialist physicians and other service providers, who are all within the HMO network.

Aetna HMO
Employee only $101
Employee plus spouse/partner $377
Employee plus child(ren) $329
Employee plus family $642


Point-of-Service (POS II)

With this plan, patients pay a set amount for in-network care. However, this plan does not require a patient to get a referral from a PCP before seeing a specialist and has an out-of-network option.

Aetna Choice POS II
Employee only $172
Employee plus spouse/partner $611
Employee plus child(ren) $537
Employee plus family $1,035


Consumer-Driven Health Plan (CDHP)

This plan has a higher deductible and coinsurance rather than copayments for medical services. Participants pay the full cost for services and prescriptions up to the deductible and then the plan kicks in, paying coinsurance (except for pharmacy expenses, which have copays) for medical services until the out-of-pocket maximum is met. This plan allows for the benefits of a health savings account because it is a qualifying high-deductible health plan. Employees can get the triple tax benefit of pre-tax deductions, tax-free growth and tax-free use of the savings for qualified medical, dental and vision expenses.

High Deductible Health Plan
Employee only $128
Employee plus spouse/partner $388
Employee plus child(ren) $375
Employee plus family $665



Rice offers a vision plan option available to all employees even if they are not enrolled in the medical plan. The vision plan, administered by Aetna, features the Aetna Vision Preferred networks of providers. To locate a provider, call 1-855-679-3815 or visit

Aetna Preferred Vision Plan
Employee only $4.87
Employee plus spouse/partner $9.25
Employee plus child(ren) $9.73
Employee plus family $14.31



Rice will offer two dental plan options, both administered by Aetna: the PPO and the DHMO.

In the PPO plan, participants may use any dentist of their choosing and the plan pays a percentage of the services. The monthly premium will be $49 for an employee only, $100 for an employee plus spouse, $104 for an employee plus children and $143 for family coverage. The DHMO requires participants to select a dentist from a list of providers and covers frequently performed procedures either in full or a specified copay, will cost $13.68 for an employee only, $24.64 for an employee plus spouse, $25.67 for an employee plus children and $35.42 for family coverage.

As in previous years, employees earning less than $40,000 annualized salary per year may be eligible for a 50 percent premium subsidy.

Flexible spending accounts (FSA)

Flexible medical spending accounts, or FSAs, allow participants to set aside pretax dollars to pay for eligible out-of-pocket medical and dependent-care expenses. FSAs are “use it or lose it” accounts; any money left in the account at the end of the grace period is forfeited. FSA elections made for the 2018-19 plan year must be used by Sept. 15 and filed for by Nov. 30 or the money will be forfeited. Medical FSAs can stand alone or accompany the ACO, HMO and POS plans only. Under FSA’s, you should keep your receipts because you may be required to submit them to verify they are eligible charges.

You must re-elect any FSA amounts each year even if you make no other changes. The amount will not roll over from 2018-2019 to 2019-2020. The medical limit for medical flexible account will be $2,700 and dependent care will remain at $5,000 for families filing jointly.


RiceFest, the showcase of benefit providers and other campus programs, will be from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 9 in Rice Memorial Center’s Grand Hall. It is held annually during the open-enrollment period to educate staff and faculty about benefits.

Staff members from Human Resources and many of our benefit priciders will be at RiceFest to answer questions about open enrollment and plan options.

RiceFest is co-sponsored by Human Resources and the Staff Advisory Committee, which provides a venue for addressing issues of concern to faculty and staff and acts as a means of communication between faculty and staff and the university administration.

About Matt Wilson

Matt Wilson is a senior editor in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.