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Benistar Completes Record Year

BENISTAR, one of the nation’s largest administrators of group retiree medical and prescription drug plans, reported its most successful year for new business for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2011.

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Happy New Year! Senior Star 1st Quarter 2012

2012 Medicare Premiums, Deductibles and Coinsurance

“The standard monthly Part B premium and deductible will both decrease by just over 13 percent. This is a dramatic change from between 2010 and 2011 when they both increased by slightly more than 4 percent . . . .” (The Segal Company)


VEBA Cuts Health Care Costs for Retirees

“Thousands of retirees from auto parts manufacturers that abandoned their pension plans will be able to get health care coverage through a groundbreaking arrangement that will use a special trust to tap federal premium subsidies.” (Business Insurance)


ADEA Exemption for Coordination of Health Benefits with Medicare Does Not Permit Employer To Terminate Current Employees’ Benefits

“The ADEA provisions notwithstanding, Medicare law requires that employers who are subject to the Medicare as secondary payer (MSP) rules provide the same group health plan coverage to workers and their dependents who have Medicare coverage as they provide for other workers and their dependents who are not Medicare-covered.” (Wolters Kluwer Law & Business / CCH)


Retired California Public Workers Can Count on Promised Benefits, Court Says

“Health benefits for government retirees may not be eliminated if state andlocal governments had clearly promised workers those benefits, the California Supreme Court ruled in an Orange County case . . . .” (Los Angeles Times)


Cutting Retiree Benefits a Sore Subject for Military

“Military retiree benefits cost the Pentagon $50 bil.lion a year. . . . There are 1.9 mil.lion military retirees drawing pay and benefits, compared to 1.5 mil.lion in the active duty force. In 2010, then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates said those costs are ‘eating the Defense Department alive.'” (NPR)


New York unions sue over retiree health care change

ALBANY, N.Y. (Reuters)—Seven New York state unions filed federal lawsuits on Wednesday seeking to prevent Gov. Andrew Cuomo from increasing the amount that retired workers pay for health care.

Senior Star 3rd Quarter 2011

Health Insurance for Active and Retired City Employees: Asheville, Denver, and Oklahoma City (PDF) 10/02/2011

Although all three cities offer retiree health care benefits and require retirees who are eligible for Medicare to enroll, only one city has begun to prefund retiree health obligations. The other two cities pay for retiree health on a pay-as-you-go basis, typical of American local governments.

http://benefitslink.com/links/20111002-088294.html


St. Louis Post-Dispatch Faces Second Suit over Retiree Health Benefits

09/30/2011

According to the Riverfront Times, the CWA Local 14620, also known as the St. Louis Mailers Union No. 3, represents the 220 employees who work in the mailroom, as well as retirees . . . . It filed suit in an attempt to force the company to resume providing healthcare for the 22 retirees who were kicked off the company’s plan in March.

http://benefitslink.com/links/20110930-088275.html


Measuring the Cost Impact of Changes to Government Retiree OPEB Before Contracts Are Signed

08/16/2011

In the corporate world, it is almost unheard of for employers to adjust their retiree benefit promises without first measuring the cost impact. This is especially true of collectively-bargained pension and retiree health plans. Both sides hire an actuary to estimate the cost of these benefits and bring their numbers to the table.

http://benefitslink.com/links/20110816-087273.html


Employers Adjust Retiree Drug Plans As Tax Break Ends

08/15/2011

The value of the tax break has been significant. ‘For corporate America, this makes a world of difference,’ said Michael S. Jacobs, national clinical practice leader at Buck Consultants L.L.C. in Atlanta. If a company receives a $500 per retiree subsidy for providing prescription drug coverage to a retiree, the subsidy’s tax-free status makes it equivalent to $1,500, he said.

http://benefitslink.com/links/20110815-087241.html


Top Reasons to Change Your GASB 45 Valuation Schedule

07/12/2011

GASB 45 requires a complete actuarial valuation of public retiree health plans to be completed every 2 to 3 years (depending on number of plan members), and sponsors usually don’t look forward to the administrative hassles of their next study. However, there are several situations where a new valuation could be advantageous and, likely, mandatory.

http://benefitslink.com/links/20110712-086614.html

Sweeping Changes Could Slash Generous Retirement Benefits

Some articles the staff at Benistar think you should read:

New York Faces $200 Billion in Retiree Health Costs

Excerpt: “The daunting size of the health care obligation raises the possibility that localities will be forced at some point to choose between paying their retirees’ medical costs and paying the investors who hold their bonds. Government officials aim to satisfy both groups, and have even made painful cuts in local services when necessary to keep up with both sets of payments.”

(The New York Times; free registration required)

New Ways to Manage Retiree Benefits

Excerpt: “Milliman offers a four-step strategy for managing GASB 45 sticker shock.” (Milliman)

Sweeping Changes Could Slash Generous Retirement Benefits of Former Cincinnati City Employees and Future Retirees

Excerpt: “With the troubled city retirement system struggling to dig out of a $1 billion-plus long-term hole, a new pension board – one on which outside financial experts recently replaced city officials with personal stakes in the decisions – is reviewing changes to lower benefits, raise retirement ages and cap pensions well below the current 90 percent-of-salary ceiling.”

Maryland Panel Recommends Sweeping Retirement Benefit Changes for Public Employees

Excerpt: “Maryland state workers would have to work for 15 years instead of the current five to become eligible for pension or retiree health care benefits, according to new recommendations from a study panel. An Associated Press news report said the Public Employees’ & Retirees’ Benefit Sustainability Commission is also recommending that state employees would have to spend 25 years working for the state, instead of 16 years, to receive the maximum retiree health care premium subsidy and put in 10 years instead of five to become pension vested.” (PLANSPONSOR.COM)

Retirement Benefits Helping Employers Attract and Retain New Workers, Towers Watson Survey …

Retirement benefits — especially defined benefit (DB) programs — are giving employers an added advantage when it comes to attracting and retaining new […]

QUOTATION OF THE QUARTER

“The past cannot be changed. The future is yet in your power.”

Mary Pickford

Health Care Reform Drug Subsidy Deduction

3rd Quarter 2010
Some articles the staff at Benistar think you should read:

AARP Says Brand-Name Drug Prices Up 8% in 2009
Excerpt: “Over the last five years, according to the report . . ., the retail prices for the most popular brand-name drugs increased 41.5 percent, while the consumer price index rose 13.3 percent.”
(The New York Times; free registration required)

Health Care Reform: Elimination of Retiree Drug Subsidy Deduction
Employers that provide retiree prescription drug coverage should analyze the increased future tax liability and the current accounting charges necessary to retain retiree prescription drug coverage, and evaluate the practical and legal risks of eliminating this benefit.

N.Y. Faces $200 Billion in Retiree Health Costs
The cities, counties and authorities of New York have promised more than $200 billion worth of health benefits to their retirees while setting aside almost nothing, putting the public work force on a collision course with the taxpayers who are expected to foot the bill.

Medicare actuary: Reform will cost some seniors
A Medicare official concedes that seniors may have to dig deeper into their wallets next year thanks to the health care law.

Dealing with Medicare Part B and COBRA CoverageGenerally, the Socal Security Act provides that individuals may enroll in Medicare Part B (which covers doctors visits and other outpatient services) when they reach age 65. If they fail to do so during a seven-month initial enrollment period surrounding their 65th birthday,

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2nd Quarter 2010

Group Health Insurance Rates on the Rise, According to Survey
Excerpt: “Group health insurance rates for small and midsize employers are surging for 2011 renewals, according to a survey by the Council of Insurance Agents & Brokers.”

Seniors in Medicare Drug Plans see drop.

(Business Insurance)
Sixth Circuit Holds That Cap Limits Retiree Health Care Contributions
Excerpt: “The matter in dispute was whether the caps on retiree health care contributions in the agreements continue to apply to 1993-2004 retirees, even after the close of the years covered by the agreements, and after the related CBAs expire. The Court interpreted the agreements to provide for lifetime, capped health care contributions, saying that this interpretation . . . ”
(Stanley D. Baum of Fellheimer & Eichen LLP)

Retiree-Only Plans Could Be Exempt from Health Reform Rules
Excerpt: “[According to draft regulations prepared by the Internal Revenue Service and the departments of Labor and Health and Human Services,] the exemption, if finalized, would mean retiree-only health care plans would not have to comply with . . . health care reform law requirements banning lifetime dollar limits and that coverage be extended to adult children up to age 26.”
(Business Insurance)

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Benistar featured in the News

The following article about Benistar appeared in the Stamford Advocate:

http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/business/article/Benistar-moves-to-add-staff-433728.php The Stamford Branch of a national employee health and welfare benefits administrator has moved within the city and is in the process of hiring more staff.

3rd Quarter 2009

Emergency Retiree Health Benefits Protection Act Reintroduced

Excerpt: “Representative John Tierney (D-Mass.) has reintroduced the Emergency Retiree Health Benefits Protection Act (H.R. 1322), which would prevent employers from reducing or eliminating health benefits for retirees or their dependents. The bill has been around for years but has attracted more attention since it appeared in a pension bill last year. Under the act, employers could not make changes to their retiree health plans that would eliminate, reduce or limit benefits, increase out-of-pocket costs or make it more difficult to obtain medical care.” (Watson Wyatt Worldwide)

GASB Issues Guidance on Multi-Employer OPEB Plans
Excerpt: “The Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) has issued an exposure draft of a proposed statement that addresses issues related to the use of the alternative measurement method and the frequency and timing of measurements by employers that participate in agent multiple-employer other postemployment benefit (OPEB) plans. The proposed Statement would amend paragraphs 33 – 35 of Statement No. 45, Accounting and Financial Reporting by Employers for Postemployment Benefits Other Than Pensions, to permit an agent employer that has an individual-employer OPEB plan with fewer than 100 total plan members to use the alternative measurement method, at its option, regardless of the number of total plan members in the agent multiple-employer OPEB plan in which it participates.” (PLANSPONSOR.com; free registration required)

Medicare Part D Update :  Lessons Learned and Unfinished Business
Excerpt: “Enacted in 2003, Medicare’s Part D prescription drug benefit reflected an unprecedented and controversial new approach for Medicare, relying exclusively on private plans to provide health coverage and including an unusual gap in coverage. This analysis by Kaiser researchers examines in detail how the new model has worked since its launch almost four years ago. Published as an article in today’s New England Journal of Medicine, the analysis by Kaiser vice president Patricia Neuman and principal policy analyst Juliette Cubanski assesses the evidence related to key policy questions arising from the Part D benefit. It also briefly discusses a number of potential policy changes to the Part D benefit that could arise as Congress and the Obama Administration weigh the program’s future.” (Kaiser Family

 

Medicare Prescription Benefit Program Has Exceeded Expectations
RAND Corporation

Deadline for Medicare Part D Creditable Coverage Notices Approaches (PDF)
2 pages. Excerpt: “Medicare Part D notices of creditable or non-creditable coverage must be provided to Medicare-eligible individuals prior to November 15 of each year. Many employers satisfy this requirement by including the notice in enrollment materials or in separate mailings in the fall. In preparing materials for distribution this fall, employers should be aware of revised model notices provided by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).” (Buck Consultants)

Articles courtesy of: Benefitslink.com, Benefitnews.com, Bizjournals.com, AHIP.org, BusinessInsurance.com, NAHU.org, WEBNetwork.org, Insurancebroadcasting.com, SeniorMarketAdvisor.com, SHRM.org, Accountingweb.com, Benefitadvisorsnetwork.com, GASB.org, Medicare.gov, cms.hhs.gov

“You can’t stay in your corner of the forest waiting for  others to come to you.  You have to go to them sometimes.”