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Senior Star 2nd Quarter 2011

Aon Hewitt Report Shows Potential Impact of Health Care Reform on Retiree Medical Programs

Excerpt: LINCOLNSHIRE, Ill., April 20, 2011 — Most large employers are now beginning to rethink their retiree health care strategy as a result of federal health care reform, according to a recent report by Aon Hewitt, the global human resource consulting and outsourcing business of Aon Corporation (NYSE: AON).
In late 2010, Aon Hewitt surveyed 344 companies, representing 2.2 million retirees nationwide, and found that 61 percent were either already evaluating or were expected to evaluate their long-term retiree medical strategy by the end of 2011, due to health care reform. Meanwhile, 23 percent of respondents indicated they were still considering whether to assess their current strategy and only 16 percent had no immediate plans to review their current approach.


CMS Announces Indexed Medicare Part D Amounts for 2012

Excerpt: On April 4, 2011, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced the indexed Medicare Part D standard benefit and Retiree Drug Subsidy (RDS) amounts for 2012.1 This Capital Checkup features charts comparing the 2012 numbers to the 2011 numbers.
The Medicare Modernization Act (MMA) requires CMS to announce indexed Medicare Part D standard defined benefit amounts each year that reflect the increase in drug costs. In 2012, the Medicare Part D standard defined benefit amounts will increase by 3.34 percent, a rate that is based on drug cost trend of 4.67 percent in 2011 (almost the same trend as one year earlier: 4.63 percent), adjusted by CMS for prior year revisions.


Factbox: States’ Underfunding Of Retiree Health Benefits

Excerpt: (Reuters) – Many states cannot afford to cover promises made to their future retirees, with the Pew Center on the States reporting on Tuesday that there is a $1.26 trillion gap between what they have pledged to pay and the amount they have set aside. Nearly half of that amount, $604 billion, is for healthcare and other benefits not included in pensions, such as life insurance.

 

Seniors Not Getting Important Preventive Health Services Too few getting recommended vaccines and screening for cancer, diabetes and osteoporosis, report warns

Excerpt: TUESDAY, March 15 (HealthDay News) — Many Americans aged 65 and older are not receiving potentially lifesaving preventive health services, says a new report by several U.S. Department of Health and Human Services agencies. Too few seniors are getting recommended vaccinations for influenza and pneumococcal disease, including bloodstream infections, meningitis and pneumonia; help with quitting smoking; or screenings for breast cancer, colorectal cancer, diabetes, high cholesterol and osteoporosis, according to the report released March 14.

 

‘Common sense’ bill would change Medicare requirement

Excerpt: A bill to cover seniors’ need for skilled nursing care following an observational stay at a hospital is making its way through Congress. The bipartisan legislation, entitled the Improving Access to Medicare Coverage Act of 2011, is being praised by provider groups, such as the American Health Care Association.

 

Medicare Reform’s OPEB Side Effects Public employers need preemptive cost-control strategies.

Excerpt: Last week the U.S. House majority leaders announced a sweeping $6 trillion strategy to reduce the federal budget deficits structurally. State and local officials are largely focused on the immediate impact on intergovernmental assistance programs and the Medicaid program. They should also pay attention to the hidden impact that Medicare reforms would have on their retiree medical benefits plans (or “OPEB” for other post-employment benefits).

Medicare’s Drug Coverage Gap to Shrink Away Under Health Care Reform
Experts say changes kick in this year, with the ‘donut hole’ disappearing by 2020

Excerpt: Starting this year, Medicare Part D’s widely despised “donut hole” — the gap in drug cost coverage enrollees encounter when they reach a certain spending threshold — will start to disappear, one result of the health care reform package enacted last year, experts say.

 

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.

Retiree Medical Solutions

• No networks
• No Referrals
• Guaranteed Issue
• Coverage for Spouses
• Portablitly
• Affordable
• Electronic Claims
processing

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.”

2nd Quarter 2009

Final FASB Disclosure of More Asset Classes Held in Pension and Postretirement Benefit Plans
Excerpt: “The Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) on December 30, 2008, finalized revisions to FASB Statement # 132, Employers’ Disclosures about Pensions and Other Postretirement Benefits. The revisions are effective for fiscal years ending after December 15, 2009, and are found in

Quote of the Quarter: “If you wait for   opportunities to  occur, you will be one of the crowd.”

Edward de Bono, Psychiatrist & Author

Expert discusses Medicare coverage.  In the Wall Street Journal (2/21) Ask Encore column, Kelly Greene wrote that, according to Paul Precht, policy director for the nonprofit Medicare Rights Center in Washington, older Americans “must sign up for Medicare Part B any time in a seven-month window — three months before” their “65th birthday, the month” of their “birthday, or three months after — to avoid future penalties.” He noted that “there are a few exceptions in which people with retiree health coverage mightn’t have to sign up for Part B, including if you have health insurance from an HMO under the Federal Employees Health Benefit Program.” When people “have retiree health-insurance coverage, it generally kicks in after Medicare parts A and B. .. Retiree health coverage may help pay for Medicare costs, or for things that Medicare doesn’t cover.” Nevertheless, retirees “need to enroll in Part A and B to have full insurance coverage. Many retiree policies require” that people “sign up for parts A and B, anyway, so it is important to check that with…former employers.” Meanwhile, retirees “can skip Medicare Part D, which provides drug coverage, if’ they “have coverage through an ex-employer that’s good or better than Medicare’s.”

Indexed Medicare Part D Amounts for 2010
Excerpt: “The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has announced the indexed Medicare Part D standard benefit and Retiree Drug Subsidy (RDS) amounts for 2010. This Capital Checkup features charts comparing the 2010 numbers and the 2009 numbers.” (The Segal Group, Inc.\

Options to Remove Liabilities for High Retiree Medical Costs from a Company’s Balance Sheet: VEBAs (PDF)
2 pages. Excerpt: “The creation and structuring of the VEBA must fulfill a number of legal requirements all of which are normally manageable. Depending upon how the retiree medical VEBA is to be funded, there are a number of other approvals that may be required and SEC filings that must be made for companies with registered securities if the settlement agreement is a ‘material agreement.’ Further, the VEBA will allow for different accounting treatments of the change. If the company has securities registered with the Securities Exchange Commission, the company’s accounting treatment can be verified by obtaining approval of the proposed accounting treatment through the office of the Chief Accountant at the SEC and the appropriate Counsel’s office.” (Haynes & Boone)

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

1st Quarter 2009

Quote of the Quarter: “Middle age is you’ve met so many people that every new person you meet reminds you of someone else.” Ogden Nash

FASB Expansion of Disclosures About Postretirement Benefit Plan Assets (PDF)
Excerpt: “On Dec. 30, 2008, the Financial Accounting Standards Board issued FSP FAS 132(R)-1, which amends Statement 132(R) to require more detailed disclosures about employers’ plan assets, including employers’ investment strategies, major categories of plan assets, concentrations of risk within plan assets and valuation techniques used to measure the fair value of plan assets. The FSP has other components. Read more details about the FSP in this issue of Heads Up, by Deloitte.” (Deloitte Development LLC via Financial Executives International)

Reference Guide to 2009 Retirement, Health and Welfare Plan Limits, Social Security and Medicare Changes (PDF)
Excerpt: “[The guide includes] a Table of Retirement Plan Limits from 1990 to Present. Plan administrators must concern themselves with a broad array of annual limits and thresholds that affect a variety of employee benefits. This Reference Guide consolidates these limits to give plan administrators quick access to this information. Page 1 lists updated limits and other cost-of-living adjusted numbers affecting retirement plans. Page 2 lists 2009 health, welfare and fringe benefit plan limits and 2009 figures needed to determine Social Security benefits and contributions. Page 3 lists 2009 Medicare premiums. Page 4 provides key retirement plan-related annual limits from 1990 to 2009. Page 5 provides the 2009 covered compensation tables.” (Hay Group)

FASB Fine-Tunes New Disclosures About Pension and Retiree Medical Plan Assets
Excerpt: “A refined FAS 132(R), Employers’ Disclosures about Pensions and Other Postretirement Benefits, should describe the objectives of employers’ disclosures about their pension, retiree medical and other postretirement benefit plan assets and investment risks, FASB decided at its Sept. 24 meeting.” (Mercer LLC)

Moving Retirees to VEBA-Funded Retiree Medical Plan Could Require New Application for Retiree Drug Subsidy
Excerpt: “The CMS believed that it was necessary to issue this guidance in light of the current trend of employers sponsoring retiree medical benefits that stop providing the coverage and instead contribute to a VEBA trust established specifically to cover such benefits. This trend has arisen out of labor union agreements, bankrup.tcy, and litigation.” (Wolters Kluwer)

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

4th Quarter 2008

Quote of the Quarter: “A problem is a chance to do your best.” Duke Ellington

Report Says Medicare Is Stronger Insurance Model Than Federal Employees Health Benefits Program
Excerpt: “Medicare’s relatively low overhead makes it a better model for a publicly run health insurance option for people without employer-provided coverage than the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, a health care expert said on Wednesday. ‘The Medicare program, as it’s currently constituted, needs reform,’ said Jacob Hacker, co-director of the University of California-Berkeley School of Law’s Center on Health, Economic and Family Security. ‘But I argue that a new public plan could embody many reforms and in doing so, could set a high standard for private plans.'” (GovernmentExecutive.com)

The Medicare Part D Coverage Gap: Costs and Consequences in 2007
Excerpt: “This study quantifies, for the first time, the number of Medicare Part D plan enrollees in 2007 who reached a gap in their prescription drug coverage known as the ‘doughnut hole,’ as well as the changes in beneficiaries’ use of medications and out-of-pocket spending after they reached that gap. The analysis excludes beneficiaries who receive low-income subsidies because they do not face a gap in coverage under their Medicare drug plan.” (Kaiser Family Foundation)

[Guidance Overview] Solving Small Employers’ GASB 45 Puzzle
Excerpt: “GASB 45 has already placed requirements on large government entities. Now smaller public employers face their own deadlines. GASB 45 poses a particular challenge to these entities because of the cost of valuing the liability and the potential size of the liability relative to their overall budget. This article outlines a sensible approach for these smaller public employers.” (Milliman)

Some Medicare beneficiaries do not understand benefits

One-third of Medicare beneficiaries surveyed said they are either unfamiliar or very unfamiliar with their health benefits. Researchers say understanding Medicare benefits is linked to outcomes and quality of care, so educational programs and simpler policies could have a major effect on people’s ability to get needed care. The Washington Post/HealthDay News (11/25)

National Conference on Public Employee Retirement Systems Produces Report on OPEB Challenges for Retiree Medical Benefit Programs
Excerpt: “National Conference on Public Employee Retirement System has issued a beautifully-done publication entitled ‘The OPEB Challenge – Mapping a comprehensive strategy for public employers.’ Many public sector employers provide retiree medical benefits as a supplement to ‘traditional’ pension benefits. With limited accounting recognition and pay-as-you-go funding, these benefits have not always received the attention that most agree they deserve. That situation is changing . . . .” (Cypen & Cypen)

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