More answers to employee questions from recent Town Hall

October 12, 2017

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Penn State hosted a faculty/staff Town Hall on Sept. 27, which was live-streamed to all campuses. During the event, University Provost Nick Jones and Senior Vice President for Finance and Business David Gray fielded questions on human resources topics.  A number of questions were not able to be asked in the time allotted. Below are responses to some of those questions, as well as information on the recent change from Highmark to Aetna and CVS Caremark as Penn State’s third-party medical and prescription drug benefits administrators.


The best source for answers to most questions related to the upcoming vendor changes from Highmark to Aetna and CVS Caremark in addition to Benefits Open Enrollment can be found online at Employees also can contact HR Shared Services for assistance (; 814-865-1473; and

“The change to Aetna for medical and CVS Caremark for prescription drug third-party administrative services does not influence health care plan design and cost sharing in any way,” explained Greg Stoner, senior director, Compensation & Benefits. “As a self-funded employer, Penn State determines the structure of its health care plans and the third-party administrators are tasked with paying claims, providing member services, negotiating provider contracts, etc.  This was true with Highmark and remains true for Aetna/CVS Caremark.”

For information on physicians, go to the DocFind link:

In response to unanswered questions from the Town Hall, OHR provides the following:

Q: In anticipation of new rules outlined in the U.S. Department of Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), Penn State sent out letters informing certain employees that their salary would be increasing to the new threshold for exempt employees at $47,476 a year. For employees who were promoted from a level 2 to a level 3 after the announcement on May 26, 2016, how did this affect their promotion salary?

A: All employees in positions that were to remain exempt as a result of the proposed changes to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) received salary changes in December 2016 if they were below the threshold. While the changes to the law ultimately did not go into effect, Penn State honored the salary increases that were communicated. All salary actions for the University are reviewed for equity purposes -- regardless of the timing of a promotion or new hire.

Q: With the recent FLSA wage increases, is the University taking a look at compression for employees that were over that threshold?

A: Yes, the Compensation department within Human Resources is currently partnering with unit HR Strategic Partners to conduct a University-wide compression analysis.

Q: Do you have to enroll in a health plan in order to enroll in dental and vision coverage? Can someone just enroll in dental/vision and NOT take the health insurance?

A: No, you do not have to be enrolled in the health plan to enroll in dental and vision. 

Q: Can there be a plan in place that would cover the cost of a Penn State fitness membership so that we can take advantage of the amazing resources we have here to increase our positive health outcomes?

A: Aetna has a relationship with Global Fit for reduced membership costs at participating gyms, as well as other discounts on fitness equipment and weight loss programs.  Rec Hall, IM Building and White Building are available to those who have a Campus Recreation membership.

Q: Could you provide an update on maternity leave under this new plan? Will there be any paid maternity leave as a part of this change?

A: Penn State is offering a new voluntary Short-Term Disability Plan to non-union employees beginning Jan. 1, 2018.  FMLA runs concurrent with Short-Term Disability. The University continues to review its policies on maternity and paternity leave, which are different for faculty and staff. Staff can accrue time off, which faculty cannot.

Q: Why is Short Term Disability coverage not being extended to the technical  service employees?

A: The terms of the technical service employees’ collective bargaining agreement define the benefits offered to those employees.

Q: Does Aetna insurance cover holistic medical physicians and medicine?

A: The definition of holistic medicine varies by carrier; however, Aetna does cover chiropractic care and has discounts for acupuncture, and massage therapy.

Q: Where can I find cost comparisons on the different plans offered?

A: All plan design and cost sharing comparisons can be found on

Q: Why do the health care expenses to employees max out at a certain salary?  Why don’t those that earn more continue to pay a higher percentage – presumably they can afford it, which could in turn reduce the cost from lower paid workers?

A: Penn State adheres to the guiding principle of 25 percent employee cost sharing/75 percent employer cost-sharing for each plan, which includes employee premiums and out-of-pocket expenses.

Q: Highmark has a value-added-benefits section for those with high blood pressure, diabetes, or high cholesterol that doctor's visits were covered 100 percent when visiting for one or more of these issues. Will this still be the same under Aetna?

A: Yes, Value Based Benefits will remain in place with Aetna.  Members who are already enrolled do not have to re-enroll. 

Q: Will pre-authorizations approved under Highmark roll over to Aetna or will they need to be obtained again?

A: Aetna will be carrying over any pre-authorizations that are currently approved under Highmark. 

Q: How does the new health and wellness clinic on campus fit into the new health plans? Will the coaching for health be provided under Aetna? Are the benefits under Aetna comparable to what is being offered via Highmark? Will there be a dedicated call line to Aetna for Penn State employees?

A: The Employee Health & Wellness Center located in the Nursing Sciences Building at University Park will accept Aetna insurance. The plan coverage and services offered are very similar to those through Highmark Blue Shield.  Questions can be addressed with an Aetna concierge at 1-855-878-4197.

Q: Obtaining accurate out-of-pocket cost information for laboratory tests, medical procedures, and prescription drugs continues to be a challenge. What is being done to provide the Penn State community with accurate cost projection tools?

A: Beginning Oct. 16, CVS Caremark telephone lines (1-844-462-0203) will be open for Penn State plan members to call for pricing of medications. 

For lab tests, Highmark (now) and Aetna (beginning Jan. 1, 2018) can price lab claims for members, but it is necessary to have the CPT (Current Procedural Terminology) codes, diagnosis code and billing provider NPI (National Provider Identifier).  You can ask your physician for this information before having lab work completed. In most cases the insurance carrier representatives will try to assist members by using the online care cost estimator.  For more information, see the FAQs:

Q: What, if any, changes in benefits will there be regarding hearing care services, such as audio metric services and dollar limits for the purchase of hearing aid devices? Under the current plan, there is a $700 limit per 36 months.

A: The hearing aid benefit is $700 per ear, per 36 months. 

Q: Will the new health care provider consider partnering with veterans/military and accept Tricare?

A: Tricare can coordinate benefits with Aetna as long as your provider accepts both insurances. 

Q: When we change to Caremark – will we have to get all new prescriptions from our doctors? Or will our prescriptions from Express Scripts be transferred to Caremark?

A: Existing prescriptions will automatically be transferred to CVS Caremark.  If you need a new prescription, please show your CVS Caremark card to the pharmacist or direct your doctor to send it electronically to your pharmacy.

Last Updated September 04, 2020