This page includes a series of questions that are commonly asked by customers and cover topics about medical, vision, dental and other benefit services the City of Houston offers to their employees and retirees.

Medical and Vision

  • My son goes to college in Ohio. Will he still be able to get coverage at college?

    +

    The only City of Houston medical plan that does not offer nationwide coverage is the Cigna Limited Network plan.

    However, members of this plan can “guest” with another Cigna service area if they temporarily relocate to another area of the country for at least 60 days, but less than two years.

    The Cigna HealthCare Guest Privileges program provides members with a primary-care physician at your guest site, along with full access to your temporary guest network with all the benefits of a regular Cigna healthcare plan participant.

    The Guest Privileges program is optional and is available at no additional charge. Contact a Cigna On-Site Representative for more information.

  • I need an MRI. What will I pay for that and other advanced radiological imaging?

    +

    In most cases, you’ll pay an additional fee for high-cost X-rays, such as MRI, MRA, CAT scan and PET scan, on top of your doctor’s visit copay or coinsurance.

    What you’ll pay varies by plan:
    CDHP: At the physician’s office, in-patient hospital facility, out-patient facility, ER or urgent care facility, you pay 20% of the bill, after your annual deductible is met.

    Limited Network: At in-patient facilities, high-cost X-rays and imaging are covered under in-patient hospital-facility services. At out-patient facilities, your doctor’s office and in the emergency room, you pay a $100 copay per type of scan per day.

    Open Access: During a physician’s office visit, at an in-patient or out-patient facility, or at an emergency room or urgent care center, you pay 30% of the bill, after your annual deductible is met.

  • I noticed that for the Cigna Open Access plan, specialists in the network cost less. What is and why does it cost less to see them?

    +

    Cigna Tiered Benefits formerly known as Cigna Care Network (CCN) is a tiered plan design. Every year Cigna evaluates provider performance in certain primary care and medical specialties.

    Providers with top results in delivering quality, cost-efficient care become Tier 1. Under your plan, every time you use a Tier 1 in-network provider, you will have a lower copay.

    You’ll pay a $65 copay instead of $80, which is the copay for specialists outside of Tier 1. This specialist discount is ONLY available in the Cigna Open Access plan.

  • Do I have to choose a primary care doctor?

    +

    You are not required to choose a primary care doctor, but it is encouraged so that your primary care doctor can direct your care. However, a primary care doctor is required for the Cigna Limited Network Plan.

  • Do I need a referral to see a specialist?

    +

    Though you may want your personal doctor’s advice and assistance in arranging care with a specialist in the network, you do not need a referral to see a participating specialist, except for the Cigna Limited Network-Renaissance plan and the Cigna Limited Network-Village Family Practice group.

    Note that if you choose to see an out-of-network specialist, the health care services you receive will not be covered and you will be responsible for all out-of-pocket expenses. The CDHP plan is the only plan that offers out-of-network benefits at a higher cost share than in-network benefits.

  • What if my personal doctor isn’t in the Cigna Network?

    +

    That means your doctor does not participate in the Cigna network. To receive your maximum coverage, you should select a doctor from the Cigna list of participating doctors listed on cigna.com (New Hire or new to the plan).

    Participating doctors must meet standards to become a part of our network. You can continue seeing your current doctor, even if he or she is not a participating doctor. However, in that case, your care will not be covered unless you select the CDHP plan and use the out-of-network benefit option.

  • What is the difference between in-network and out-of-network coverage?

    +

    In-Network - Most health plan have a group, or network of doctors, hospitals, labs, and other health care providers that they contract with to provide services at a discounted rate. You typically pay less when you see in-network providers.

    Out-of-Network – Out-of-Network refers to a health care provider who does not have a contract with your health insurance plan.

    If you use an out-of-network provider, health care services could cost more sine the provider doesn’t have a pre-negotiated rate with your health plan.

  • How do I find in-network doctors and providers?

    +

    Open Access and Consumer Driven Health Plans - Visit myCigna.com and search under Find Care & Cost tab on the top menu.

    Limited Network – Visit myCigna.com and under the Find Care & Cost tab on the top menu, click on “Important Messages Regarding Your Plan” to view the Limited Network Provider Directory. You may also call one of the on-site Cigna representatives. Please refer to the provider contact list for details.

  • What if I go to an out-of-network doctor who sends me to an in-network hospital? Will I pay in-network or out-of-network charges for my hospitalization?

    +

    Cigna will cover authorized medical services provided by a participating hospital at your in-network coverage level, whether you were sent there by in- or out-of-network doctor.

  • If I am in the Cigna Limited Network plan and I need to see a doctor while out of town, where can I seek immediate care?

    +

    If you need urgent care, you can use an urgent care facility or emergency room. In the case of a life-threatening emergency, seek care from the nearest emergency room. As soon as the emergency situation is stabilized, Cigna will work to transition your care back to network providers. Routine care is not covered unless it is provided by a network provider.

  • What is the contact number for the vision plan?

    +

    The phone number for Superior Vision is 866.265.0517, or visit their website: www.superiorvision.com.

up icon

Dental

  • Who is our dental provider?

    +

    Cigna is our dental provider and you now have the option to choose between the Cigna Dental Care Access (DHMO) plan and Dental PPO (DPPO) Plan.

  • What is the contact number for the dental plan?

    +

    The Pre- Enrollment phone number for Cigna Dental Care Access plan is 800.401.4041. You can find a network dentist or specialist online at www.Cigna.com before you sign up, or go to your personalized website at myCIGNA.com or contact Cigna Customer Service at 800.997.1406 after April 30th.

  • What is the contact number for the dental plan?

    +

    The Pre- Enrollment phone number for Cigna Dental Care Access plan is 800.401.4041. You can find a network dentist or specialist online at www.Cigna.com before you sign up, or go to your personalized website at myCIGNA.com or contact Cigna Customer Service at 800.997.1406 after April 30th.

    Cigna Dental Care Access (DHMO) Plan Facts

    • No dollar maximums
    • No deductibles
    • Benefits start right away with no waiting periods
    • No claim forms to file when using network dentists
    • You will select a Cigna Dental Care network general dentist to manage all of your dental health care needs who will refer you to any network specialist. (Referrals are not required for pediatric dentists for children under age 7 and orthodontists.)
  • What is “Orthodontics in progress” (DHMO)?

    +

    It’s when you start orthodontic treatment with one carrier. Then you switch to a Cigna Dental Care plan before your orthodontic care is done. Your treatment is still “in progress.” And your Cigna plan may cover it.

  • What about non-orthodontic treatments (DHMO)?

    +

    Your Cigna Dental Care plan doesn’t usually cover non-orthodontic treatment in-progress. This includes:

    • Root canal treatment
    • Crown and bridge work
    • Dentures

    TOTAL CIGNA DPPO PLAN FACTS

    • Freedom to visit any licensed dentist or specialist
    • No specialty referrals required
    • The plan will cover eligible dental expenses after you satisfy any applicable waiting periods and meet any deductibles
    • The plan is based on coinsurance levels that determine the percentage of costs covered by the plan for different types of services
up icon

Open Enrollment

  • I completed the online enrollment form, but did not receive a confirmation. What should I do?

    +

    You now have the ability to print a Benefits Confirmation Statement once you complete your enrollment in ESS. If you are unable to print this confirmation, you can confirm your benefit elections by clicking on the current benefits tab in ESS.

  • I need to correct my dependent’s information (name, date of birth, etc.), how do I do that?

    +

    You can make corrections to your dependent’s information in ESS, but you must submit proof of any supporting documentation to the Benefits Division. Please contact the Benefits Division for more details.

  • I cannot access my Employee Self-Service. What is my password?

    +

    For password resets and other issues with logging into your Employee Self-Service, contact the HITS Client Services Help Desk at 832.394.4487.

  • I have a “File not Found” error when accessing the enrollment form. How do I fix this?

    +

    You may need to press F5 a few times to refresh the pop-up window. If that fails to work, contact the HITS Client Services Help Desk at 832.394.HITS or the Benefits Division at 832.393.6000.

  • What do I do when I get a “person is already being processed” error when accessing the enrollment form?

    +

    Close all the pop-up windows and log out of ESS. Then log in again and try accessing the form. You may need to press F5 a few times to refresh the pop-up window. If that fails to work, contact the HITS Client Services Help Desk at 832.394.HITS or the Benefits Division at 832.393.6000.

  • What services have been added to the City of Houston’s medical plan per the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) guidelines?

    +

    Since 2010, the City of Houston has implemented the following services based upon PPACA guidelines:

    • Coverage for dependents up to age 26 (City of Houston plans covered dependents up to age 25 until May 1, 2011, when the age limit was increased to age 26)
    • No annual dollar limits on essential health benefits (City of Houston plans were compliant with this requirement prior to PPACA, except for the lifetime maximum on PPO benefits)
    • No lifetime benefit limits (the PPO plan under BCBSTX had a lifetime maximum of $1.5 million until May 1, 2011, when all limits were removed)
    • Contraception and domestic violence screening without cost sharing. Contraception includes:
      • - Diaphragms and sponges;
      • - Birth control pills;
      • - IUDs;
      • - Emergency contraception (Plan B and Ella);
      • - Sterilization procedures; and
      • - Counseling
    • Provision of support for breastfeeding equipment
    • Provision of a standard Summary of Benefits and Coverage document to all individuals enrolled in the medical plan annually
    • No plan eligibility period over 90 days
    • Maximum in-network out-of-pocket costs set to $8,700 individual and $17,400 family
    • Gender dysphoria surgery and related therapies (psychological counseling and hormone therapy)
    • Smoking cessation counseling and free medications (such as Chantix) and over-the-counter nicotine replacement therapies (nicotine patches and gum) covered at 100%
    • Statins covered 100% at retail network pharmacies for members between the ages of 40-75 (statins have been covered at 100% through mail order by City of Houston plans since May 1, 2015)
    • Telehealth benefits (this is a requirement by the Texas State Legislature as opposed to PPACA, and was incorporated into the City of Houston’s medical plan effective May 1, 2018)

    The following PPACA requirements were included as part of the City of Houston’s medical plans prior to the enactment of PPACA and necessitated no plan design changes:

    • Ability to self-select a Primary Care Physician (PCP)
    • Ability to visit an OB/GYN without a referral from their PCP
    • Coverage for all true emergency services as in-network benefits
    • No pre-existing conditions exclusion
    • 100% coverage of preventive care services, well exams (man, woman and child), and immunizations
  • What are some additional services that the City of Houston offers?

    +
    • Bariatric surgery
    • Gender dysphoria services
    • Reduction mammoplasty
    • Varicose vein surgery
    • Hearing aids
    • Chiropractic services
  • What drugs are covered for free by mail order?

    +
    • Generic and preferred brand diabetes related drugs and supplies;
    • Generic and preferred brand asthma related drugs;
    • Generic and preferred brand blood pressure related drugs;
    • Generic and preferred brand osteoporosis related drugs;
    • Generic and preferred brand prenatal vitamins;
    • Generic and preferred brand cholesterol related drugs;
    • Generic and preferred brand anxiety/depression/bipolar related drugs; and
    • Generic and preferred brand blood thinner related drugs
  • Who is our life insurance carrier?

    +

    Dearborn National is City of Houston’s Life Insurance.

  • Will I receive a new insurance card?

    +

    Only enrollees who are new to the medical plan or those changing from one medical plan to another medical plan will receive a new ID card. ID cards can also be printed by logging into mycigna.com.

  • Why are grandchildren not covered under the life insurance policy?

    +

    Dearborn National have chosen to not offer that coverage effective 4/30/2020.

  • Why does the City of Houston need supporting documents for my dependents?

    +

    The City of Houston requires two types of documents when adding dependents: documents to confirm the relationship to the employee (marriage certificate, birth certificate, etc.) and documents to confirm the dependent’s identity (Social Security Card or TIN).

    The Affordable Care Act (ACA) confirms medical coverage based on Social Security numbers and IRS filings – this is why we are unable to accept driver’s licenses or other identification.

up icon

Dependent Voluntary Life Coverage

  • My spouse and I are both City employees. Can I enroll my spouse for dependent voluntary life insurance?

    +

    No. If your spouse is covered as an employee, they cannot be covered as a dependent under your plan.

  • My spouse and I are both City employees. Can we both enroll our children for dependent voluntary life insurance?

    +

    No. If you are both covered as employees, only one of you may enroll your eligible dependent children for voluntary life insurance.

  • I am a City employee and my spouse is retiring from the City. If my spouse does not take the retiree life insurance, can I enroll them in voluntary life coverage?

    +

    Yes. If your spouse decides not to elect voluntary life insurance coverage as a retiree, you can add them to your voluntary life insurance coverage.

  • I am a City employee and so is my parent. Can one or both of my parents cover me as a dependent under their voluntary life insurance coverage?

    +

    No. You cannot be covered as a dependent child of another City employee.

up icon

Train the Trainer

  • I do not wish to make changes to my coverage. Do I need to log in to re-enroll in my health plans?

    +

    You do not need to re-enroll in your health plans if you do not wish to make changes. Your health plans will rollover at the new rates. However, if you are enrolled in the Health Flexible Spending Account (HFSA) AND wish to keep it, you must re-enroll and select the amount you wish to contribute. Otherwise, the HFSA will end.

  • I am adding my family to the health plans during Open Enrollment and cannot proceed with my benefits selections. What are my next steps to continue?

    +

    If you are adding dependents to any of the health plans, you will not be able to proceed with your open enrollment selections until you submit the required supporting documentation (marriage certificate, birth certificate, etc.) to the Human Resources Benefits Division via one of the methods below:

    • Benefits Secure Documents Portal:https://www.houstontx.gov/hr/benefits/sdsubmission_form.html (The fastest method.)
    • Walk-in: 611 Walker, 4th Floor, Houston, Texas (You are required to include your Name, Employee Number, email address, and phone number when submitting supporting documentation.)

    A member of the Benefits team will verify documentation and notify you by email upon verification of your documentation. Upon verification, you must return to ESS and enroll your dependents to relevant health plans (medical, vision, dental). Be sure to review and save your selections (Step 7). Once your enrollment is complete, print a confirmation for your personal records by clicking on “Print Benefit Elections Summary”.

  • I am covered on the Limited Plan and would like to change my Primary Care Physician (PCP). I do not want to change my plan, just my PCP. Do I need to wait for Open Enrollment to make this change?

    +

    You do not need to wait for Open Enrollment to change your Primary Care Physician. You may initiate a PCP change at any time, as long as you contact Cigna at 800-997-1406. Your PCP change will become effective the 1st of the following month.

  • What do I need to do if I experience a Qualified Life Event during Open Enrollment?

    +

    Qualified Life Events are independent of Open Enrollment. Complete a Qualified Life Event Processing Form (along with other applicable forms) and include the supporting documentation to HR Benefits within 31-days of the qualifying event. Failure to complete your qualifying event and using the Open Enrollment option will result in a delay to the start of your dependent’s health coverage.

  • My child just turned 26 and has no health insurance plan. Can they stay covered on my health plan?

    +

    Your dependent or adult children may only remain covered under your employer-sponsored medical, dental, vision, life insurance until they reach age 26. Coverage will terminate at the end of the month in which your dependent turns age 26. If your dependent was covered under your plan(s) at that time, he or she will receive an offer to continue their coverage under COBRA. COBRA provides coverage continuation for up to 36 months at the COBRA rate.

    Your dependent will receive a mailing from WJA COBRA Administration (a subcontractor of TASC) shortly after coverage ends. Complete the following form for life insurance conversions within 31 days for the date of loss of life insurance coverage if you are interested in keeping additional life insurance: https://www.houstontx.gov/hr/hrfiles/benefits/form_conversion_life_insurance.pdf. *The only exception with reference to continuing coverage after age 26 is if the adult child is deemed disabled. You must begin the transition within 30-60 days before the dependent’s 26th birthday.

  • I am a covered employee and would like to know how I can change from one medical plan to another outside of Open Enrollment. Am I able to change medical plans at any time?

    +

    You can change to another medical plan ONLY during the annual Open Enrollment period, or if you are no longer reside in the Cigna Limited Network service area. You will have the option to change to the Open Access Plan or Consumer Driven Health Plan. However, you must contact HR Benefits to initiate this change.

  • What is needed to change my dependent’s name?

    +

    Your spouse’s/ child’s name cannot be changed without a copy of the social security card or Individual’s Taxpayer Identification card (ITIN) verifying their name has been legally changed. Please remit a copy of their social security or ITIN card, along with your name and employee number. A Human Resources team member will make the change and request new ID cards from the health carriers on your behalf.

    Methods of Submission: Benefits Secure Documents Portal: https://www.houstontx.gov/hr/benefits/sdsubmission_form.html or Walk-in: 611 Walker, 4th Floor, Houston, Texas 77002; Attn: HR Benefits

  • What if I just need health care coverage for my dependents?

    +

    To answer your question, since you are the employee, you are considered the Primary Subscriber. Your eligible dependents may be added to any health insurance policy you choose for yourself, provided you submit the supporting documentation to your Benefits office in a timely manner.

up icon

Department Information

611 Walker, 4th Floor
Houston, TX 77002
Benefits: 832-393-6000
Main: 832-393-6100
Safety Hotline: 832-393-7233 careers@houstontx.gov