Flex spending plan open enrollment ends Nov. 30

Active faculty and staff wanting to save money on their out-of-pocket health and/or child-care expenses can enroll in the University’s flex spending plans for calendar year 2004 during the open enrollment period Nov. 1-30.

These plans allow employees to avoid paying federal, state and Social Security/Medicare taxes on money specifically set aside from their paychecks into the spending accounts.

The annual limit is $5,000 for the health-care spending plan and $5,000 for the dependent child-care spending plan. Employees can enroll in either plan or both.

Interested employees — even those who are enrolled for 2003 — must enroll by the Nov. 30 deadline to ensure their participation for 2004.

Those expenses that are not covered by your health, dental, prescription drug or vision benefits can be reimbursed from the pre-tax health-care spending account. Examples of qualifying expenses include: deductibles, co-insurance, office visit co-pays, prescription drug co-pays, hospital emergency room co-pays, LASIK surgery, noncovered prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications and drugs (new this year), eyeglasses, contact lenses and hearing aids.

Child-care expenses include services provided by a licensed day-care center, pre-school or baby sitter. To be eligible, this service must be rendered for the sole purpose of allowing a single parent, both spouses of a married couple, or both a parent and his/her domestic partner to work or seek an education on a full-time basis.

“Our employees who are enrolled in these plans enjoy a definite tax savings,” said Tom Lauman, director of benefits, “a current tax savings that won’t be deferred or paid later like our retirement plan.”

There are important limitations and forfeiture rules to consider in enrolling in these plans. Once enrolled, employees are not allowed to change or cancel their contributions during that year unless they experience a family status change (such as marriage, divorce or legal separation, birth or adoption of a child, termination or commencement of spouse’s employment, and spouse’s health open enrollment).

A open enrollment brochure was sent to employees’ campus boxes during the last week of October. The brochure provides more detail about the plan benefits, limitations, the reimbursement process and a document titled “Enrollment and Salary Reduction Agreement Form.”

In addition, employees can access this information, election and claim forms from the human resources Web site, hr.wustl.edu.

“We encourage those interested to review this brochure carefully,” Lauman said. “We also caution employees to be very conservative and budget only for known or planned expenses for the next year to avoid forfeiture of their remaining balances.

“Those currently participating in the plans for 2003 should expend their remaining balances and submit a claim form and receipts to avoid forfeiture.”

Enrollment forms for 2004 also are available at the human resources office in North Brookings Hall and the benefits offices at the Medical Campus (4480 Clayton Ave.) and West Campus (Suite 150).

Forms must be returned to the benefits office at Campus Box 1190. Late applications will not be accepted.

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