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Adventures in governance

Thursday, Oct 31, 2013

* Blogger and retired teacher Fred Klonsky is not at all pleased with the way the state is rolling out the new Medicare Advantage program. Reprinted in full with permission

The deadline for deciding what our retiree health care will look like – whether we go with Medicare Advantage or op out – is December 13th.

Central Management Services is co-sponsoring informational seminars across the state between November 11th and December 11th.

The one for retirees who live in Chicago is at the Thompson Center on December 6th.

That gives me seven days to figure out what I will do. And if I opt out I can’t get back in. And all the money I paid into the plan over thirty years is gone.

For good.

Seven days.

If you live in Belleville the seminar is at Southwest Community College on December 11th.

That will allow you one day to decide.

One day.

If you live in the north suburbs of Chicago you can attend a seminar on the far north side. Or Palatine.

That’s it. It is an area in which thousands of Illinois teacher retirees live.

More seminars are being held downstate. But teachers tell me that in some cases they will have to drive more than two hours each way to attend one.

CMS is willing to set up additional seminars if we pay for them.

Over $300 bucks a pop.

And we find the space.

Fred’s a pretty informed guy, but he does have a point about everybody else.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Cassiopeia - Thursday, Oct 31, 13 @ 11:38 am:

    Yep, another “If you like your health plan, you can keep your health plan “.

    CMS is being allowed to do this to just save money and it has gotten most Medicare-eligible retirees pretty upset. They don’t seem to care about how it will effect people.

  2. - wordslinger - Thursday, Oct 31, 13 @ 11:50 am:

    Yeah, that’s pretty messed up. What’s with the procrastination?

  3. - Norseman - Thursday, Oct 31, 13 @ 12:00 pm:

    What I’m hearing among informed retirees is that the administration waited to pass legislation that would eliminate COGFA review of the contract awards so they could cut Health Alliance out of the process. As we saw from last weeks hearing, COGFA members were all over the poor decision to disqualify Health Alliance. This time, COGFA has no power to do anything.

  4. - x ace - Thursday, Oct 31, 13 @ 12:17 pm:

    Injunction Time

  5. - Rochester Retiree - Thursday, Oct 31, 13 @ 12:21 pm:

    For a 16 page “TRAIL Decision Guide” that includes premium, deductible, and copayment information for the new Illinois Retiree Medicare Advantage Plan:

    1. Go to

    2. Under “For Employees”, select: Employee and Retiree Benefits

    3. The select: The Trail - Medicare Advantage Program

    4. The select: State of Illinois Medicare Retirees & Survivors (or select TRIP or CIP option if you are a retiree in on of those plans)

    5. In the “Latest News” box, select: TRAIL Decision Guide

    6. Download the pdf file

  6. - Former State Employee - Thursday, Oct 31, 13 @ 12:46 pm:

    Thanks for the info, Rochester Retiree, but there are a number of retirees who 1) don’t know of or follow this website (sorry,Rich), and 2) don’t know how to operate a computer beyond maybe one click. I’m talking elderly!

  7. - RNUG - Thursday, Oct 31, 13 @ 12:49 pm:

    In the guide, the county coverage is on page 8, the plan coverage / deductible comparison numbers are on page 11, the “less than 20 years” premium schedule is on page 12, and the dependent cost comparison is on page 13.

  8. - Rochester Retiree - Thursday, Oct 31, 13 @ 12:55 pm:

    Former State Employee…

    I completely agree. I know several elderly retirees that are completely confused by the changes and why.

    CMS has done a terrible job in communicating with retirees. But even if communication had been good, I am afraid many elderly retirees might lose their State insurance simply due to confusion and not filing the needed paperwork accurately and on time. And to think many of the really elderly retirees are going to get out and attend a seminar is just wishful thinking.

    In the 1st transition year, CMS should have defaulted retirees and dependents to the PPO plan unless they elected to enroll in an HMO. At least that way they would have been sure retirees would not lose their insurance simply due to confusion or timing.

  9. - OneMan - Thursday, Oct 31, 13 @ 1:17 pm:

    I think this administration dislikes retirees a lot more than they get credit for.

  10. - Rochester Retiree - Thursday, Oct 31, 13 @ 1:17 pm:

    The Health Alliance conspiracy theory is interesting to listen to. But, the conspiracy theory I hear a lot is that the State actually wants retirees to leave the State’s Insurance Program. Thus, the late information and poor communication may be part of a grand design plan to that end.

  11. - RNUG - Thursday, Oct 31, 13 @ 1:19 pm:

    Former State Employee @ 12:46 pm:

    I agree. Both my mother and and mother-in-law are 90+ and don’t use computers any more.

    I’ve been talking to both of them off and on for a couple of months and they are still somewhat confused. Some their retired friends don’t have a clue and are totally mis-informed.

    For better or worse, they are depending on me to make the right choice for them … so I have to stay on top of this along with a half dozen other critical items goign on in my life.

  12. - RNUG - Thursday, Oct 31, 13 @ 1:22 pm:

    Rochester Retiree @ 1:17 pm:

    I can’t say that CMS wants the retirees totally off but in the public forums I attended, they were crystal clear the last couple of years they wanted the retirees off Quality Care.

  13. - RNUG - Thursday, Oct 31, 13 @ 1:30 pm:

    I’m always ready to criticize CMS, but I feel I must say one thing in their defense. The State December deadline is being driven by the Federal Medicare deadline, so if CMS is going to implement the Advantage programs “this” year, it has to be done by then. Otherwise it would have had to wait until next December.

    Having said that, this rush job is a complete mess.

  14. - Joe M - Thursday, Oct 31, 13 @ 1:39 pm:

    The information in the Trail Decision Guide is helpful, but what is missing at this point is who are the providers participating in each plan.

    Of course for quite a few of the counties, I guess it doesn’t make much difference, as they only have one choice to choose from anyway - UnitedHealthcare Group Medicare Advantage PPO (UHC PPO)

    Something is wrong when some counties have a choice of up to 4 plans, where many others only have a choice of 1.

  15. - flea - Thursday, Oct 31, 13 @ 2:00 pm:

    CMS= can’t manage —-. you fill in the blank

  16. - Menardian - Thursday, Oct 31, 13 @ 2:41 pm:

    I’ve used Health Alliance in the past, liked it a lot, wish HA was among the included providers, agree with the conspiracy theorists on this point.

    But there’s another way to look at it. For retired teachers, at least, the Medicare Advantage plans still are a really good deal. Medicare-eligible TRIP recipients this year are paying $76 monthly (plus $105 for Medicare Part B). Next year, in Sangamon County, the monthly Med Advantage premium will be either $36 or $48, depending on which plan accepts your providers. (Not sure which does? Look it up on line. Or call your provider. This part isn’t that tough, sorry.)

    I know state gov’t retirees are still getting used to the idea they will have to pay premiums. I sympathize, really I do. But some of the complaints above are red herrings. Life’s complicated. Deal with it.

  17. - RNUG - Thursday, Oct 31, 13 @ 3:07 pm:

    I haven’t dug that deep into the guide yet. Has anyone figured out exactly how this will affect a non-coordinated SERS retiree who already has to pay for Part A Medicare?

  18. - BehindTheScenes - Thursday, Oct 31, 13 @ 3:45 pm:

    I’m still waiting for the Supreme Court to decide if those six little words in the Constitution “shall not be diminished or infringed” actually mean something. When I retired at the end of 2002, a large part of the reason was the guarantee that I would not pay a premium for coverage for the rest of my life.

  19. - RNUG - Thursday, Oct 31, 13 @ 4:12 pm:

    BehindTheScenes @ 3:45 pm:

    Realistically, we may be waiting a while past December to see the end of that case (Maag, etc.). There were a number of issues and a lot of testimony that was outside the scope of the actual appeal. If you assume the ISC finds a contract might exist or should exist unless there is clear written proof to the contrary (pretty much the finding in the Marconi case at appellate level), then the case most likely goes back to the trial level for determination if such written documentation did exist, or whether the change is a violation of the contract, or even if the change is allowed under the contract, if the pension clause applies. If the case is returned without “guidance” from the ISC, I can see it possibly dragging out a couple more years of rulings and appeals over these points.

  20. - RNUG - Thursday, Oct 31, 13 @ 10:43 pm:

    Spent some time tonight digesting the slightly different versions of the TRAIL guide for TRS, SURS and SERS. Fred’s overall analysis is spot on for TRS and apparently SURS but he is only partially right for the other systems.

    He is correct that TRS - TRIP/TIP & SURS retirees who opt out normally won’t be able to opt back in (see page 7 of the teacher and college guides).

    However, SERS retirees, if they opt out now, can chose to opt back in during the choice period in the fall of 2014 for the 2015 plan year (again page 7 of the state employee guide).

    It isn’t totally clear since they don’t have seperate TRAIL guides, but I THINK that GARS and JRS follow the same opt out / opt in rules as SERS.

  21. - Jechislo - Friday, Nov 1, 13 @ 8:19 am:

    Thanks to the Union and Quinn, the retirees get dumped on again.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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