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vaccine payments under medicare plans  february 2017

interview with district benefits staff  april 2016

open enrollment questions - a care tool for comparing benefits  may 2013

retirement benefits provisions of new clpccd faculty contract  winter 2011

the transition to medicare advantage plans at age 65 for strs retirees   fall 2009

care advocacy re: retiree medical benefits  spring 2007


vaccine payments under medicare plans

by bill threlfall
february 2017

i was recently surprised when my blue cross insurance declined a claim for a tetanus shot.  turns out the explanation and resolution of this problem lies with medicare.

read the full story:  vaccine payments under medicare plans


interview with district benefits staff

by bill threlfall
april 2016

just prior to the 2016 open enrollment period, care interviewed the chabot-las positas ccd human resources department benefits staff, seeking tips, suggestions, and the answers to frequently asked questions about benefits.

view a transcript of the interview with district benefits staff


open enrollment questions - a care tool for comparing benefits

by bill threlfall
may 2013

each year, care members are offered the opportunity to select medical benefit plans during the district's open enrollment period.  we have compiled a list of questions that may be helpful to members comparing available plans.  

the first and best source of answers to all questions concerning retirement medical benefits is the chabot-las positas ccd human resources department benefits staff.  the plans available to a particular retiree depend on circumstances specific to available to a particular retiree depend on circumstances specific to that retiree; only the district benefits staff can provide accurate information.  for most plans, district benefits staff can provide a plan booklet that contains many answers.  

view open enrollment  questions

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retirement benefits provisions of 2012 clpccd classified contract

by isabel polvorosa & bill threlfall
winter 2012

in august 2012, an agreement covering the period july 1, 2012 - june 30, 2014 was ratified by members of the service employees international union (seiu) local 1021 and approved by the district.


this "successor agreement" rolls over most of the terms and conditions of the existing contract and introduces a few changes, some of which have implications for retirees. effective 12/1/2012, retiree medical benefits will be modified to match the other employee group benefits, and a "me too" clause assures that such match will continue for the term of the agreement. the key health care points to be matched are those discussed in the summary of the 2012 faculty association contract retirement benefits (shown below).

the full classified successor agreement is available here.


retirement benefits provisions of 2012 clpccd faculty contract

by bill threlfall
winter 2011

the recently ratified tentative agreement between the faculty association and clpccd, which will be effective january 1, 2012 ?december 31, 2014, includes significant changes in retirement benefits. these changes are highlighted in green in section 20, employee benefits. note that additional retirement benefits negotiated for current employees also apply to retired employees.

we plan to offer a more detailed analysis of these changes in a future article to be jointly authored by care and the faculty association, but here are a few key highlights adapted from the agreement summary written by the faculty association and posted on the district hr contracts and salary schedules page:

  1. new three-tier system based on hire date, each covered in its own section:

section 20b: "pre-86" (hired before april 1, 1986)

section 20c: "post-86" (hired april 1, 1986, through a specified date after january 1, 2012)

section 20d: "tier 3" (hired after a date to be determined that falls after january 1, 2012)  tier 3 ft faculty won抰 have district-paid medicare bridge or coverage after enrolling in medicare; district and members will instead jointly pay into a health retirement savings plan to cover post-retirement benefits.

  1. post-86 retirees won抰 be required to pay a share of premiums for medicare risk hmo plans (20.c.4)

  2. post-86 retirees must make a premium contribution (under the existing "rule of 85") when retiring before reaching medicare eligibility (20c.3)

  3. retirees will have the option of purchasing dental coverage (20b.10, 20c.10, 20d.4) sections 20b.10 and 20d.4 provide a similar vision coverage option for tiers 1&3; the tier 2 omission may be an oversight.

  4. out-of-state coverage: the district will offer some new and/or enhanced coverage options梖or "non-ppo" plans for out-of-state retirees (e.g. kaiser where available); some new options may require member to contribute premium difference for coverage beyond current plan definitions. (20b.5.c and 20c.6)

we encourage all interested faculty retirees to review the changes in the benefits section of the tentative agreement carefully.


the transition to medicare advantage plans at age 65 for strs retirees

by bill threlfall
fall 2009

i am about to turn 65, and as an strs retiree, i thought i'd share my recent experience preparing for the transition to medicare plus a district-funded medicare-advantage hmo and medicare prescription drug plan. in my circumstances, this event involved a blizzard of paperwork and a certain amount of confusion.

for many years, i had expected that i would never make this transition because i was not eligible for social security benefits based on my earnings record, which included mostly strs-related income. to my surprise, i found that i was nevertheless eligible for both social security benefits and medicare based on my spouse's earning record.

as i set out to apply, here's what i learned:
(if you've been paying better attention than i did, you may already know most of this.)

medicare has several parts:

  • part a ?hospital insurance. most people eligible for social security benefits don't have to pay for part a.

  • part b ?medical insurance. optional at extra cost, but required by the district and your cost is compensated by the district.

  • part c - medicare advantage plans ?these combine part a, part b, and, usually part d coverage. the district provides a kaiser or anthem blue cross medicare advantage plan to serve you after age 65, replacing your previous kaiser or blue cross coverage.

  • part d - medicare prescription drug coverage. the district's medicare advantage plan will include part d coverage. you don't need to try to select one of these plans yourself.

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the district requires you to apply for medicare for yourself and for your spouse or domestic partner during the initial medicare enrollment period.

your initial enrollment period starts three months before you turn 65. penalties may result if you enroll late. even if you are not eligible for medicare based on your own earnings, you may be eligible as a dependent of your eligible spouse.

you can't apply for medicare online.

there is no online application form or process, although you apply for social security benefits online. after you are determined to be eligible for social security benefits, your medicare enrollment will occur automatically. about 3 months before you turn 65, you'll get a medicare card in the mail.

of course, all my annual social security reports advised that i was not eligible for benefits, so i did not expect to receive a medicare enrollment package without taking some special action.

if you are not social security eligible but your spouse is, you'll need to apply for social security benefits based on your spouse's earning records.

however, if you complete the online application for social security benefits, you'll discover that applying on the basis of your spouse's record is impossible. you enter your spouse's name, ssn, marriage date & location, but nowhere is there an option to use the spouse's earnings to determine eligibility. apparently you need to make an appointment at your local office to perform this unusual sort of application.

not anticipating this limitation, i completed my application for social security benefits online. i included a remark that i was attempting to determine my eligibility for medicare on the basis of my spouse's record. a few weeks after submitting my application, i received a telephone call from a social security representative at the local office, who was able to modify my online application information so that it was based on spousal contributions. success was achieved, even though i had taken the wrong approach by applying online.

a few weeks later, i received a cheerful letter from social security indicating that my application for spouse's benefits had been approved. however, it noted that benefits would "not be paid because two-thirds of the amount of my strs pension is larger than my monthly social security benefit". this statement reflects the "government pension offset" described in this calstrs document.  i expected that result, but the approval letter meant i had been found eligible for medicare as a dependent of my spouse, though it did not explicitly say so. sure enough, a few months before i turned 65, i received the "welcome to medicare" package with my medicare id and part b card.

bottom line: if you need to apply based on your spouse's earnings (and many strs retirees will need to take this course), you should apply at your local office rather than online.

be sure to enroll in medicare part b by keeping your medicare parts a & b card you receive in your "welcome to medicare package".

the district requires that you enroll in part b. at age 65, your existing medical plan will be changed to a medicare advantage plan incorporating parts a, b and d, and the district will reimburse you for the monthly cost of your medicare part b enrollment.

don't apply for medicare part d! (a prescription drug program)

if the district has provided prescription drug coverage to you before age 65, the new plan may include part d to provide similar prescription drug coverage, but you don't need to enroll in one on your own; doing so may cause conflicts with the district program, and these can be difficult to resolve.

resist mail solicitations for medicare supplement or advantage programs.

you'll likely receive mail pitches to sign up for various programs as you approach your 65th birthday. don't! again, doing so may cause conflicts with the district program.

if you receive an strs pension, you can arrange to have strs pay your medicare part b bill and deduct the payments from your pension.

strs will mail the necessary form hb-0986 to you automatically as you approach age 65. don't pay your part b bill, just return a copy of it to strs along with form hb-0986. this convenience option eliminates the need to write a quarterly check for your medicare part b bill.

expect a paper blizzard and misdirection.

about the same time you receive your "welcome to medicare" package, the district will send you the appropriate forms to create you enrollment in your new medicare advantage program. easy to complete, but these forms will trigger changes with your insurance provider and a possible consequent onslaught of letters, booklets, and membership identifications.

for example, in the last three weeks, my wife and i actually received 14 anthem blue cross cards, 10 plan booklets (including duplicates and inapplicable plans), and three "thank you for enrolling in blue cross medicarerx" letters.   all of the id cards were supplied with a letter that says to destroy your old card and immediately begin presenting the new one. clear enough, but my new cards won't be effective until my medicare effective date, five weeks in the future. until then i can only use the "old card" which i was instructed to destroy. even more confusing, some of my wife's new cards are effective now while others must await her medicare effective date some two months away, and there is no indication of these dates on the cards or attached letters. i was only able to discern which cards to use by noting the card's group number and comparing it to the old group for me and my wife. be prepared for confusion and don't destroy the old cards as directed.

if you are in doubt about anything, contact the district hr staff before taking action. there are many different plans and circumstances that necessitate individualized advice.  and buy a bigger file cabinet?/p>

after the transition, three id cards will replace your old medical card.

you'll need to carry your government medicare card, your medicare advantage medical card (parts a&b) and your medicare rx prescription drug card (part d). now you need a fatter wallet?/p>


care advocacy re: retiree medical benefits

by bill threlfall
january 2007

clpccd logoon january 23, 2007, after consultation with legal counsel and an actuarial analysis of future costs, the district announced a decision not to change existing benefits for retirees who were hired before certain specified dates.  read the chancellor's letter affirming the continuation of existing benefits

during the months preceding the district's decision, the care board took an active role in monitoring developments and defending the current status of retiree medical benefits. 

we are pleased that care was able to provide information to help address retiree rights issues in a professional manner, enlightening the district抯 board of trustees as to the effect their decisions have on the financial and health care interests of retirees.

this sort of persistent and professional advocacy is particularly important for retirees, who are officially unrepresented by collective-bargaining unions.

the hayward daily review covered the district's 2007 decision and care's role in the process.  read chabot retirees dodge cuts in health care: district board says cost analysis supports guarantee of lifetime medical benefits hayward daily review, february 2, 2007.

read the care president's letter of appreciation to the clpccd board regarding the outcome of the health benefits issue.

read the care president's letter to the clpfa president regarding representation on the health benefits issue.



?007 c.a.r.e.

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