Dear GW Faculty and Staff,

Providing a comprehensive employee benefits package is essential to attracting and retaining world-class faculty and staff. Over the past few years GW has focused efforts on offering plan designs aimed at controlling costs while maximizing the benefit to employees. GW’s health plans are operating efficiently with approximately 96 percent of participants utilizing in-network physicians and facilities to access care. Participants also continue to take advantage of new programs like medical care and pharmacy management to help improve treatment adherence and avoid unnecessary treatment. However, keeping health care plan costs manageable for you and the university is an ongoing challenge that is not unique to GW as national healthcare costs continue to rise.

As in years past, these decisions and changes were made with a goal of providing a selection of plans that meet your and your family’s needs and manage our overall plan costs.  I would like to take a moment to share these changes with you and provide you with tools to help understand the information.  Any changes that you make to your health and welfare benefits can be done during Open Enrollment, which will begin Oct. 3 and run for three weeks through Oct. 21. The new benefits will take effect Jan. 1. 2017.

Overview of Benefits Changes for 2017

In 2017, GW employees and their families will have a choice between a PPO plan and a Health Savings Plan (HSP) option for health care benefits. The new PPO plan will combine the current Basic and Medium plans into a single PPO option, called the “GW PPO Plan.” This plan’s value and features are similar to those of the current Basic and Medium plans and will offer some employees lower premium costs and others with additional coverage. Visit to see the new features of the GW PPO Plan.

The GW Health Savings Plan option is the new name for the current High Deductible Health Plan. There will be some changes to plan features, including an increase in the opportunity to receive GW-funded HSA match money, but without an increase to monthly premiums.

The change from three plans to two plans will assist employees in comparing their expected healthcare costs based on their individual and family needs.  The Basic and the Medium plans were very comparable in terms of value, but the premiums for the Medium plan were substantially higher than the Basic plan. Merging the PPO plans corrects this difference.   Eliminating this cost difference was also important in order to help ensure that the costs of the plan remain stable long term.

GW PPO plan design

Current Medium plan participants will have between a $42- $161 reduction in premiums per month depending on their salary band and coverage level ($504-$1,932 per year).   Basic plan participants will have between a $4-$59 increase in premiums per month depending on their salary band and coverage level ($48-$708 per year).  For those currently on the Basic plan, the new PPO plan will have a lower deductible for individual coverage ($750) and family coverage ($1,500).  The new PPO plan will continue to provide specialized services currently included in the Medium plan, such as infertility treatment, bariatric surgery and hearing aid coverage.

The primary care physician (PCP) copay will increase from $25 to $30; while the specialist copay will remain at $50. In addition, urgent care copays will be reduced from $50 to $30 to encourage employees to use lower cost healthcare options.  For those currently enrolled in the Medium plan, emergency room visits will change from a flat $150 copay to 20 percent coinsurance, which means participants will be responsible for 20 percent of the cost of the visit.  To view all plan design changes, visit

GW Health Savings Plan (HSP) design

As mentioned above, the GW High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) is now called the GW Health Savings Plan (HSP) and participants will have no increase to premiums. The HSP will continue to have unique plan design features, such as no-cost preventive drug coverage and the new name is aligned with the plan’s offering of a Health Savings Account (HSA), an optional savings account that you may elect to help offset eligible healthcare expenses on a tax-favorable basis.

In 2017, the in-network deductible will increase to $2,000 for an individual and $4,000 for a family, and the family in-network out of pocket maximum will increase from $6,850 to $7,150.

Health Savings Account matching contribution increasing for 2017

If you enroll in the HSP and meet certain criteria,  you are eligible to participate in a health savings account (HSA). Together, the GW HSP and the HSA provide an alternate approach to managing your health care while supporting your and your family’s efforts to stay healthy.

In 2017, GW will increase its matching contribution to your health savings account.  If you elect employee only coverage, GW will match your contribution up to $600 and up to $1,200 if you are covering at least one dependent, which could be a spouse, domestic partner, or child.

To get the maximum match amount, you’ll need to contribute $600 if enrolled in individual coverage or $1,200 if you are covering dependents.

Important: Health savings account balances roll over year-to-year and can be used for qualified health-related expenses.  Furthermore, your HSA is fully portable, which means you can take the account and funds with you if you leave GW.

In 2017, HSP participants who are NOT eligible for the HSA due to IRS restrictions (ex. enrolled in Medicare) will be eligible to participate in the Healthcare Flexible Spending Account option.

To learn more about the HSA, go to

Leveraging Technology through Castlight Health

In 2017, GW will offer a new web-based cost comparison tool called Castlight. This is a free service for GW employees and their dependents who are covered on a GW health plan (PPO or HSP). Castlight helps you find a high-quality doctor at an affordable price before you make an appointment. You can also discover in-network pharmacies nearby and compare costs for filling specific prescriptions either at a retail pharmacy or mail order. Additional information will be shared during Open Enrollment.


Acupuncture will now be covered under both the HSP and GW PPO plan, up to 20 visits per calendar year combined in and out of network.

Virtual Visits

In 2016, GW added UnitedHealthcare’s Virtual Visits to health benefits. In 2017, the in-network co-pays will be reduced from $25 to $10 on the GW PPO plan to provide a cost efficient and convenient option for accessing care. To learn more about Virtual Visits, go to

Transgender Coverage

In 2017, GW will add coverage for surgery and commonly used medications for gender reassignment.

Aetna Dental Plans

For dental coverage in 2017, there will be no changes in coverage. Employee contributions for the Aetna High and Low PPO plans will increase by $1 to $3 per month.  There will be no change to employee contributions for the Aetna DMO plan.

Other Benefits Plans

The following benefit plans will continue to be offered, with no change to rates or plan design:  UHC Vision Plans, The Standard Basic Life and AD&D Insurance Plans, Voluntary Short-Term Disability, GW Paid Short-Term Disability (STD), Basic Long-Term Disability (LTD), Long-Term Disability Buy-Up insurance and Legal Resources.  In addition, there will be no changes in the retirement savings plans or tuition remission benefits.

Learn More about the 2017 Benefits Changes

GW recognizes the important role education and awareness play in understanding how the benefit plans work and the ways in which we can to take action to make wise decisions about our care. To that end, we encourage GW employees to participate in the benefits briefings and open enrollment fairs that will be held at both Foggy Bottom and the Virginia Science and Technology campuses over the coming months. Beginning, Oct. 3, the open enrollment system will be live for you to make your elections and changes. Please note: Although we will continue to use the same enrollment system, the link has been updated to

A comprehensive open enrollment guide will be available in late-September. Questions regarding any of GW’s employee benefits plans can be directed to the GW Benefits Call Center at (888) 4GWUBEN (449-8236) or


Dale McLeod

Interim Vice President, Human Resources