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December - January 2008

Delphi

Marc Genty

Questions and suggestions from the staff to management may be submitted in confidence to the Delphi Coordinator. They should be submitted in written form, preferably via interoffice mail in a sealed envelope marked confidential. They must be signed. Detailed procedures for submitting questions are given in the UCAR Policies and Procedures Manual, section 4-1-2, and on the Delphi Web site. Staff Notes Monthly publishes questions and answers of general interest to staff, and the Delphi Web site has a log of all questions submitted since 1995.


Health care coverage for eyes and teeth, recycling in cafeteria

Delphi Question #581 (received October 9): I’m wondering if UCAR can look at our health care policy and figure out if there’s a way that vision and dental coverage can be provided in cases of medical emergencies. I have insurance through Cigna. I am going to need to have a laser eye procedure to enable me to continue functioning fully at work and undertaking such tasks as driving in the dark, because I am so nearsighted that even with glasses I can no longer see very well. Cigna is not covering any of this because of a policy exclusion for the procedure (PRK).

I also have a colleague who is facing an estimated $10,000 to $15,000 of dental work that’s needed to prevent several of his teeth from falling out. Even though this procedure is a medical necessity, Cigna is covering only a small fraction ($3,000 at most).

I understand why Cigna provides limited or no coverage for elective procedures, like LASIK to improve vision or orthodontics to straighten teeth. But our eyes and our teeth are important parts of our bodies, and I don’t understand why even medically essential procedures would not be fully covered.

Is it possible for UCAR to take a look at this and perhaps renegotiate our contract with Cigna?

Response (received October 30): Most medical plans, including Cigna, cover injuries and diseases of the eyes and injury to the teeth due to an accident. Medical plans do not generally cover the eyes and teeth for “ongoing maintenance.” Dental plans are common, but the benefit is limited to keep the plans affordable. Vision plans are less common, as the expense is generally predictable and less suitable to insurance, which covers unexpected losses. I am not aware of individual plans for vision and dental coverage that would cover the examples you mention, and even if they did, they would be unaffordable for most people.

Your specific question about vision coverage asked about PRK. PRK, like LASIK, is a form of surgery designed to correct refractive errors and is considered an elective procedure, not a medical necessity. We have checked and the UCAR plan is consistent with other plans in not covering refractive surgery to improve vision.

The UCAR dental plan has a maximum benefit comparable to dental plans offered by other employers. We reviewed the maximum this past year and determined it is reasonable, and there are no plans to raise the maximum for 2008.

Several years ago, UCAR raised the maximum under the medical spending account to $10,000 specifically to allow employees to pay for more vision and dental expenses on a pretax basis. (Most employer plans have maximums around $5,000.) While the contributions to the plan come from the employee, the pretax advantage is pretty significant. Employees can also take advantage of a provision that allows for reimbursement even if the account does not have enough contributions to cover the expense. Through this provision, you can schedule PRK early in the calendar year, receive full reimbursement from your medical spending account and pay off the cost with pretax payroll deductions during the rest of the year.

—Bob Roesch
Human Resources Director

Delphi Question #582 (received November 28): I just had an Asian stir-fry in the NCAR cafeteria. This was served in a large black plastic bowl. There was no marking on the bowl to indicate that it was recyclable. This does not seem to be in keeping with UCAR’s goals of minimal waste. Could such entrees be served in reusable bowls in the future, or at least recyclable bowls?

Response (received November 30):UCAR is committed to making our operations “green,” which includes minimal waste. Event Services, including the cafeterias, began replacing disposable products with recyclable products months ago. In addition to being ­environmentally responsible, we must also be financially responsible. So as not to be wasteful, and recognizing that throwing out existing supplies before use is not environmentally sound, Event Services is using up the last of its disposable inventory.

Subsequently, there will be times when cafeteria patrons still encounter disposable products. One additional problem is that some disposable products still lack recyclable replacements. Event Services is working closely with manufacturers to integrate recyclable products as soon as they come into the marketplace, but there may be instances where disposable products are used. Thank you for your question.

—Nancy Post van der Burg
Event Services

Questions and suggestions from the staff to management may be submitted in confidence to the Delphi Coordinator Marc Genty. They should be submitted in written form, preferably via interoffice mail in a sealed envelope marked confidential. They must be signed. Detailed procedures for submitting questions are given in the UCAR Policies and Procedures Manual, section 4-1-2, and on the Delphi Web site. Staff Notes Monthly ­publishes questions and answers of general interest to staff, and the Delphi Web site has a log of all questions submitted since 1995


In this issue...

2007 Outstanding Accomplishment Awards

NCAR pioneer Will Kellogg, 1917–2007

Random Profile: Emily Laidlaw

COMET writer wins AAAS science journalism award

Weather forecast goes global

New director for UCAR Child Care Center

Delphi Question

Holiday greetings!

Just One Look


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