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Classified Benefits & Wellness Newsletter May 2017 Issue #6

OEBB Mandatory Open Enrollment

OEBB will end all current medical, vision, and dental plans effective September 30, 2017. Therefore, members who wish to have medical, vision, and dental coverage for the October 1, 2017 – September 30, 2018, plan year will be required to log into the MyOEBB system during open enrollment in order to register for that coverage. The mandatory OEBB open enrollment period will begin August 15, 2017, and will remain open through September 15, 2017.

May is Open Enrollment Month
for the Classified Sick Leave Bank

All Classified employees will receive enrollment information by 4J email account for bank membership effective July 1, 2017 through June 30, 2018.  Only benefits eligible employees (.50 FTE or greater) are able to participate.

Important:  All current 2016-17 bank membership expires June 30, 2017.  Everyone – new members, and anyone who wants to continue membership in the bank, must enroll and donate one day of sick leave.

Here are a few of the highlights:

  • The bank is intended to extend, to contributing members; additional paid sick leave days should a long-term illness or injury exhaust all the members’ available paid leave.
  • Benefits eligible employee participation in the sick leave bank is voluntary.
  • Sick leave bank days will begin after an employee has been on unpaid leave for five (5) consecutive days.

Completed forms may be put in District mail, attention Diana McElhinney /Ed Center, scanned and emailed to me (mcelhinney_d@4j.lane.edu), or hand delivered to Human Resources – Please keep a copy for your records – this is very important should the original get lost before reaching my office.

Enrollment deadline: By 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday, May 31, 2017.

Classified Sick Leave Bank Questions & Answers:

Q:  Can I donate more than one day to the bank?  …and I only work four hours. Is that a “day?”

A:  You may donate up to two days at open enrollment.  However, it’s not required or recommended – it only takes one day for full bank membership.  The additional day provides no extra benefit to the donor.  …and yes, one “day” is considered one regular work day for you.

Q:  I’ve run out of all my sick leave – how can I join the bank?

A:  Your sick leave donation will take place when you receive your new allotment of sick leave for next school year.  This should allow almost anyone to join the bank – go ahead and send in the form.

Q:  I’m a new employee.  I didn’t receive an enrollment email.  When can I join?

A:  May open enrollment is the only time when classified employees may join the bank.  Any new employee hired after the May open enrollment, or who misses the enrollment deadline, will need to wait until the next enrollment period – May 2018.

Q:  I have very little sick leave.  Why would I want to join the bank?

A:  People in this situation are the most vulnerable to loss of income if there’s a long-term illness that prevents them from being able to do their job.  All 4 hour and above employees do have some income protection with our Long-Term Disability insurance.  However, there’s a 90-day wait for coverage to begin, and after that, income is replaced at 66%.

The Classified Sick Leave Bank can provide income replacement during that 90-day waiting period.

Q:  I have several months of personal sick leave.  Why would I want to join the bank?

A:  In some cases, you have rights to use your personal sick leave to care for an ill dependent.  If that occurs, your personal sick leave could become depleted.   You would then have the “insurance” of the bank to protect your income against personal serious illness or injury.  (Note: Sick Leave Bank time can only be used for the employee’s long-term incapacity)

Q:  I have over three months of personal sick leave.  Why would I want to join the bank?

A:  If you have many months’ worth of sick leave, you may not receive any benefit from the bank.  It’s important to remember that your situation could change, as noted above.  At the minimum, donating to the bank will help those who are in serious medical situations, and who need bank support.

When eating a fruit, think of the person who planted the tree.                                     Vietnamese Proverb

PERS Presentation

Tuesday, May 2, 2017 4:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., Ed Center Auditorium, 4J will be hosting a second PERS education presentation: Understanding Your PERS Pension. The presentation is a duplication of the information provided at the January session, and is suitable for PERS members just beginning their careers, for those within a few months of retirement, and for all members in between.

Topics will include:  Understanding the difference between Tier 1, Tier 2, and OPSRP, pension benefit calculation methods, understanding your IAP account, retirement option choices, coordinating PERS benefits with other income sources, and investment strategies and financial planning for retirement

At the conclusion of the presentation, there will be time for questions and answers.  To sign up to attend, please send an email to mcelhinney_d@4j.lane.edu.  In your email, please indicate whether you will attend alone or whether you will be bringing a guest.
PEP Fund Request Deadline

The following deadline is in place for reimbursements for the Classified Professional Education Program (PEP) fund:  Forms must be in Human Resources by 5:00 p.m. on Thursday, May 25, 2017.

Is It Safe To Use Raw Ground Beef That Is Red On The Outside But Gray Inside?

It should be fine.  Meat contains a pigment called myoglobin that turns bright red when exposed to oxygen.  Grocery stores typically cover ground beef with a plastic wrap that allows some oxygen to penetrate, so that the surface of the meat turns this appealing red color, which consumers have come to associate with freshness.  When ground beef is not exposed to oxygen, the myoglobin turns grayish-brown after a few days.  It may look less appetizing but is safe.

If the ground meat is gray or brown through-out, however, that usually indicates that it has been in the package for a while and may be spoiling. If you just bought it, you may want to return it.  “Spoilage bacteria,” though generally harmless, can make meat smell bad and cause other signs of deterioration.  If you still want to eat it, it’s essential to cook it thoroughly (160 degree F.).  Meat can also turn gray in the freezer.  It’s perfectly fine and safe to eat.

Focus on Mucus

Many people find the thought of mucus unpleasant.  And yet we couldn’t live without it.

What is mucus?  It is 95 percent water.  The key components are mucins, special carbohydrate-coated proteins.  Depending on where in the body it is, mucus may also contain certain white blood cells and other immune system components, proteins, fats, microbes, cell debris, and salts.  Mucus is a lubricant as well as tissue-protector, secreted by special cells in membranes throughout our bodies.  Abundant in saliva, it helps food pass through the digestive system and helps protect the stomach lining from acids.  In the respiratory tract, mucus traps foreign particles (such as pollen and dust) so they can be coughed up or blown from the nose, and it also prevents surfaces from drying out.  In the nose, mucus allows odor molecules to dissolve so that we can smell them.  Mucous membranes are essential parts of the genital tract.

Is it bad to have too much mucus?  It depends on where it is, why it occurs, and how thick it is.  Normally, cells in the sinuses and airways produce one to seven tablespoons of mucus a day.  A cold, flu, or allergy increases mucus and blocks its drainage, resulting in congestion and postnasal drip.  If you have chronic sinusitis, mucus trapped in the sinuses can become a breeding ground for bacteria.  In people with asthma or chronic bronchitis, thick and excessive mucus can make breathing difficult.  Excess mucus in the stool may be a sign of irritable bowel syndrome or infection.

If you cough up green or yellow mucus, is that a sign of a serious infection requiring antibiotics?  Not usually.  The color doesn’t mean you have a bacterial infection (the kind that responds to antibiotics).  Often, with a cold or flu (both viral) mucus will thicken and turns greenish or yellow, probably because of the enzymes used by white blood cells to attack microbes.  If, however, after 7 to 10 days you continue to have yellow-greenish nasal discharge, facial or upper-jaw or tooth pain (especially on one side), or worsening of symptoms after an initial improvement, you may have a bacterial infection that would be helped by antibiotics.

If you have lots of mucus because of a cold or allergy, is it better to cough it up than swallow it?  It’s okay to swallow it – it will simply be digested.  You needn’t force yourself to cough it up.  Decongestant drugs can thicken mucus and make it harder to drain or cough up.
This newsletter is reviewed and edited each month by the District 4J and OSEA representatives of the Classified Joint Benefits Committee (JBC).The information in this newsletter is summarized, and is not intended as advice or counsel.

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