Benefits Spotlight

To assist Brown faculty and staff in protecting their own health, and doing their part to protect community health during the COVID-19 pandemic, University Human Resources will provide a series of flu shot clinics in the coming weeks for employees working regularly on campus.

In any year, the importance of getting a seasonal influenza vaccine is essential in protecting personal and community health. While many people who get the flu recover within a week or two, others can develop serious complications such as pneumonia, which can be life-threatening -- particularly for adults over age 65 or with those underlying health conditions. This year, with the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to affect patients across the globe, public health experts and physicians say the importance of widespread flu vaccination is more significant than ever in limiting illness, protecting community health, reducing the strain on health care systems responding to the pandemic, and preserving medical resources for the care of COVID-19 patients. This year’s flu vaccine will protect against four virus strains anticipated to be most common during the upcoming season.

Brown faculty members and staff who are designated as essential-onsite or essential-special can schedule an appointment for a flu shot from Monday, Sept. 28, through Friday, Oct. 16. This year, the on-campus facility for flu shots will be located at 205 Meeting St. on College Hill. To support the ability of individuals to maintain required social distance and to protect the safety of every employee, flu shots will be scheduled on an appointment-only basis and limited to employees who are approved to work on campus. Eligible employees will receive an email during the week of Sept. 21 with a link to register for an appointment and details on protocols that must be followed. All eligible employees must have an appointment -- walk-in visits will not be permitted.

Employees who are working remotely are encouraged to get a flu shot at an in-network pharmacy or from their primary health care provider. In accordance with Brown’s COVID-19 Campus Safety Policy, employees working remotely can receive the flu shot at no cost at their primary care physician’s office or at an in-network pharmacy partner for Brown University -- please present your OptumRx card before you have your flu shot. Employees who are approved to be on campus but choose not to participate in the on-campus flu vaccine program may also receive a flu shot at their primary care physician’s office or in-network pharmacy. For more information on participating pharmacies, please refer to this document:

Please contact [email protected] with any questions.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act was enacted on March 27, 2020, and is retroactively effective January 1, 2020.  As a result, the following benefits are now available:

  • Over-the-counter (OTC) drugs and medicines – these items are now eligible for FSA and HSA reimbursement.  Eligible items include allergy medicine, cold and flu medicine, pain relievers, and more. In addition, it expands the definition of qualified medical expenses to include menstrual care products. View eligible expenses.

If you purchased an eligible OTC item on or after January 1, 2020, you can be reimbursed for this expense.  You will need to log into your account at Sentinel Benefits (FSA) or Optum Bank (HSA) to request reimbursement. You can use your Sentinel Benny Card or your Optum Bank HSA card to pay for these expenses at the point of sale.

Back-up Care enhancements will be available this fall to assist faculty/staff with childcare needs. Enhancements include additional back-up care days, waived co-pays, and support services including access to an expanded network of tutors and educational caregivers. Learn more.

Notice from Retirement Clearinghouse: Many faculty members and other University employees have recently received notices from a company called Retirement Clearinghouse (RCH) regarding monies from a class action settlement in Short v. Brown University that were put into an IRA for them. A significant number of those notices were sent in error, which created confusion for the recipients. The Settlement Administrator that erroneously sent the notices is working to correct the problem and has posted a notice of the problem on the settlement website: Here is a brief description of what occurred and the steps being taken to rectify the error.

Under the Settlement Agreement in Short v. Brown University, qualifying class members are to receive a share of the settlement fund that Brown paid to the plaintiffs’ counsel and their Settlement Administrator. For class members who are current account holders in the Brown University Deferred Vesting Retirement Plan or the Brown University Legacy Retirement Plan, or both, the Settlement Administrator is required to identify and distribute their shares to TIAA and Fidelity, the Plans’ recordkeepers and investment providers, for deposit into the class members’ current account(s) in the Plan(s). For class members who are former account holders in one or both of the Plans, the Settlement Administrator is required to identify and distribute their shares to a third-party IRA provider, RCH, for deposit by RCH into a separate Safe Harbor IRA for each such class member. Under plaintiffs’ counsel’s settlement allocation formula, a former account holder is entitled to a settlement share only if the amount of the share otherwise calculated under the formula is $25 or more.

OptumRx members with active eligibility may obtain an early one-time refill* of their traditional and specialty prescription medications, if they have refills remaining on file at a participating retail or mail-order pharmacy. OptumRx is extending the Refill Too Soon edit policy beyond the original expiration date of June 30. This policy will be extended an additional 90 days until September 30. Please contact the OptumRx Pharmacy Help Desk should special circumstances dictate a need for a second early refill.    

*The refill obtained will stay consistent with the standard day supply previously filled by the member as allowed by the plan (e.g., 30- or 90-day supply).   

United Healthcare (UHC) and Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) have announced the dates of coverage and cost-sharing for the following benefits. The end dates for the cost-sharing waivers for certain benefits are listed below for both UHC and BCBS. As the public health emergency is fluid and ever-changing, these dates are subject to change. Please continue to look out for updates on the Benefits Spotlight page.  

  • COVID-19 Treatment (diagnostic testing and testing related visits, antibody testing, and treatment): No Cost Share
    • COVID in-network: Extended through October 22, 2020
    • COVID out-of-network: Extended through October 22, 2020
  • Virtual Visits (UHC’s version of Telehealth): No Cost Share
    • COVID-19 Related: September 30, 2020
    • Non-COVID-19 Related: September 30, 2020
    • The Virtual Visit is normally free of charge if you are a member of United Healthcare's comprehensive plan. For those in United Healthcare's high-deductible plan, the deductible will apply.
  • Telehealth: No Cost Share
    • Waiver of member cost share will apply in-network only from July 25 through September 30, 2020
    • COVID-19 Related: Extended through October 22, 2020
    • Non-COVID-19 Related: September 30, 2020
  • Telehealth Expanded Coverage (allows for certain providers to provide telehealth services, including audio and video visits): No Cost Share
  • Updated program expiration date: Expanded coverage through July 24


  • COVID-19 Treatment (diagnostic testing and testing related visits, antibody testing, and treatment): Cost sharing will be incurred.
    • COVID in-network: September 3, 2020
    • COVID out-of-network: September 3, 2020 
  • Teladoc (BCBS’s version of Telehealth): No Cost Share
    • Teladoc is normally free of charge if you are a Blue Cross Blue Shield member.
  • Telehealth Expanded Coverage (allows for certain providers to provide telehealth services, including audio and video visits): No cost sharing incurred through December 31, 2020.