Payroll & Benefits

How are UW Employee Health Insurance Benefits & Costs Established Each Year?

For many employees, health insurance benefits are the most important fringe benefit offered by the UW System. Every year, we see changes to the health insurance program even if the only change is your monthly premium contribution. Then in the fall, during the Annual Benefits Enrollment (ABE) period, you have the opportunity to enroll in the health insurance program, make changes to your coverage level or change health insurance carriers. So let’s learn about the process of establishing those annual health plan options and costs.

What is the State Group Health Insurance Program?
The State Group Health Insurance program is an employer-sponsored program offering group health insurance to employees of state agencies, UW System, UW Hospital and Clinics Authority and participating local government employers.

The UW System does not determine the benefits, premiums, employee premium contributions or which health plans are offered. Changes for 2018 are expected to be approved by the Group Insurance Board (GIB) on August 30, 2017.

Who decides how much I have to pay for health insurance premium contributions?
The health plans submit premium bids to the Department of Employee Trust Funds (ETF) each July for the following year. The bids and required claims data is examined by the Group Insurance Board’s (GIB) actuaries and negotiations are conducted by ETF. The GIB must approve the premium rates for each health plan.

While most employees do not pay the full premium cost, the full premium cost does impact the amount of the employee monthly premium contribution. Each year, the monthly amount that employees are required to pay for health insurance is established by the state Division of Personnel Management (DPM). DPM determines the employee contribution towards premium based on the provisions in Wis. Stat. § 40.05 (4) (ag) and (ah). For most employees, the monthly premium contribution may not exceed 12 percent of the average premium cost of plans offered in each premium tier.

What are premium tiers?
ETF assigns each health plan to one of three premium tiers based on the relative efficiency with which a plan is able to provide the benefits and the quality of care that is required by the GIB. Plans are given extra credit in the tier assignment process if they scored well on measures of quality, patient safety, and customer satisfaction.

For most full-time employees, your monthly health insurance premium contributions are based upon the Tier in which your health plan is placed. A plan’s Tier may change from year to year but there will always be at least one Tier 1 plan offered in your area.

Who administers the State Group Health Insurance Program?
The Department of Employee Trust Funds (ETF) and the Group Insurance Board (GIB) have statutory authority for program administration and oversight [Wis Stat § 15.165 (2) and 40.03(6)]. All health plans follow GIB guidelines for eligibility and program requirements. The health plans (except the Access Plan and Access HDHP) all offer the same benefit package called Uniform Benefits (as well as the option of electing Uniform Dental coverage for a small additional cost) and compete in an annual competitive premium rates bid process.

Who decides what’s covered under the State Group Health Insurance Program?
The GIB generally determines the coverage offered by the health plans, however, the program must also comply with applicable state and federal laws. The GIB has a fiduciary responsibility to administer the program in accordance with state statute. The GIB decisions are based on ETF recommendations, GIB actuaries and other guidance.

Who decides which health insurance carriers are offered?
In today’s environment, the health plan decides if they want to participate in the State Group Health Insurance program and determines the counties in which they will offer plan providers.
The health plans must meet strict contractual requirements and their participation is authorized annually by the GIB if they meet the required criteria. If a health plan leaves the program, its members must select a new health plan during ABE.

Who is on the Group Insurance Board (GIB)?
The GIB is an eleven-member board that meet specified membership requirements. The GIB sets policy and oversees administration of the group health, life insurance and Income Continuation Insurance plans for state and UW employees and retirees and the group health and life insurance plans for local employers who choose to offer them. The Board also can provide other insurance plans, if employees pay the entire premium.

For more information about the GIB, please click here.

What is the role of the Legislative Joint Finance Committee (JFC)?
The 2017-2019 executive state budget included a requirement that any contracts for a self-insured health insurance program must be submitted to the JFC for review. The JFC then has a 21-day during which the JFC must decide if they will act to reject or modify the contracts.

The State of Wisconsin currently administers three self-insured benefit programs: pharmacy, Uniform Dental and the state-wide Access Health Plan. The other health plans currently offered are not self-insured (they are “fully-insured”). Because the JFC rejected the contracts for a self-insured health insurance program, all health plans, including the Access Plan, will be fully-insured in 2018. The pharmacy and Uniform Dental will remain self-insured.

Source: UW System Office of Human Resources & Workforce Diversity

Well Wisconsin Incentives Are Taxable


All incentives paid to participants of the group health insurance programs are considered taxable income to the group health plan subscriber and are reported to your employer for tax purposes. Health information, including responses to the health assessment, are protected by federal law and will never be shared with your employer.

If you are covered under the State of Wisconsin Group Health Insurance program, you are eligible for a $150 incentive to complete a health screening and assessment. Depending on your health plan, you may also be eligible for financial reimbursements for wellness related expenses such as gym memberships, fitness classes, the cost to participate in Community Support Agriculture (CSA) programs and rewards for participating in health or wellness programs or challenges. You can learn more information about the benefits available to you through the StayWell website (

Per guidance from the federal government and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), these benefits are classified as taxable fringe benefits. This means that any financial incentive you receive from the program is taxable income for state and federal tax purposes.

What this means for you:

  • Throughout 2017, financial incentives will be reported by your employer as a taxable wage and will be subject to applicable withholdings and taxes. You will see withholdings for incentives issued in the current calendar year reflected on your earnings statement. This will include incentives issued to your eligible family members.
  • If your incentive was already received, and you are paid on a bi-weekly basis, you will see the tax withholding on your August 31st paycheck.  If your incentive was already received, and you are paid on a monthly basis, you will see the tax withholding on your September paycheck.  The November earnings statements would include tax withholding for incentives issued through the October 20, 2017 deadline.
  • Withholding will include 7.65% for Social Security and Medicare and may include withholding for federal and state taxes, depending on the number of exemptions you claimed on your W-4.
  • Federal regulations require the payroll center to receive financial data regarding incentives issued to employees and their covered family members. Your health information is protected by federal privacy regulations and is not shared with your employer.
  • These taxable fringe amounts will be processed with the code: XHW (Tax Fr – Health/Wellness) earnings code.

Even with the federal government’s tax regulations, eligible employees are able to receive substantial financial rewards for using the wellness incentives offered by the State of Wisconsin and participating health plans.

Please contact Human Resources at or ext. 2390 if you have any questions.

Important 2018 Health Plan Changes

The Department of Employee Trust Funds (ETF) has announced that six health plans will not be participating in the State Group Health Insurance Program in 2018.  Of the six health plans no longer available in 2018, four currently provide coverage in Northeast Wisconsin:

  • Anthem Blue Preferred Northeast
  • Arise Health Plan
  • Humana Eastern
  • United Healthcare of Wisconsin

Employees currently enrolled in these plans will be required to elect a new health plan during the annual open enrollment period, which will occur October 2 – October 27, 2017 for January 1, 2018 coverage.

Pending approval by the Group Insurance Board, the health plans available in our area for 2018 will be:

  • Dean Health Insurance-Prevea 360
  • Network Health
  • Security Health Plan-Valley
  • WEA Trust-East

Please see ETF’s website for additional information, including a Q&A Guide for 2018 Health Plans.  The health plans that will not be participating in 2018 will be sending out notifications to members later this week.  Our office will continue to provide updates as more information becomes available.  In the meantime, please contact or 920-465-2390 with any questions.

Megan Noltner joins Human Resources team

The Human Resources Office is pleased to announce that Megan Noltner will be joining our team on Monday, August 21st in a temporary appointment as a Payroll & Benefits Specialist this fall while Kimberly Sipiorski is on maternity leave.  Megan will assist with advising employees on their benefits during the Annual Benefits Enrollment period, processing payroll, and will help with other human resource related projects.  Megan earned her bachelor degree from UW-Stout and has over three years of human resources experience.  Her most recent position was an Assistant Director of Human Resources for Marcus Hotels & Resorts in Milwaukee.  Megan and her family recently relocated back home, and we are excited that she will be joining our team.  Please join us in welcoming Megan to UW-Green Bay!

If you have any payroll or benefits questions, please continue to contact us at or ext. 2390.


Student employee hours limit returns to 25 hours per week on August 20th

As a reminder, the student employee hours limit returns to 25 hours per week starting August 20, 2017.  The hours limit is in place to make sure we are in compliance with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA).  Please review the 2017 Student Bi-Weekly Payroll Schedule at:

If you have any questions about this, please contact Human Resources at or ext. 2390.

Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS) Webinars Offered in August


ETF is offering a series of 30-minute, live, interactive webinars designed to increase your understanding of Wisconsin Retirement System benefits.  Individuals can also ask questions at the end of sessions.

Additional Contributions- Find out how making additional contributions to your WRS account can potentially increase your retirement. This webinar also provides examples of how contributions grow over time with interest, how to pay additional contributions (payroll deduction or direct pay), etc.

  • Tues, Aug 1, 2017 12:30 p.m. – 1:00 p.m.
  • Mon, Aug 7, 2017 12:00 p.m. – 12:30 p.m.
  • Mon, Aug 21, 2017 6:00 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.
  • Thurs, Aug 31, 2017 12:30 p.m. – 1:00 p.m.

Annuity Options- This webinar will help to increase your understanding of the WRS annuity options available to you at retirement. ETF will also explain the difference between a beneficiary and a named survivor.

  • Wed, Aug 2, 2017 12:00 p.m. – 12:30 p.m.
  • Thurs, Aug 10, 2017 12:30 p.m. – 1:00 p.m.
  • Wed, Aug 23, 2017 11:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
  • Thurs, Aug 31, 2017 6:00 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.

WRS Retirement Benefit Calculation Methods- This webinar will explain the methods used for benefit calculations and the components of each method. Anyone who has requested or is planning to request an estimate will have a better understanding of how that amount was calculated.

  • Tues, Aug 1, 2017 6:00 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.
  • Fri, Aug 11, 2017 11:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
  • Tues, Aug 15, 2017 12:30 p.m. – 1:00 p.m.
  • Thurs, Aug 31, 2017 11:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.

Register for a Webinar

Please contact Human Resources at (920) 465-2390 or with any questions.

WRS Contribution Rates to Decrease in 2018

The Department of Employee Trust Funds (ETF) has announced a slight decrease for 2018 Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS) contribution rates effective January 1, 2018. According to ETF, the 2018 contribution rate changes are primarily due to higher favorable WRS Trust Fund investment performance.  In general, when trust fund investment earnings are greater than expected, contribution rates may decrease the following year.  When earnings are lower than expected, rates may increase to make up for the shortfall. Changes in WRS contribution rates are designed to be stable, with investment returns for the Core Fund smoothed over a five-year period.

WRS contribution rates are set annually by the ETF Board, upon review of its consulting actuary’s annual valuation of the system and its funding requirements.  The total rates are generally split evenly between employees and employers and adjusted annually.

Your contribution rate is determined by your WRS employment category. Most UW employees are covered by the General/Teacher WRS category. High level administrators (chancellors, president, vice presidents, provosts) are covered by the Executive category.  Employees whose main duties are related to law enforcement or the protection of the public (police officers, fire fighters) are covered by the Protective category.

2018 WRS RatesThe 2018 rates will apply to all paychecks paid in 2018, beginning on the January 2, 2018 for Faculty, Academic Staff and Limited Appointees paid monthly, and January 4, 2018 for University Staff paid bi-weekly.  As a reminder, WRS contributions are taken on a pre-tax basis for state and federal purposes.

For More Information:






Life Insurance Considerations Throughout Your Employment

The UW offers a variety of term life insurance plans for employees to consider.  Participation and coverage amounts will vary by individual depending on specific life circumstances and age.  See UW Life Insurance Plans for eligibility, coverage levels and premiums.

How Much Life Insurance do you Need?

For information to help decide life insurance needs, see the article How Much Life Insurance is Enough? Use the insurance needs calculator referenced in the article. These resources may help decide how much life insurance is needed at different times during your career.

Enrollment Opportunities

  • New Employee/Newly Eligible – New employees and newly eligible employees are offered the opportunity to enroll in the life insurance plans offered by the UW. There may be opportunities during your career to make changes to coverage.
  • Continuing Employee – If employees did not enroll in life insurance as a new employee or newly eligible employee, or did not enroll in all the available plans, they may be able to enroll during their career if they have a qualifying life event such as the birth or adoption of a child, marriage, divorce.  See Family Status Change for details.  An Employment Change may also provide an enrollment opportunity.Employees may also be eligible to enroll through Evidence of Insurability (EOI), which requires medical underwriting. Cancellation or reduction of coverage is also available and appropriate for some individuals.It is important for employees to revisit their life insurance plan participation, coverage and premium levels throughout their active employment as insurance needs change.
  • Terminating or Retiring Employee – While the UW life insurance plans provide coverage during an employee’s working life, continued coverage upon termination or retirement from the UW is not guaranteed.  Employees may have either a conversion or continuation option for the UW life insurance plans. Not all plans offer these options.

Conversion vs Continuation

When continuing a life insurance plan typically former employees will continue as a group member.  Depending on the employee’s circumstances, this may be a more economical choice than converting the insurance plan.

When converting a current life insurance plan typically employees will convert to an individual policy.  This choice is typically more costly than continuation.

UW Life Insurance Plans and Conversion or Continuation Options Offered

(All plans are term life insurance.  Benefits are payable only for covered events while coverage is in effect) 


State Group Life

Individual & Family Life

UW Employees, Inc. Life

Accidental Death & Dismemberment (AD&D)

University Insurance Association (UIA)  Life

Options Upon Termination from Employment (not retirement)

Conversion; Continuation of employee coverage if employee has 20 plus years of WRS service.

Conversion to individual policy. Conversion to individual policy. Conversion to individual policy.

Conversion; Continuation if the termination is due to disability as outlined in the plan certificate.

Options Upon Retirement Continuation of employee coverage; conversion of Spouse/DP & Dependent coverage. Conversion to individual policy. Conversion to individual policy. Continuation of group policy.

Continuation of group policy or conversion to individual policy (employee choice).


For information on life insurance enrollment, conversion or continuation and the associated enrollment deadlines, visit the UW System Employee Benefits website.

Contact Human Resources at (920) 465-2390 or with any questions.

Source: UW Service Center

Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS) Webinars Offered in July


ETF is offering a series of 30-minute, live, interactive webinars designed to increase your understanding of Wisconsin Retirement System benefits.  Individuals can also ask questions at the end of sessions.

5 Basic Steps to Your Retirement- Consider this webinar your quick reference guide to starting the retirement process within the next 12 months. ETF will review: choosing a termination date, how to request a retirement estimate – and how to read and understand it. ETF will also cover how to schedule a retirement appointment and – drum roll here — how to submit the retirement application.

  • Fri, July 7, 2017 11:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
  • Wed, July 12, 2017 6:00 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.
  • Thurs, July 20, 2017 12:30 p.m. – 1:00 p.m.
  • Mon, July 31, 2017 11:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.

Beneficiary Designations- What Happens to My Account When I Die- Do you have a beneficiary designation on file with ETF and does it reflect how you would want your WRS death benefits paid? This webinar reviews the importance of having a beneficiary designation on file and keeping it updated as life events occur. ETF will also review how to correctly complete a designation form, what it means if you do not have one on file with ETF, and how to request a copy of your current form.

  • Thurs, July 13, 2017 12:30 p.m. – 1:00 p.m.
  • Tues, July 18, 2017 12:00 p.m. – 12:30 p.m.
  • Wed, July 26, 2017 11:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
  • Mon, July 31, 2017 6:00 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.

Overview of the Wisconsin Retirement System- This webinar will cover participation in the Wisconsin Retirement System, how the WRS is funded and what benefits are available under the WRS. A brief overview of the Core and Variable Trust Funds and how the WRS is structured are included.

  • Tues, July 11, 2017 11:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
  • Fri, July 21, 2017 12:00 p.m. – 12:30 p.m.
  • Wed, July 26, 2017 6:00 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.
  • Mon, July 31, 2017 12:30 p.m. – 1:00 p.m.

Register for a Webinar

Please contact Human Resources at (920) 465-2390 or with any questions.