Benefits Spotlight

On March 27th, the President signed the Corona Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act into law. Brown University is enacting some of the special provisions under the Act relating to retirement plan withdrawals and loans. More specific information can be found here.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act:?The 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.

In the future, you will be able to use your Sentinel Benny Card or your Optum Bank HSA card to pay for these expenses at the point of sale.

Dependent Care Special Election:?In response to changing childcare needs during the COVID-19 crisis, employees enrolled in the dependent care flexible spending plan (DCAP) can now change or temporarily suspend their DCAP elections. This special election is only available during the current crisis. Please note: this election cannot be implemented retroactively.?

To initiate a change email [email protected].

Consultations with Fidelity and TIAA Via Phone: ?Fidelity and TIAA remain committed to supporting you during these challenging times and will continue to be there to help address your concerns. Both carriers have suspended all in-person consultations, but are still available to assist virtually or via phone! If you have a previously scheduled one-on-one appointment with a Retirement Planner, they will contact you with instructions for meeting by telephone.?

To request or reschedule an appointment with Fidelity, please visit

To request or reschedule an appointment with TIAA, please call 1-800-732-8353.??

Learn more.

OptumRx Prior Authorization (PA) Extension:?To meet your needs and ease the burden on medical providers during the COVID-19 outbreak, OptumRx is extending existing prescription medication prior authorizations that are set to expire on or before May 1, 2020, for an additional 90 days. OptumRx will automatically extend existing PA approvals for most chronic medications.

Some limitations apply:

  • Drugs with significant abuse potential (i.e., opioids) or those that are generally dosed for finite durations or intermittently (i.e., hepatitis agents, fertility agents) as identified by OptumRx will follow normal process for renewals.?
  • Prior authorization requirements for medications that are newly prescribed will remain in place.

OptumRx Specialty Medications Extended Supply Distribution:?During the COVID-19 outbreak, when a patient calls to refill their specialty medication, Optum Specialty Pharmacy will offer patients a one-time, 90-day supply of key chronic specialty medications. This policy is effective March 23, 2020.?

Drugs within the following categories will remain limited to 30 days supply only:

  • Acute medications
  • Controlled substances
  • Drugs subject to REMS programming requiring 30 day dispensing and monitoring
  • Drugs with limited expiration dating
  • Drugs where storage/handling issues would increase risk of waste
  • Office-administered injectable/infusible therapies
  • Drugs experiencing supply shortages
  • Drugs dosed less frequently than once monthly
  • Drugs whose monthly ingredient cost exceeds $10,000

Please note: This policy will not auto-dispense medications in supplies >30 days without direct consent of the patient. This policy will also not apply to patients who are newly initiated on a specialty therapy.

COVID-19 Testing and Prescription Refill Updates

The Brown University Benefits team has been working with health care administrators, UnitedHealthcare and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Rhode Island, as well as OptumRx, to actively monitor the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak and what it means for Brown employees and their families.?

To facilitate the ability to receive necessary testing for suspected COVID-19 exposure, and until further notice, cost sharing will be waived (meaning there will be no deductible, copays, or coinsurance) for COVID-19 diagnostic testing provided at approved locations in accordance with CDC guidelines. In addition, there will be no prior authorization and referral requirements, where applicable, so members can get timely medically necessary testing.?

OptumRx members with active eligibility may obtain an early refill* of their traditional and specialty prescription medications, if they have refills remaining on file at a participating retail or mail-order pharmacy. OptumRx has been working to implement restrictions to the Refill Too Soon (RTS) policy. This enhancement, which will support certain restrictions of the RTS edit lift, will be implemented the week of April 6 and will limit the early refill to a one-time fill only. The OptumRx system will retrospectively review claim history to determine if an early refill has already been lifted and processed and if so, will not allow another early refill. ?Please contact the OptumRx Pharmacy Help Desk should special circumstances dictate a need for a second early refill. ?

Key Resources:

*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).?