University Benefits Advisory Board

 

Report To CU Retired Faculty Association April 29, 2009

 

 

1.      UBAB Terms of Office

In March of this year, UBAB completed 10 years of existence. Up until now,

no mandated terms of service have been specified for the faculty and staff representatives, who are appointees of their respective faculty assemblies and the Staff Council. All of the original 4 faculty representatives are still serving, while there have been several changes of the staff representatives. As you may recall, I represent the faculty and professional exempt employees at what used to be called the Health Sciences Center as well as all CU retirees in those two categories. Recently, the Presidentís Office, the Faculty Council and the Staff Council felt that there should be specific terms of service for UBAB members, and after much discussion it was agreed that in the future appointees are to serve no more than 2 consecutive four-year terms. By contrast, most elected or appointed university groups serve only 2 consecutive three-year terms. To set up a staggered rotation system, lots were drawn and I will begin a one-year term on July 1 that could be followed, if my Faculty Assembly and I wish, by 2 consecutive four-year terms. Considering my age, this seems to be trifling with immortality but we shall see how things go. When I do step down, one of the 4 faculty representatives must continue to represent the university retiree population.

2.      Other UBAB Information

There will now be a non-voting representative on UBAB from the University of Colorado Hospital and one from the University Physicians, Inc. since their employees are eligible to take CU health insurance programs.

                   

            The issue of self-funding for some or all of our medical insurance offerings is still being considered by an administrative group, but I do not know when any report about this question will be released.

For those of you who are on the Anthem Medicare Primary Plan, which is their Medicare Supplement, I would remind you that a 90-day supply of any medication so prescribed by a physician can be obtained at many, if not most retail, pharmacies, such as Walgreen, RiteAid, King Soopers etc. Anthem will reimburse you for this, just as they do for a 30-day prescription. Using this method after July 1 is one way of avoiding the $150 mail order prescription deductible that has been so annoying to many of us. In addition, you can obtain either a 30-day supply of several hundred generic prescription drugs for $4 or a 90-day supply for $10 at several pharmacies, such as Walmart, King Soopers, Walgreens etc. I do not believe Anthem will reimburse you for this, but since the cost is often so much less than our own drug program, this should not be a problem. Since my wife and I paid the $150 mail order deductible earlier this year when this issue was so confusing, we will continue to use the University Hospital Pharmacy until June 30 and I am pleased to report, for those of you who might consider doing the same thing, that we just obtained a 90-day supply of a generic prescription medication from that unit for $3.70. Competition in the marketplace does seem to work sometimes. The take home message is to check with your pharmacist in order to get the best price deal on any medications.

            3.   Open Enrollment for Health Plans Beginning July 1

As I hope you know, the period of information and open enrollment for next fiscal yearís medical, dental and life insurance plans began last Monday, April 27, and will extend to Friday, May 22. The state, for reasons of its own, has postponed their planned open enrollment for classified staff and no new date has yet been announced. The Benefits Office began discussions of our medical plans with Anthem and Kaiser, and with UBAB as well, back in the fall and these conversations are still proceeding. UBAB has been told that although there have been a whole host of problems discussed with Anthem, some of which I brought to your attention at our last meeting, Anthem has been most responsive in dealing with these issues. As a personal example, Anthem failed to refund 80% of the charge for a prescription I obtained in January. I had to point this out to them twice before I not only received the correct reimbursement but added to it was an interest payment since January.

    One problem that Anthem has had with their new rate proposals is the limited experience time (just since last July 1) that they have had with CU medical claims and utilization of medical services. If many costly claims are filed early in an insurance companyís experience, they may get a false view of the number and cost of claims over a one-year experience, and this then influences their rate setting for the following year. Indeed, this is what seemed to be happening for a time since CU medical claims in December 2008 were unusually high. Fortunately, Januaryís experience was better. Inasmuch as rate proposals are considered to be confidential proprietary information, I am prohibited from discussing with you now what are the actual rate proposals we have received from Anthem and Kaiser for our various medical plan offerings. In addition, until the Long Bill is signed by the Governor, we will not know what the university contribution towards premiums will be, including the AMP, and hence we do not know what the out-of-pocket premiums will be for all university health insurance offerings, including those for retirees. This information will be released by the Benefits Office on May 7. An easy way to find out what the premiums are on that date is via the PBS website (www.cu.edu/pbs/openenrollment).

By now, retirees and surviving spouses should have received an Open Enrollment Brochure and a Benefits Guide from PBS in the mail but no enrollment form has been included. The plan designs of the Anthem Medicare Primary Plan, the AMP, the dental and the life insurance plans are unchanged. You can re-enroll in the plan of your choice via the web on or after May 7, which is what the Benefits Office would like you to do. If you need to re-enroll because you wish to make a change in your insurance coverage and are unsure of how to do it on the internet, call the Benefits Office and they will send you a paper application. If you do not re-enroll, you will be defaulted into exactly the same plans as you have now. One reason to actively re-enroll via the internet, however, is that there is now a Federal mandate that you have to recertify any dependents claimed by you and supply their Social Security numbers because of a Federal audit coming in the near future. In addition, there will soon be an investigation by CU of the eligibility of covered dependents, since it has become apparent that some insurance payouts have been made to ineligible dependents of some retirees. Although the brochure did not specifically say it, the open enrollment information sessions listed are specifically for retirees and surviving spouses. The website also has information about these educational sessions that began this past Monday, will be held at each campus site this week, and will be repeated during the week of May 11.

Unfortunately, there are a few errors in the plan summary for the Medicare Primary Plan printed on page 43 of the Retiree Benefits Guide. The annual deductible of $240 is not listed but it still exists, derived from any combination of inpatient, outpatient and pharmacy charges. Under adult preventive care, there is a confusing listing of a $20 co-payment. This would only apply should you get a preventive service either not covered by Medicare or one that is within a shorter time frame than is allowed by Medicare. I have not heard from anyone that they have ever been charged this, but if there is someone here who has had to pay this I would like to know the details. The last error is under prescription drugs. The summary states that you are limited to a 30-day supply from a retail pharmacy. This is incorrect, as I have told you earlier in this talk. It should read 90 days.

Yesterday, Jim Wolf transmitted to me a number of questions that had come to him regarding Anthemís drug coverage. Since some are personal, I would be glad to meet with anyone outside the room at the end of this meeting to try to answer them.

4.      TIAA-CREF

The last thing that I want to speak about concerns TIAA-CREF. For any of you who have annuities with them and might want periodic calculations of the commuted and federal estate value of these annuities, I warn you that many errors have been appearing in these calculations. In my own recent correspondence with them, at least 5 such errors were made. I met a few weeks ago with 2 senior officials of this company, and received an apology as well as corrected information. One problem appears to have been that there has been no checking by senior people of the information sent out to clients. I was told that this procedure will be changed. In addition, if any of you have made a telephone call to the TIAA-CREF customer service line seeking the annuity unit value of a particular annuity, be aware that incorrect information has also been given sometimes. The Benefits Office has told me that they, too, have been aware of many errors coming from TIAA-CREF and they are now monitoring such information much more closely than in the past. If you do business with this firm, I suggest that you look carefully at all information received and if it does not seem correct, keep bothering them until they get it right. If you continue to have a problem with TIAA-CREF, call a benefits counselor at PBS and if it looks like a contract manager should get involved, they will get one for you.   

I think that is enough for one session. Any questions?

                                                                                    Stuart A. Schneck, M.D.