Benefits Overview

Partners for Health

Welcome to Employee Benefits!

As a Southwest employee, benefits are a vital part of your total compensation package. It is important that you are familiar with all of the benefits available to you, so that you can take advantage of those that meet your needs. Please use our benefits web page to learn more about the comprehensive benefit plans that Southwest has to offer.

If you have questions about your benefits, please contact our office at 901-333-5340 and we will be happy to assist you.


Below is a brief description of the benefits available at Southwest.


American Family Life Assurance Company of Columbus (AFLAC) offers policies that pay cash benefits to you for loss of earnings and other out-of-pocket expenses associated with illness or accident. These cash benefits can be used to help fill the gaps in your primary health care plan. Policies offered to TBR employees include Cancer, Accident, Hospital Indemnity, Personal Sickness, Indemnity and Critical Illness. Each is available on an individual or family basis and has open enrollment. Participation in the AFLAC Insurance plan is optional.

Deferred Compensation Plans

The Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR) offers several deferred compensation plans to allow employees to save for retirement on a tax-deferred basis. Contributions to these plans are made through regular payroll deductions. Salary set aside through these plans cannot be withdrawn before separation from service except under a few limited circumstances. Participants in these plans are permitted to direct their contributions to a variety of investment options. The two optional tax-deferred retirement savings plans operated by the State of Tennessee Treasury Department are the 457 plan and the 401(k) plan. These plans are administered by Great West. Participation in a deferred compensation plan is optional.

Dental Insurance

The State of Tennessee offers two dental options to all regular full-time or permanent part-time employees. The dental plans Preferred Dental Organization (PDO) offered by Delta Dental offers members the flexibility to choose any dentist. Assurant Employee Benefits offers a prepaid plan for dental services at a predetermined co-payment from a selected participating general dentist or from a participating specialist. Employees can elect this coverage at time of employment or during the Annual Enrollment Transfer Period.

Flexible Benefits

Flexible benefits plans allow employees to set aside a specified number of pre-tax dollars up to an annual maximum for use for purposes permitted by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). In general, these are certain types of childcare health-related expenses. Fringe Benefits Management Company handles the Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR) flexible benefits plan. Participation in the flexible benefits program is optional.

Group Health Insurance

The State of Tennessee group insurance plan is a health option that includes term life insurance, basic special accident insurance, and medical/hospitalization coverage. There are two group options to choose from, and both options are Preferred Provider Organizations (PPO). Option one is administered by Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS), and option two is administered by CIGNA: Partnership PPO and Standard PPO.

Whether you select BCBS or CIGNA, benefits will be identical. The only difference is the providers available in each network, but the Partnership PPO and Standard PPO will be identical. They will cover essentially the same types of services, treatments and products including preventive care, primary care, specialty care, laboratory and x-rays, hospitalization and surgery and mental health and substance abuse. One important difference between these two options is, if you choose the Partnership PPO, you must commit to a Partnership Promise, and the State will reward you with lower monthly premiums, a lower annual deductible, lower pharmacy co-pays and co-insurance for all types of medical care and a lower out-of-pocket maximum.

Members and eligible dependents can enroll in the Partnership PPO even if they smoke, don't exercise or have a chronic health condition. Regardless of your health, the state encourages you to enroll. All that is required is your commitment to being serious about your health and what you can do to stay well or get better.

The only opportunity for you and your eligible dependents to enroll in a basic health and life insurance plan is at the time of hire. There is never an open enrollment period for health insurance. If you and your dependents do not enroll as a new employee, you may apply to join later through the Special Enrollment Process. Participation in a health insurance plan is optional.

Life Insurance

Southwest offers optional life insurance through Minnesota Life that includes an Optional Term Life plan. Employees can elect this coverage without answering health questions if they elect it as a new employee. If you do not elect coverage as a new employee, you may apply for coverage during the Annual Enrollment Transfer Period but you will be subject to a health questionnaire. Participation in optional life insurance is optional.

Long-Term Care

Long-term care insurance is offered through MedAmerica and is available to full-time employees and eligible family members (spouses, parents, parents-in-law and dependent children 19 through 24). Employee coverage can be elected without answering health questions if application is made within ninety (90) days of employment. Eligible dependents must complete a health questionnaire and be approved before coverage can take effect. Participation in long-term care insurance is optional.

Long-Term Disability

Disability insurance is offered through Prudential and is available to full-time or permanent, part-time employees. Support personnel are eligible to participate in the non-exempt plan and administrators and faculty are eligible to participate in the exempt plan. Both plans are designed to provide you with loss of income protection if you become disabled from a covered sickness or accidental bodily injury. If coverage is not elected as a new employee, you may apply for coverage during the Annual Enrollment Transfer Period, but you will be subject to a health questionnaire. Participation in disability insurance is optional.


All regular full-time or permanent part-time employees must participate in a retirement plan. Support personnel must participate in the Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System (TCRS). Administrative employees and faculty have the option of participating in TCRS or the Optional Retirement Plan (ORP).

TCRS is a defined benefit plan, which means there is a five (5) year vesting requirement. TCRS provides retirement at age sixty (60) with five (5) years of service or thirty (30) years of service regardless of age. Features of a defined benefit plan include annuity at retirement that is based on a set formula that includes years of service and average final compensation, an employer who bears the risk of investment loss, contributions that are not available for loans or withdrawal until termination of employment and benefit payments that are for an employee's lifetime.

ORP is a defined contribution plan, which means that the amount of any future benefit will be determined by the member's account balance. Employer contributions are credited to each ORP member's account during service to a Tennessee higher education institution. The employer contributes 10 percent of gross salary covered by Social Security and 11 percent of salary in excess of the Social Security wage base. Employees who select the ORP have the flexibility of investing in three (3) companies. The three (3) participating companies are International Netherlands Group (ING), Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association - College Retirement Equities Fund (TIAA-CREF) and Variable Annuity Life Insurance Company of America (VALIC). All of your contributions that are paid in are immediately vested.

Special Accident Insurance

The optional special accident plan provides an additional amount of accidental death or dismemberment coverage. If you do not elect coverage as a new employee, you may apply for coverage during the Annual Enrollment Transfer Period without answering a health questionnaire. Participation in the optional special accident plan is optional.

Vision Care

Vision care plans are offered through Vision Service Plan (VSP) Vision Care and EyeMed Vision Care. Both plans provide eye care and eyewear services. Each plan's coverage is available to full-time or permanent, part-time employees. If coverage is not elected as a new employee, you may apply for coverage during the Annual Enrollment Transfer Period. Participation in either of the vision care plans is optional.

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