Discover Your Benefits

Columbia University offers a comprehensive benefits package to support your everyday needs and life events. You might be surprised to learn how many benefits plans and resources the University provides to you and your family everyday—as well as when the unexpected happens.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month

It is more important than ever to take time for yourself, and mental health is a big part of that. Columbia University supports your well-being and provides resources that are available whenever you need them, including our monthly EAP webinars.

May Mental Health

Benefits Programs

Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA) and Health Savings Accounts (HSA) now offer a lot more flexibility in eligible expenses and savings. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act includes two revolutionary changes for FSA and HSA purchases. More than 20,000 medications and non-medications are now eligible:

1. Over-the-counter (OTC) medications

  • cold and allergy treatments, ointments, pain relievers, stomach relievers and more are now eligible without a prescription.

2. Feminine hygiene products

  • menstrual care products, such as tampons and pads, are now considered qualified health expenses.

These two changes do not have an expiration date.

 Expenses incurred on or after January 1, 2020 are included. For a list of eligible expenses, go to UHC’s website or IRS Publication 502.

Note: Merchants may need time to get sales systems and inventories updated with the updated list of eligible items. 

Telehealth + HSAs 

Telehealth services were already considered an eligible expense for a HSA, but High Deductible Health Plans (HDHPs) did not cover related expenses until an individual met his/her annual deductible. The CARES Act temporarily allows HDHPs to cover telehealth expenses before the deductible is met.



UHC Medical 

  • As a UHC member, you can access COVID-19 resources through Among other resources, there is an online symptom checker to assess your risk for COVID-19 and provide options for care and support. 
  • Prior authorizations have been extended for medical procedures that were delayed due to COVID-19.
  • For the duration of the national, public health emergency period, UHC will cover COVID-19 antibody tests ordered by a physician or health care provider at no cost.

Virtual Visits

  • There will be no copays for Virtual Visits from April 1 to June 18, 2020. 
  • University employees, regardless of insurance coverage, are eligible for two free virtual visits before June 4, 2020 (previously April 30, 2020), with NYP OnDemand, a virtual urgent care service with an emergency medicine physician from Columbia or Weill Cornell Medicine. 


  • Members can obtain one extra supply of their prescription – if refills are remaining).
  • Prior authorizations for chronic-condition medications set to expire on or before May 1, 2020 will be extended for an additional 90 days. 

Home Delivery of prescriptions can help reduce your contact with others. Obtain a 3-month (90-day) supply of your medications by signing up for the home delivery program. 

Optum Specialty Pharmacy will make available a one-time, 3-month (90-day) supply of key specialty medications (instead of the usual 30-day supply). This opportunity does not apply to certain categories of drugs, like controlled substances, or to patients beginning new specialty therapy.


To help people deal with the stress and anxiety of this pandemic, Columbia Psychiatry is now offering group therapy through telehealth.  

Group therapy is a form of psychotherapy in which our therapists lead a group (usually ranging from 5 to 12 people) in discussing common problems and possible solutions which are relevant to the individual and others in the group. Thanks to CUIMC telehealth services, these groups are now available virtually and we are offering groups specifically designed to combat the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Led by trained experts, these groups are supporting the partners of frontline medical workers at CUIMC, assisting parents in managing the stresses of having their kids at home, giving parents guidance in dealing with disruptive behavior from their children at home, and helping patients get the support they need during this pandemic. 

For more information please contact 212-305-6001.

You can make changes to your Transit/Parking savings account at any time. If you are currently not commuting, you can reduce or stop your monthly contribution. Once you have used your current balance, you can reinstate your contributions. To make changes, log in to CUBES and then click on Benefits in the top menu bar, and then "Update 2020 Transit/Parking Elections." Changes made before the 20th of the month will be in place at the beginning of the following month. 


If your child care needs have changed due to COVID-19 closures, including working remotely, you can reduce or suspend your Dependent Care FSA or add a new election through CUBES. If your child care needs have changed, it would be considered a Qualified Life Status Change of Change in Dependent Care Cost. You may choose to re-elect the dependent care FSA once daycare services resume.

  • You may cancel all future contributions if you are currently not incurring any costs; for example if your daycare facility is currently closed and you have family members watching your children.
  • You can increase or decrease your contribution, if you are incurring different expenses.
  • You can add an election if:
    • You require a new childcare provider whose services have a cost, and
    • The childcare provider is over age 19 and is not your spouse, the parent of the child, or anyone claimed as a dependent on your tax returns.

Other Benefits

As a reminder, benefits-eligible employees have access to Health Advocate, which offers services to help you and your family resolve healthcare issues and health insurance challenges. Health Advocate can help with services like finding the right healthcare providers, explain complex medical conditions, clarify benefits including copays, resolve insurance claims, negotiate billing and help locate eldercare service. 

If coronavirus concerns are causing you stress, you can call the Optum Emotional Support Help Line: 1-866-342-6892. Behavioral health professionals connect callers to resources 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This service is free and available to anyone. Feel free to share with family and friends. 


If you have an active Auto and/or Home Insurance policy with MetLife, you should know ID Theft Protection has been added to your plan. Go to for additional information. 

MetLife Auto and/or Home Insurance policyholders who are paid to date will automatically receive 15% credit for April and May 2020, based on monthly premium rates.

Call Farmington, the University’s Voluntary Benefits administrator, with questions: 866-494-4498.


With school closures, caregivers face the task of keeping children healthy, happy and learning at home. The best way to keep them engaged is to create a structure and routine of some kind. 

Our Employee Assistance Provider created a "Keeping Kids Engaged During the Day" kit filled with ideas and resources to help you and the children in your home and life build daily schedules that will keep them engaged, entertained and learning. And help you get stuff done.

Check out the Keeping Kids Engaged During the Day Kit 

Go to our retirement pages for information on articles and webinars our retirement vendors—TIAA and Vanguard—have, created and are hosting live, to guide you through this volatile time, and beyond. 


During these challenging times, benefits programs can help. 

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act created changes to various benefits programs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of the University’s benefits vendors also made changes to services and rules to make it easier to get care and guidance, purchase supplies, and save money. We’ve also highlighted existing benefits that can help you right now. 

We will add to and update this list when and if things change. If you have questions about your benefits, contact the Columbia Benefits Service Center: 212-851-7000 or [email protected]

Benefits can help