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Benefits Update: Short Term Disability

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    There are some changes coming to the administration of Lehigh’s short term disability (STD) benefit. 

    Effective July 1, 2011, Lehigh’s STD plan, which had been managed in-house, will be run by The Hartford, the company that currently provides Lehigh’s life insurance and long term disability benefit programs.

    This change will have little to no impact on how employees experience STD because the benefit itself is not changing. Specifically:

  • The same level of coverage will be offered over the same time period (up to 26 weeks in a year*).
  • STD will continue to become available on the 11th continuous day of absence and will continue to be applied retroactively back to the first day of absence.
  • The ability of nonexempt staff to use excused absence and vacation time to supplement STD payments will continue.

So, Why Are We Telling You This?

    The Human Resources Office (HR) regularly reviews the full range of benefits that Lehigh employees receive in order to ensure they are being administered in the most effective way possible. HR looks at not only the cost-effectiveness of the plan, but also how simple the plan is to access, the quality of the benefit, and whether or not there is a way of administering the benefit that could improve upon the current system.

    In looking at short term disability, several trends were combining to make in-house administration of the benefit more cumbersome and less cost-effective over the years:

  • There has been a growing need for professional medical knowledge in order to assess STD claims.
  • Increasingly, patients are being asked to pay a fee to their doctors to complete STD paperwork.
  • Lehigh has experienced an increase in the number of STD claims in the past ten years, leading to more paperwork and staff time needed to deliver STD benefits. 
   
    By transferring the administrative work of STD claims to The Hartford, Lehigh will address all of these issues and more. Some of the benefits include:

  • Simplification: No paperwork is involved. The Hartford will communicate with employees and doctors directly by telephone.
  • Lowered Costs: Employees will not have to pay physicians to complete paperwork.
  • Medical Expertise: The Hartford employs medical professionals who can speak directly to the employee’s doctors.
  • Confidentiality: No one at Lehigh will need to know the reason for a medical absence.
  • Smooth Transfer to Long Term Disability: If an employee needs to transition to long term disability, The Hartford will manage the entire process.

*Annual Limitations: One Small Change

    There is one change to STD that will come about at the same time as the switch to The Hartford. Individuals are limited to 26 weeks of STD per year, which applies to all claims combined in a case where an employee has more than one disability in that year.

    In the past, the limit of 26 weeks of STD coverage referred to one “employment year,” which is a measurement that starts with an employee’s adjusted service date. Using the employment year measurement meant Lehigh was potentially tracking benefits in as many as 365 employment years. This was needlessly complex.

    The Hartford’s tracking system instead will track STD availability for an employee by looking back 12 months from the first day of a proposed STD period. The annual limitation in that period will continue to be 26 weeks and will continue to be applied to all claims combined in that period.

Questions?

As always, if you have a question about this or any benefit, please contact HR at extension 83900 or inben@lehigh.edu.

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Spotlight is published monthly by Human Resources. Please address any comments to Hillary Kwiatek, Spotlight Editor, Human Resources, 428 Brodhead Avenue, send email to hik210@lehigh.edu, or call extension 85165.

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