The Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System Board (MPSERS) will be meeting on July 11 to take action on some proposed changes to retiree health care, which were set out at a June 5 meeting. Since that time, a Health Care Initiative Review Committee provided an opportunity for organizations to meet with MPSERS staf and their actuaries to hear about these proposals in more detail and ask questions. AFT Michigan has been reviewing the proposed changes and analyzing their potential impact on retirees. Read More >>
There are 2 totally separate cases challenging the recent changes to MPSERS -- one filed in 2010 and one in 2012.
The AFT Michigan suit regarding the 3% retirement deduction was filed in 2010. We won in the Court of Appeals and the State has appealed it to the Supreme Court. We are waiting to hear if the Court will hear it.
The 2012 case deals with other changes made to retirement. One part of it was appealed by the State and one part appealed by AFT Michigan. The AFT Michigan appeal is pending in the Court of Appeals. The State withdrew its appeal.
The National Consumers League is relaunching its website Fraud.org. The new website includes an updated search function for consumers; content that is easily shareable via social networks so that consumers can quickly pass along fraud warnings; the ability to sign up for regular fraud alerts to help consumers stay abreast of emerging scams; and the ability for consumers who have been victims of fraud or have been approached by scammers to file complaints through the site's secure online complaint form.
This month Emily from Pittsburgh asks: "I have Original Medicare and a Part D plan. What are my Medicare costs in 2013?". Read what Marci has to say.
The AFT has a great way to learn about, or stay up-to-date on, virtually all topics related to Medicare. For years, the AFT has partnered with the Medicare Rights Center, an independent consumer group dedicated to helping people understand their Medicare benefits and options, and provide our retirees with the best guidance and resources available. You'll find Medicare Interactive, a comprehensive, searchable guide to hundreds of real Medicare questions, and "Dear Marci," a bi-monthly e-newsletter full of timely Medicare tips and advice.
Many states have passed laws restricting or changing requirements for voting. The AFL-CIO has put together resources to help you find out more about voting rights in your state. You also can learn more about the myths and facts regarding voter ID laws as well as check your voter registration status.
8.22.12SB 1040 has passed, bringing another round of dramatic changes to the school employee retirement system. Click here for a summary of the major changes in the bill. AFT Michigan, in collaboration with the Coalition for a Secure Retirement, is planning a series of workshops for members making choices this fall.
Some Americans are better prepared for retirement than others. About 56 percent of baby boomers and those in Generation X (people between about age 38 and 65) are saving enough to cover their basic retirement costs, including uninsured medical expenses, according to a recent projection by the Employee Benefit Research Institute, a Washington-based nonprofit think tank. But 44 percent aren't saving enough. Want to improve your retirement picture?
If you are a retiree who receives health care benefits from MPSERS, you have every right to be alarmed. SB 1040 proposes a substantial increase in what you currently pay for your retiree health benefits. In some cases, it nearly doubles it. For pre-Medicare retirees, the amount that will be deducted from your pension every month would increase as follows depending on your coverage:
These amounts do not even include the additional $12 per month that those in the Master Health Care Plan pay for prescription drug coverage. And they fail to reflect the increases in costs that have happened nearly annually, such as the $100 annual increases this year in both your medical coinsurance maximums and your deductibles! It is unprecedented for legislators to change laws regarding retirement benefits in ways that affect people who have already retired and are on fixed incomes. Yet, that is what SB 1040 does. If it passes as introduced, your monthly pensions will see a big bite taken out of them.
If this proposal concerns you, come to Lansing on Wednesday, April 11, where the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Retirement is taking testimony on SB 1040, a bill that would make this and many changes that will negatively affect school employees who have yet to retire. The Subcommittee meets from 10-12:00 and from 1:00 onwards in the Senate Hearing Room of the Boji Tower, 124 West Allegan Street, Lansing - just across the street from the State Capitol.
At this hearing, we expect much of the morning will be taken up with staff overview and questions from the Subcommittee to the Office of Retirement Services. Then testimony is opened up to the public. Anyone can testify - all you have to do is fill out a card with your name and address on it. In general, people who testify are asked to keep their comments under 5 minutes. If you would like to tell the subcommittee how SB 1040 will affect you and your family, all you have to do is show up and request a chance to talk. Or, just show up and help AFT Michigan fill the room with active members and retirees, all having the same message: IT'S NOT FAIR!
And...don't forget to let your state senator and state representative know how you feel about SB 1040. Remind them that your pensions are now subject to state income tax, so increasing what you have to pay for health benefits is NOT FAIR!
AFT Michigan has joined with labor and community groups to launch a petition drive to amend the Michigan Constitution to protect collective bargaining rights and strengthen working families. We are proud to be a part of this effort to be proactive in the face of the anti-worker measures coming out of Lansing. Petitions will be arriving in your mailbox and circulating in your community, please have your household sign and return. If you are able and willing to volunteer to collect signatures in your local or community please call Nikhol Atkins at 313-393-2200. You can learn more about the campaign at the Protect Our Jobs website: http://www.ProtectOurJobs.com
Wider Opportunities for Women has unveiled its new Economic Security Database, which provides local information on how much families and older adults need to make ends meet.
In his new book, Rethinking Aging: Growing Old and Living Well in an Overtreated Society, 69-year-old Nortin Hadler, M.D., turns his attention to older Americans and the challenging medical decisions they face. He says seniors should re-evaluate the need for popular medical treatments. Read an interview with Hadler.
Most U.S. adults say they want to cut spending, but they don't want to cut Social Security, federal education aid or healthcare. See the results of a new poll.
Have questions about retirement, Medicare or family health and welfare? Here are some resources to help you find answers.
Here's a Q&A from the Medicare Rights Center, on 2012 Medicare changes and how they affect baby boomers.
The New York Times New Old Age blog explores why some retirement communities are enacting policies separating the sicker or more disabled residents from the healthier ones.
For nearly 40 years, home health aides and other domestic workers have been excluded from the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. Last year, the U.S. Department of Labor proposed revising the FLSA to include most home care aides.
Important Medicare dates you need to know—now
The dates for Medicare's Fall Open Enrollment Period have changed. The period now begins on Oct.15 and lasts through Dec. 7. During this window, Medicare participants can change their Medicare health and drug coverage options without restriction. Stay up to speed on these and other changes with resources developed by the Medicare Rights Center.
Check out the Medicare Rights Center's searchable online guide, Medicare Interactive, which features answers to real Medicare questions, as well as case examples and links to numerous state-specific resources. Medicare Interactive provides clear, up-to-date guidance on questions such as:
Can I change my Medicare health plan at any time?
What questions should I ask before joining a Medicare private health plan?
MPSERS will be holding Health Initiative Review Committee hearings on July 5 and July 8 on the proposed changes to the retiree health care program for 2012. The Health Committee has recommended three changes to address the projected $48 M shortfall in next year's health care costs. The recommendations include an administrative change in the health care system to allow the system to recoup additional federal dollars, the elimination of two classifications of drugs (antihistimines and lifestyle drugs including ED medication) and an increase in co-pays and deductible maximums. Formal action is expected at the July 28th meeting of MPSERS.
The U.S. Department of the Treasury recently announced that all federal benefits will be paid electronically. Starting May 1 of this year, anyone applying for federal benefits has had to choose an electronic payment method when applying for their benefit. Anyone currently receiving paper checks must switch to electronic by March 1, 2013.
People already receiving benefit payments electronically do not need to take further action. They will continue to receive their payment as usual on their payment date.
This change makes it more important than ever for retirees to sign up for electronic payments now.
• Have a bank or credit union account? Sign up for direct deposit of benefit payments directly into a checking or savings account by going to www.GoDirect.org, calling 800/ 333-1795, or visiting your local bank or credit union.
• Prefer a prepaid debit card? The Direct Express® Debit MasterCard® card is an FDIC-insured prepaid debit card that provides a safe, low-cost alternative to paper checks for federal benefits payments. Cardholders can make retail purchases, pay bills and get cash back. No bank account or credit check is required. To sign up for the card, or to learn about its fees and features, go to www.GoDirect.org, call 800/ 333-1795, or contact your federal agency.
People who do not choose an electronic payment option by March 1, 2013, or at the time they apply for federal benefits, will receive their payments via the Direct Express® card so they will not experience any interruption in payment.
AFT Michigan and other public education groups are reviewing and discussing the governor's proposed pension and retirement reforms. The major components of the plan include:
The Governor's proposed deadline for the effective implementation of the proposal is April l. As soon as these proposed "reforms" are put into a formal bill and introduced into the legislature, school employees and retirees will be asked to express their concerns to their state representatives and senators.
Please remember that at this time, the Governor's proposal is just that, a proposal that must be passed by both houses of the legislature and can be amended along the way.
We are sad to announce the passing of Mary Ellen Riordan on Sunday, January 24. Mary Ellen who served for years as the president of the Detroit Federation of Teachers as well as a Vice-President of the AFT, was an outspoken and dedicated teacher unionist who was respected by all of us who had the privilege of working with her. She had been living in a retirement community in Dearborn and was still active in the effort to protect the benefits of retirees. We will post arrangements as soon as they are available.
Medicare Advantage is phased out by end of 2009 and original Medicare returns.
This means that you will need to return to the two card system; your healthcare card and your Medicare card. The good news is that the Social Security Administration has agreed to send new Medicare cards to all MPSERS retirees that qualify. The cards are expected to be sent out in December. I you do not receive one and can not locate your old card you may call 1.800.772.1213.
Medicare Part D remains in place for all Medicare members. There are no changes to dental, vision or hearing aid benefits. And, there will be no Social Security cost of living adjustment in 2010.
The following impact Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan PPO subscribers ONLY. HMO contracts (Blue Cross Network, Health Alliance Plan and Priority Health plans) are not included.
$10 prescription drug premium added per month per contract
Non-formulary drugs NOT covered.
Retiree pays 100% of cost for non-formulary drug when generic is available. Only about 2% will be affected and each will be personally notified. Medical exceptions may apply.
Annual deductible and copayment maximums:
Deductible $400 ($250 in 2009)
Medical coinsurance maximum $700 ($500 in 2009)
Pharmacy coinsurance maximum $1,000 ($800 in 2009)
Emergency Room Copayment
$50 per visit, fee waived if admitted directly
Mental Health Benefit
90% coverage for outpatient and physician visits (50% in 2009)
Expanded to 12 months verses 6 months in 2009
New prescription drug benefits provider.
Catalyst replaces MEDCO for mail order and BCBSM for local pharmacies. The transition is expected to be seamless as programs are similar. You will be getting a new card before January 1, 2010
"Healthy Living" program to lower out-of-pocket costs.
Non-Medicare retirees complete a Health Risk Assessment form and return it to BCBSM by December 1, 2009 (NO EXCEPTIONS) which qualify them for $100 off maximum deductible, medical coinsurance and pharmacy coinsurance.
This is an annual requirement. Medicare members will be required to complete the form in 2011. It will be mailed or made available online in September of each year here after.
To avoid additional cost
Consider an HMO option. Visit the plan comparison chart at:
You may qualify for Medicare assistance premiums for low income members. If your income is 135% above the federal poverty level you may qualify depending on your other assets. Call 800.772.1213 for further information.
(Based on 2008 guidelines, 135% for one person is an annual income of $14,040.00 and $18,900.00 for a family of two. 2009 guidelines will likely not be available until Mid to late January 2010.)
Letters were sent to all retirees concerning the BCBSM Living Well Initiative. You will soon be receiving a second letter which will provide information about the new prescription drugs provider, Catalyst.
Medicare participants will be receiving a new Medicare card by January 1, 2010 or before.
There are no changes to the current HMO plans, however, word has it there could be an additional three more options soon. By mid-December an updated summary of benefits letter will be sent to all members and available on the MPSERS web site.
The Social Security Administration will not be issuing a cost of living allowance for 2010. However the good news is that the SSA's new ruling can not allow your check to be less than this year, meaning those in Medicare will not pay more for insurance, new Medicare members will.
The AFT Program on Retirement and Retirees has joined labor and seniors groups in sponsoring Seniors to Seniors, http://www.seniorstoseniors.org, a newly formed coalition of senior citizen advocacy organizations committed to keeping older Americans informed about the impact of current healthcare reform legislation on their coverage. The website includes a short videos on the issues in healthcare reform that impact seniors and can be useful to your retired members. Feel free to pass the link on.
The Office of Retirement Services and the Health Initiative Review Committee will be holding public hearings on proposed retiree health care changes for 2010 on June 23 and July 1 at the ORS Offices in Lansing. The meetings are open to everyone.
Blue Cross/Blue Shield is sending out second notices to those retirees who have not responded to the initial "Verification of Coverage Letters" that were mailed early in May. Completion of the "verification" form is necessary to continue health care coverage for the coming year.
The Office of Retirement Services will not be open for business on June 19, July 7, July 24,October 7, October 21 and September 4 because of the 6-day furloughs ordered by the governor for all state employees.