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Posts tagged ‘healthcare’

Underfunding by Legislature Leads to Changes to Retired Teachers’ Health Insurance

A change to the retired teachers’ health insurance program that was adopted by the State Teachers’ Retirement Board (TRB) this month will impact retired teachers and spouses who are on—or will soon be on—the TRB’s Medicare supplement (65 and older) plan.

The new base plan will actually have a lower premium ($134 per person, per month) and it will be a Medicare Advantage plan through Anthem. The TRB will continue to offer the current Stirling plan, but it will be a buy-up, at $259 per person, per month, for the full package that includes drugs, dental, vision, and hearing coverage. Read more

CT Healthcare Experts Answer Retired Teachers’ Questions

CEA-Retired President Jon-Paul Roden addresses members at the group's meeting September 20.

Over 200 retired teachers had their healthcare questions and concerns addressed Tuesday by state experts at a CEA-Retired meeting in Southington. CEA-Retired President Jon-Paul Roden said, “Healthcare issues are always of concern to our CEA-Retired members. Holding conferences like this from time to time meets our members’ needs, and we are happy to provide that opportunity.”

Retired members attending the conference heard from individuals who administer their healthcare plan and provide their pension benefits, as well as from a woman whose office provides assistance with healthcare concerns for all Connecticut residents.

Connecticut’s Healthcare Advocate Provides Help for Consumers

Victoria Veltri, Connecticut’s healthcare advocate, told the retired teachers that her office assists consumers to make informed decisions when selecting a health plan and in resolving problems with their plans.  The Office of the Healthcare Advocate (OHA) has assisted 16,000 consumers since 2002 and recovered $35 million.

“Your insurance contract is the law regarding your policy,” said Veltri. “You need to make sure you have a copy of your contract and read it so you know your rights and responsibilities.”

If you are affected by a denial of coverage, have a question about your policy, or need an explanation of benefits you can contact the OHA.

Veltri said that her office is “the only Connecticut government entity that provides real-time service.  If you contact our office, you will get a call back the same day. We keep you up to date all the time, over the phone, or through email or fax – however is most comfortable for you to be in touch.”

You can contact the Office of the Healthcare Advocate by

In addition to providing direct assistance to Connecticut residents, the OHA has authority under state law to propose legislation, and advocate for or against legislation.  Last year the office advocated on behalf of legislation that led to an agreement requiring the insurance commissioner to hold up to four public hearings a year on proposals to raise health insurance rates for individual or small group HMO plans by 15 percent or more.

Panel Provides Updates on Pension and GPO/WEP

Jamie Stirling of Stirling Benefits, right, speaks to retirees. From left are panelists Darlene Perez, Administrator of the Teachers' Retirement Board; Robyn Kaplan-Cho, CEA Program Development Specialist; and Clare Barnett, Chair of the Teachers' Retirement Board.

During the second half of the meeting, CEA-Retired members heard from a panel of three pension and healthcare experts: Clare Barnett, retired teacher and chair of the Teachers’ Retirement Board; Darlene Perez, administrator of the Teachers’ Retirement Board; and Jamie Stirling of Stirling Benefits. Stirling Benefits administers the state’s supplemental insurance plan for retired teachers.

Barnett had good news for CEA-Retired members: The budget proposed by Governor Malloy and adopted by the legislature fully funds the teachers’ pension fund for both this fiscal year and next. “This is a huge commitment during a difficult economic time,” said Barnett.

CEA’s Program Development Specialist Robyn Kaplan-Cho, who moderated the panel, said that CEA members need to thank the governor and legislature for including the full pension and retiree healthcare appropriations in the budget.

Kaplan-Cho added that she wanted to acknowledge Darlene Perez for all of her hard work on behalf of Connecticut’s teachers. A retired teacher in the audience agreed that kudos are necessary, speaking highly of the assistance she received from a Teachers’ Retirement System employee who resolved an issue with her pension check on the Friday before a long weekend.

The outstanding work of Perez and her staff is especially impressive because the office is severely understaffed. Because of state budget constraints, the State Teachers’ Retirement System has only 22 employees, said Perez. The system must enroll new retirees over the summer, send checks out, and respond to numerous phone calls and emails from the retirees it serves.

Perez recommended that retirees contact her office by email, trb.webmaster@ct.gov, whenever possible. Responding to voice mail messages usually takes her staff at least two to three days.

She also recommended that retirees who need forms download them from the Teacher Retirement Board website: http://www.ct.gov/trb/site/default.asp.

Interactive software that would point out mistakes and omissions and allow retirees to submit forms directly would save time and money for the Teachers’ Retirement System, said Perez.  Unfortunately her office doesn’t have this technology yet, but she’s hopeful that these updates will come, as Governor Malloy is supportive of IT initiatives in state government.

Many CEA-Retired members had questions about efforts to repeal the Government Pension Offset and Windfall Elimination Provision (GPO/WEP) that unfairly reduce or eliminate Social Security benefits pubic employees have earned.

Kaplan-Cho said she is cautiously optimistic about the possibility of a repeal. There is increasing support in Washington, D.C. for repealing GPO/WEP, but it’s a complicated issue and the economy remains challenging.

Most of Connecticut’s U.S. representatives and senators have supported repealing GPO/WEP, but Kaplan-Cho reminded retirees that it’s “very important to share your personal stories about how you’ve been impacted by GPO/WEP.”  Those stories are what will make Congress eventually take action on this issue.

CEA-Retired will offer its next conference providing more essential information for retired teachers on May 22, 2012. If you’re not already a member of CEA-Retired you can enroll today by visiting CEA-Retired’s award-winning website or by contacting Cherie Young at CEA: 860-525-5641 or 800-842-4316.

CEA Ad Opposing Health Care Tax in Today’s Papers

Ad appearing today in several major Connecticut papers. Click on image to see full size version.

CEA continues to be concerned about the U.S. Senate’s proposed health care reform legislation and its tax on middle class health benefits.

Today CEA and six other Connecticut unions placed a full page ad in several of the state’s major papers to draw the public’s attention to this important issue. (Click here or on the image at right to view the ad.)

Thank you to all of you who signed petitions urging lawmakers to oppose the proposed excise tax.  CEA was able to deliver hundreds of petitions signed by more than 10,000 teachers to members of Connecticut’s congressional delegation.

Sign up to get email updates from BlogCEA or subscribe to BlogCEA’s RSS feed to be notified about new health care reform developments.

Healthcare Partnership Bill Fails Veto Override

The Connecticut House and Senate met today for a special veto override session.  Seven of the bills Governor Rell had vetoed were  overridden, but while the healthcare partnership bill received enough votes for an override in the House, the Senate’s 23-12 vote was one short.

This override failure is disappointing  as the bill, An Act Establishing the Healthcare Partnership, would have taken a monumental step forward in reducing the skyrocketing costs of municipal health insurance – one of the most serious fiscal challenges facing towns and cities. The legislature’s bipartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis confirmed that the bill would have saved taxpayers money.

Both chambers did override Governor Rell’s veto of the SustiNet bill, which creates a volunteer board of directors, four committees, and three task forces that will set up a flexible framework for an affordable state healthcare system.

Urge Your Legislators to Override Governor’s Healthcare Veto

Yesterday Governor Rell vetoed HB 6582, An Act Establishing the Healthcare Partnership, which would enable teachers and others to voluntarily join the state employees’ health insurance pool.  Legislators have the opportunity to override the Governor’s veto – they will be meeting for an override session on July 20.

This bill is very important to Connecticut because it takes a monumental step forward in reducing the skyrocketing costs of municipal health insurance – one of the most serious fiscal challenges facing towns and cities. The legislature’s bipartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis has confirmed that HB 6582 will save taxpayers money.

Rell Vetoes Healthcare Bills

This afternoon Governor Rell announced that she has vetoed bills that would have established a Board of Directors to implement a health insurance program called SustiNet and opened the state employee health insurance program to employees of municipalities, non-profit organizations and small businesses. This is the second consecutive year that Rell has vetoed Rep. Christopher Donovan’s healthcare pooling bill.

Rell also issued an Executive Order establishing a Health Care Reform Advisory Board to develop state-level policies in response to reforms under consideration at the federal level.

House Speaker Christopher G. Donovan, legislative and business leaders, and advocates issued strong reactions to Governor M. Jodi Rell’s veto.

“This is a missed opportunity to give a booster shot to our ailing economy by relieving struggling families and businesses who are cutting back due to rising healthcare costs,” Speaker Donovan said. “These bills would bring comforting relief to those who are suffering from those high costs.”

Read more from the Hartford Courant’s Capitol Watch blog.

Urge Governor Rell to Sign Healthcare Bill

Governor Rell now has the Healthcare Partnership bill on her desk. The legislation was adopted overwhelmingly by the House and Senate, however, it is unclear whether the governor will sign the bill into law.

This bill will allow municipal employees, non profits, and small businesses to voluntarily enroll in the state employee healthcare plan.  Please let Governor Rell know that this bill is important to you and you want her to sign it.

Healthcare Partnership Needs Governor Rell’s Signature

House Bill 6582, An Act Establishing the Healthcare Partnership, was  adopted overwhelmingly by the House and Senate, and is headed to Governor Rell’s desk.  This legislation would allow employees of towns and cities, non profit organizations, and small businesses to join the big state employees’ health insurance pool.

The option to join this big insurance pool would lower municipal costs and save local taxpayers money.  In 146 towns surveyed, almost nine out of ten pay higher rates than the state pays for its employees.

However, it is unclear whether the governor will sign the bill into law.  Governor Rell has said that this might not be the “appropriate time” for this initiative.  If now isn’t the appropriate time to save tens of millions of dollars for Connecticut taxpayers, when would it be appropriate?

Asking Governor Rell to sign House Bill 6582 is crucial if we are to see lower healthcare costs.  Send the governor an e-mail asking her to sign this important legislation.