PEBB's February For Your Benefit newsletter now available
February newsletter now available
The Public Employees Benefits Board (PEBB) Program's For Your Benefit newsletter is your source for information and updates about your health benefits.
In this issue...
- Keeping up with COVID-19
- New year plan reminders
- A new year for SmartHealth
- COVID-19 relief: Medical FSA and DCAP changes
- We support health equity
- Paid Family and Medical Leave: Help when you need time off from work
- Get the most from your virtual visit
- Stay in touch
It has been nearly a year since COVID-19 began affecting our lives. The PEBB Program and the Health Care Authority (HCA) remain committed to providing resources to help you and your family through this pandemic. We appreciate all you are doing to keep yourself and your community safe. Find out how HCA is responding to the coronavirus pandemic.
COVID-19 vaccines are here
Several vaccines have been authorized by the Food and Drug Administration and are now being administered around the state. The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) is overseeing COVID-19 vaccine distribution. Because we will not have enough vaccines for everyone at once, DOH is building a plan for how to distribute it. To see which phase you’re in, visit the DOH Phase Finder. COVID-19 vaccines will be covered by all PEBB medical plans with no cost to members.
Have you activated Washington's exposure notification app?
If you are a Washington State resident, you can enroll now in WA Notify, a smartphone app that lets you know if you have been exposed to COVID-19. Over a million Washingtonians have already enrolled. This tool is free, completely private, and does not track your activity or identity.
It's not too late to get a flu shot
Getting a flu shot every year can help prevent the spread of influenza at work, among family members, and in the community. This year it is more important than ever to stay healthy and protect those around you.
Find someone to talk to at Washington Listens
Washington Listens is a program that provides non-clinical support to people who feel sad, anxious, or stressed due to COVID-19. Washington Listens is free and anonymous and available to all Washington residents. Call 1-833-681-0211 (TRS 711). Washington Listens is staffed Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., and weekends from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Language access services are available.
For 2021, keep a few things in mind about your PEBB coverage. Most importantly, remember that your annual deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums restarted January 1, even if you stayed in the same health plans.
Don't forget about your hearing aid benefits
Hearing instrument coverage has increased for PEBB members in 2021. Check your medical plan’s certificate of coverage for details about this important benefit. Find yours on the Forms and publications webpage.
Use your behavioral health resources
Behavioral health services by plan can help you find mental health and substance use disorder services and supports. From this webpage, you can find links and information for behavioral health services in Washington State, whether you are experiencing a crisis or just want someone to talk to. It also includes resources for you to reach your medical plan’s customer service, find a provider, and get timely access to care, as required by House Bill 1099 (Brennen’s Law).
Have you named a beneficiary?
Many PEBB employees have not named a beneficiary on their employer-paid basic life and accidental death and dismemberment (AD&D) insurance policies. By not naming a beneficiary, these subscribers run the risk that their families will not receive a lump sum payment when they need it most.
Now more than ever, it’s important to keep your beneficiary information up-to-date. To make updates online, use MetLife’s MyBenefits portal. You may also call MetLife at 1-866-548-7139 to ask for a Group Term Life Insurance Beneficiary Designation.
SmartHealth is included in your benefits and is a voluntary wellness program that supports your whole person well-being. It helps you manage stress, build resiliency, and adapt to change. As you progress on your wellness journey, you can qualify for the SmartHealth wellness incentives. Learn more about SmartHealth.
Note: Retirees and PEBB Continuation Coverage (COBRA) subscribers enrolled in Medicare Part A and Part B are not eligible to receive SmartHealth incentives.
We know 2020 probably didn’t go as you planned. That’s why we’re giving you extra flexibility with your 2020 Medical Flexible Spending Arrangement (FSA) and Dependent Care Assistance Program (DCAP) funds. These changes are allowed under the federal COVID-19 relief bill that passed in December 2020. They apply through December 31, 2021. Learn more about these opportunities.
- Keep spending your 2020 DCAP funds.
- Use Medical FSA funds after leaving a job.
- Change 2021 elections with no qualifying event.
Are you a represented employee whose rate of pay on November 1, 2020 was $50,004 a year or less?
If so, you likely received a $250 Medical FSA contribution from your employer in January 2021. This employer-paid benefit allows you to spend these funds on eligible health care expenses, like copays, deductibles, dental or vision expenses, over-the-counter medication, or menstrual care products.
You received these funds even if you didn’t enroll in a Medical FSA. This $250 will not come out of your paycheck. If you were eligible for this benefit, Navia either sent you a debit card loaded with the $250, or they added the funds to your existing account and debit card.
At HCA, we see inequities in the physical and behavioral health care system. The circumstances in which individuals live, work, and play also determine health outcomes. Through our Health Equity Workgroup, we have created a strategy for incorporating health equity principles into our operations, programs, and initiatives. This effort supports our mission for a healthier Washington. We remain committed to the long-term work of advancing health equity.
What is health equity?
We define health equity as everyone having a fair and just opportunity to be as healthy as possible. This requires removing obstacles to health, such as poverty and discrimination, and their consequences, including powerlessness, lack of access to good jobs with fair pay, quality education and housing, safe environments, and health care. Health equity is a core value of HCA, and by extension, a core value of the PEBB Program.
Health equity and the PEBB Program
We strive to find meaningful and strategic ways to use our financial influence to improve health outcomes, including making health care more affordable and accessible.
- The PEBB Program and the collective bargaining agreement have been advancing health equity through Medical FSA contributions. In an effort to help employees with financial health care costs, represented employees with PEBB benefits whose annual rate of pay on November 1, 2020 is $50,004 or less automatically received a $250 Medical FSA contribution from their employers in January.
- The PEBB Program has also added gender identity options, including gender X, to enrollment forms. This allows all Washington residents to have consistency across their legal documents needed to access services.
The state's Paid Family and Medical Leave (Paid Leave) program started just over a year ago, allowing most Washington employees access to what the Employment Security Department (ESD) calls “the most generous paid family and medical leave program in the U.S.” You can use Paid Leave for:
- Caring for yourself, a spouse, child, parent, spouse’s parent, sibling, grandchild, grandparent, spouse’s grandparent, son-in-law, or daughter-in-law due to a serious illness or injury.
- Welcoming a new child into your home through birth, adoption, or foster placement.
If you’re eligible, you may be able to take up to 12 weeks off work, or more in some cases, and receive up to 90 percent of your typical wage. The maximum benefit amount in 2021 is $1,206 a week. To qualify, you must have worked at least 820 hours (about 16 hours per week) during the previous year.
When the COVID-19 pandemic started last year, the medical industry quickly expanded telehealth (also called virtual care) capabilities for provider visits. Video chat visits are available from all PEBB medical carriers.
Tips for patients
- Sign up for virtual care options or online accounts through your plan’s website before you need care.
- Before your virtual visit, test that your audio and/or video work.
- It’s okay to have caretakers or others attend if you want.
- Have your medications handy in case there’s a question about them.
- Don’t be shy about appearing on video. Your provider is happy to see your face.
- Be sure to ask your questions and that you understand instructions before the visit ends.
How to access telehealth
Find out more about how your plan offers care away from the doctor’s office. Contact your plan, read your certificate of coverage, or explore these websites.
- Kaiser Permanente NW
- Kaiser Permanente WA
- Premera Blue Cross Medicare Supplement Plans F and G (These plans cover the same telehealth services as Medicare.)
- UMP, administered by Regence BlueShield
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