What is your job and how long have you been with the UI?
I'm a benefits counselor and I've been at the UI for 26 years. I've been with the Benefits Center for 11 years.
What is your role as a benefits counselor?
I help faculty and staff members with their insurance benefits health, life, dental and vision, and tax-deferring plans (such as the supplemental retirement system). I enroll new employees in their insurance plans and help current employees with questions about or changes in their benefits. We have about eight different [insurance] companies we deal with.
The next few weeks are generally a busy time of year for you, with the Benefits Choice period. What kinds of things will you be doing?
April 1 through May 31 of each year, every employee who is eligible for benefits can change their health plan, add or decrease their life insurance, or add dependents to their insurance. We have to let people know about changes in their insurance. There are many changes coming [in benefits] this year, so we have to learn about the changes to be ready for the Benefits Choice period. Every day is an educational effort.
What kinds of things keep you busy during the rest of the year?
We conduct orientations every week for new employees. We enroll employees in benefits and take care of tax and payroll forms during the orientation. We not only explain to them about all the benefits health, dental and life but also go over the payroll forms so they can be processed. Also, during the year, if anyone has a change in family status they report it to us and we make the applications to change whatever benefits they wish, or apply for. Employees have a 60-day window to react to changes in their family it might be a newborn, marriage, divorce or a death. We hear the good news and the bad news and we have to know it all.
What's the toughest part of your job?
I can't tell people what plan to use. They have to do their homework and make the decision themselves. I can only give them the information we have. I can't counsel people on which tax-deferring plan to take; I just help them enroll in it.
What do you like best about your work?
It's great meeting the new staff members and helping them learn more about their benefits.
Benefits counselors are assigned to new employees. How does that work?
It's done by alphabet and the last name of the employee. But if a counselor is gone, I will see their clients. If I'm gone, the other counselors will see my clients. Really, it's the client's choice who he or she deals with.
Being a benefits counselor, do you have to be an expert on insurance?
No, I just need to know everything about the plans [we offer]. I can learn something new every day about the benefits in this office. We need to keep up with any changes in our plans, so that we can explain the changes to faculty and staff members. We also have plans such as the extra life insurance and the tax-deferring plan, so we need to be able to explain those plans and any changes there might be. I can't go into detail about each and every one of the different companies in the tax-deferring plans. The clients have to call the companies, get the prospectuses and do the investigation. They have to do some homework.