Droves of retirees and soon-to-be retirees flocked to the Georgia Center April 3 for informational sessions on upcoming changes to retiree health insurance from the University System of Georgia. So many people showed up to the first session that even with four overflow rooms, an additional session was added to meet the demand for information about the changes that go into effect Jan. 1.
At each session, USG representatives and a representative from Aon Hewitt gave a presentation on the plan that will provide supplemental health care coverage for Medicare-eligible retirees through a private retiree health care exchange instead of through the USG health care plan.
Karin Elliott, associate vice chancellor of total rewards for USG, told the crowd that the change is being made to address concerns about rising costs and liability. USG has 17,000 Medicare-eligible retirees.
“Since I’ve been working in the benefits field, that is a constant—health care costs are rising,” Elliott said.
The new private retiree health care exchange, which will be managed by Aon Hewitt, is not part of the federal Affordable Care Act or public health exchanges, Elliott said. The private exchange will offer a variety of coverage options, plans and providers. Elliott said USG will continue to provide a contribution to retirees to put toward health care costs.
“USG is committed to providing a significant contribution toward your health care coverage,” Elliott said.
Elliot also said the specific amount provided has not been determined since USG is still in the budgeting process; that amount will be presented to the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia in the fall.
“We will continue to keep it around the same (amount provided for health care coverage) unless our budget doesn’t allow it, and we don’t anticipate that,” said Marion Fedrick, vice chancellor for human resources for USG, during a question-and-answer session.
USG retirees who are not Medicare-eligible will stay on the USG plan, according to Elliott. Dependent children and spouses covered by a USG retiree also will be on the USG plan. Dental, vision and life insurance all will continue as they are now.
Aon Hewitt will be providing licensed benefit advisers to work with USG retirees during the enrollment process. These advisers, who are located in the U.S., are experienced in Medicare-related insurance and do not have any incentive to steer retirees to specific health care carriers or plans.
“Our commitment to you throughout this process is that you get excellent customer service and all your needs met,” Elliot said.
According to Elliott, a website about the upcoming change will be launched in May, and a transition guide will be mailed to retirees. This summer, retiree advisers will be trained, and informational videos will be posted online. In August, a flier or postcard will be sent out informing retirees of informational meetings that will take place in September. In mid-September, retirees will receive an open enrollment letter with information about an enrollment appointment with a benefit adviser. Enrollment opens Oct. 1 and closes Dec. 31.