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July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2016 (Fiscal Year 2016)

Begins: Monday, April 6, 2015

Rice Fest: Tuesday, April 7, 2015 (11:00 am to 3:00 pm, RMC/Ley Student Center)

Ends: Friday, April 24, 2015 (11:59 pm)

Effective Date: July 1, 2015

Benefits Booklet: 2015-2016


Benefits open enrollment for active faculty and staff is completed online via Esther. Your Esther ID is your employee ID number and the password you selected.  If you cannot remember your password, please enter your ID and click the "Forgot PIN" button.  Please e-mail benefits@rice.edu for assistance or call xBENE (x2363) if you are not able to retrieve your pin on your own.  

The absolute deadline to complete your benefits open enrollment online via Esther is Friday, April 24 @ 11:59 pm. There are no extensions or grace periods -- this is a true deadline (and it's a Federal law, so no exceptions will be made!).

You only need to complete open enrollment via Esther if you have changes to your benefit elections OR you wish to continue your medical or dependent care spending accounts or your Health Savings Account (HSA). If you have no changes and do not participate in flexible spending accounts, you do not need to complete enrollment online -- your benefits will continue as-is.

Please note that Rice Fest is Tuesday, April 7, 2015 from 11:00 am to 3:00 pm in the RMC/Ley Student Center. Come speak directly with our plan representatives.

If you are a retiree, please remember that retiree benefits open enrollment is in May - we will mail you information then.

Health Insurance

Below you will find a brief description of the four medical plans offered for the 2015-2016 plan year.  The following guide may be helpful for you to review as an overview of the plans available: quick comparison of the plans

  • Memorial Hermann Accountable Care Organization (ACO) - this plan offers comprehensive HMO-style benefits with a lower premium than our current HMO. The network is limited to the Memorial Hermann system in the Houston area, and only covers emergencies elsewhere.  Members of this plan have a yellow member ID card to help distinguish the plan to the Memorial Hermann network.  You must select a Primary Care Physician (PCP) and must receive a referral from teh PCP before visiting a specialist within the Memorial Hermann network.  More on the plan can be found here .

  • Aetna HMO - This plan is a traditional HMO, where you select a Primary Care Physician (PCP) at the time of enrollment and you must receive a referral from your PCP  to access a specialist physician or service. The network of physicians is national so you may elect the HMO anywhere in the US where there are Aetna HMO physicians available.  More on this plan can be found here.

  • Aetna Choice POS II (Open Access) - This plan is built on the HMO model, but does not require a Primary Care Physician (PCP) or referrals to see specialists (i.e., "open access").  The network is very broad and the plan provides both in-network and out-of-network coverage.  More on this plan can be found here.

  • Aetna High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) - this plan has a higher deductible and no copayments for physician services (only coinsurance), and has the same broad networks as the POS II plan. With a HDHP, you can also elect a Health Savings Account, or HSA, to help fund your higher deductible. The HSA has some advantages over a traditional medical spending account - for more information, read this comparison chart of HSA versus medical spending accounts and this detailed set of requirements for an HSA plan. More on this plan can be found here.
  • Some important caveats for the HDHP/HSA plan include:

    • Per IRS regulations, you cannot enroll in the HSA plan if you are currently enrolled in Medicare or some other form of insurance. You can dis-enroll in Medicare, but if you do so, your Social Security payments will stop (they will resume once you re-enroll in Medicare later).

    • Per IRS regulations, you cannot enroll in the HSA plan if your spouse participates in a medical spending account through their employer (including Rice).

    • Per IRS regulations, you cannot start contributing to the HSA plan until all previous medical spending account dollars are used. So, if you have a remaining balance in your WageWorks medical spending account, we cannot begin your HSA deductions until the balance of this account is used. So, try to use all of your medical spending dollars as of June 30 to start your HSA with the new plan year.

    • You can enroll in the HDHP, even if you are not eligible for the HSA plan.

    • The 2015 contribution limits are as follows:

      • Individual      $3,350 
      • Family           $6,650
      • Age 55+  catch-up provision allows an additional $1,000 contribution ($4,350 or $7,650)       

Prescription Drug Coverage

  • The medical plans covers prescription drugs and is administered by EnvisionRx Options; this information is printed on the back of your Aetna medical card.

  • The specialty medication program is through Costco. 

  • Mail order pharmacy service is through Orchard Pharmaceutical: Mail Order

Continuing to make Smart Choices when you use your health plan helps to save us all money - remember that our plan premiums are directly related to our plan spending! 

 Smart Choices     

  • Understand the differences between an urgent care center and an emergency room. Read more about the appropriate setting for care here.  

  • Save money on prescription drugs by using the mail order pharmacy service and consider generic alternatives to your brand-name drugs (if available). 

  • Stay up-to-date on your annual preventive exams - this may help or prevent illness, diseases, or other future health problems. 

  • Establish a relationship with your primary care physician - having one physician who helps you maintain your health saves you time and money! 


The DMO and PPO dental plans are both administered through Aetna.

Remember, Aetna no longer prints dental ID cards so if you want a card: Read this brochure to see how

Flexible Spending Accounts

The medical spending account limit has increased!  The new limit per the IRS is $2,550 for 2015-2016. If your spouse is also eligible for a medical spending account as an employee of Rice or another employer with FSA benefits, then you can each elect up to the $2,550 limit (but this is not true of the dependent care spending account, which is limited to $5,000 per family).

If you participate in the Health Savings Account (HSA) the new limits are as follows:

  • Individual      $3,350
  • Family           $6,650
  • Age 55+  catch-up provision allows an additional $1,000 contribution ($4,350 or $7,650) 

**Remember, you must re-enroll in the medical, dependent care spending and health savings accounts each year!

Qualifying Dependents

Are you adding a new dependent to your coverage this year? Please be sure that he or she is an eligible dependent prior to adding them to your coverage. We will be auditing dependents so you may be asked to provide "proof" that this dependent is eligible under the plan (proof of eligibility may include marriage certificate, birth certificate, etc.). If you are not sure if a dependent is eligible, please contact a member of the Benefits Team prior adding them to your coverage.

Due to a reporting provision of the Affordable Care Act, Rice is required to provide Tax Payer Identification Numbers (i.e., social security numbers) for all covered individuals under Sections 6055 and 6045 to the IRS.  Please note that if you have not provided a social security in the past, a “dummy” social may be listed (222-22-1234).  Please review your dependents social security number for accuracy and update via Esther as applicable.

 General Benefits Information for 2015-2016  

Need help understanding the terms used in medical insurance documents? Review the Federal Glossary of Health Coverage and Medical Terms for help.

When you enroll in an Aetna medical plan through Rice, you are eligible for the following additional discounts through Aetna (some items may require you log into Aetna Navigator to view).

 Summary of Plan Premiums

  • Active employee rates: 2015-2016 
  • Active employee rates: 2014-2015, if you wish to compare.

Other Helpful Information for Open Enrollment

Forms You May Need to Complete During Enrollment

Website Links


Please contact your Benefits Team with any questions you may have. We would rather you ask us a question, versus assume something and be incorrect! You cannot un-ring the bell...

Updated: March 26, 2015

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