Health & Welfare Update
Good News, Again
For the second year in a row, (a first since 1996- 97), there have been no increases in the AI Health and Welfare cost. This is true for all four plans: A, B, C and K.
Although Kaiser did, in fact, increase its rate this year, the plan was able to offset that increase due to a large and healthy reserve in the Blue Cross "direct pay plan."
"The reason for this good news is that 2013 was a horrible year for the direct pay plan, with a tremendous number of really expensive claims," says Area Director Don Crosatto. "At that time, 90 people used $8 million in benefits, the equivalent of 63% of everything we pay in a year. As a result, the reserves that fund the plan got depleted below the amount we have mandated to keep on hand. That's why we had a huge increase in 2014."
Fortunately, 2013 was an abnormal year, and the nature of the claims settled back down to a more normal level. "Now, we have more than what we need to have in the bank. So, we could both hold the line and offset some of the increases needed for Kaiser and the disability plan. Further, our dental experience was good enough in our Delta Plan 9 that its cost went down 7% ($13/month)."
Crosatto says that there were also some improvements in the vision plan; members can get lenses and frames on a rolling 24-month period rather than on a calendar-year basis, and Costco was added to the network.
Get Your Pysical
Members on the Direct Pay plan will soon get a mailing from Health Dynamics to take a comprehensive physical. "It takes 2-3 hours and evaluates your heart, lungs, potential for cancer, stress, nutrition, and more," says Crosatto. "They have a coach meet you afterwards to go over the results."
The physical is 100% paid for by the plan. If you and your spouse do it by the end of 2017, you will each receive a $200 gift card. However, if you don't do it, in 2018, your medical plan deductible will double.
"The theory behind this is that if you give a few thousand people these physicals, you'll uncover a few incipient illnesses and catch them early," Crosatto explains. "We do the person a big service to catch things early; and if the plan can uncover some pre-diabetics or tumors before they require significant treatment, this will save the plan hundreds of thousands of dollars."
There are 9 facilities in Northern California. If one's not nearby, you can easily arrange to have your own doctor do the exam.
Automotive Industries Pension Plan Update
The Automotive Industries Pension Plan continues to experience significant financial difficulties. The Plan's "Annual Funding Notice" and "Notice of Critical and Declining Status" that was sent to all participants in April this year described the Plan's current financial situation in great detail.
The Board of Trustees is sending an additional notice to all plan participants that will further explain the plan's financial difficulties. The notice will include a section on the history of the plan that has led to its current critical status and a section on the past measures taken by the Board of Trustees to help preserve the plan. It will also discuss the current financial situation faced by the plan and will talk about future measures that the plan is considering since the passage of the Multiemployer Pension Reform Act.
This new law allows plans in Critical and Declining Status, such as our Automotive Industries Plan, to take measures, including reducing pension benefits, to avoid insolvency.
The Board's goal is to implement a program that will insure the financial future of the plan with the fewest benefit reductions possible. All Automotive Industries Pension participants—whether you are a retiree receiving benefits or a vested participant who is still working but will retire in the future—need to read and understand this important notice.
The Trustees are seeking input from all plan participants and have included in the notice an email address, 800 phone number and a P.O. Box where participants can direct their questions and ideas.
Obamacare's "Cadillac Tax" delayed two years
In good news for union health plans, an Appropriations Act signed into law by President Obama in December delays the effective date of the Excise Tax on High-Cost Employer- Sponsored Health Coverage (aka the "Cadillac Tax") for two years, from 2018 until 2020.
The Cadillac Tax is a 40% tax imposed on the cost of healthcare coverage. In 2020, if a union plan costs more than $27,500 a year, (this amount may be increased), everything over that limit is taxed at 40%.
For example, if in 2020, the plan costs $30,000 per year, that's $2,500 over the $27,500 Cadillac threshold and the plan will have to pay a tax of 40% of $2,500, or $1,000 per member.
Unions applauded this delay as the Cadillac Tax, when and if it goes into effect, adds a huge tax burden to the cost of the plan, making it harder for unions to keep negotiating for strong benefits. The tax will also give employers even greater reason to try to withdraw from union plans and cut benefits.
The delay of the Cadillac Tax had strong bipartisan support as well as support from major corporations, unions, and insurance companies that have joined together to formally campaign against the tax. These groups have said they will continue to lobby Congress for its repeal. With the Republican and Democratic presidential candidates publicly stating that they will support a repeal of the tax, the current conventional wisdom is that the tax may be repealed entirely after the 2016 election.
The "Cadillac" Tax Is A Bad Deal For Good Union Health Plans
When the Affordable Care Act (also called ACA or Obamacare) went into effect in 2010, the goal was to make it easier for Americans to get quality, cost-effective health-care coverage. Now a flawed provision of the Act is threatening the coverage of millions of hard-working union members.
That provision is called the excise tax, but it's better known as the "Cadillac" tax.
What is the Cadillac tax?
In its simplest terms, the Cadillac tax is a penalty on employee health benefits valued over a certain level. The ACA sets this level at $10,200 for single coverage and $27,500 for family coverage. Any amount beyond this level is taxed at 40 percent.
What this means for IAM signatory employers
Say a member who is married and has two kids gets health coverage through his employer that costs about $35,000. With the law's family coverage limit set at $27,500, the excess value is $7,500.
Multiplying that value by 40 percent (the Cadillac tax) would obligate the employer to pay $3,000 per employee. Multiply this penalty by every covered employee and it's easy to see why many businesses aren't happy about the Cadillac tax.
The Cadillac tax affects more than just employers
The Cadillac tax leaves companies with two options: pay hefty penalties or reduce the coverage they offer. Faced with such large penalties, many employers are exploring alternatives to lower the value of their plans, such as raising deductibles or having employees pay a larger portion of their own health care costs through coinsurance or copays.
In short, the Cadillac tax punishes employers who are already doing the right thing by providing their employees with excellent, affordable health care. This doesn't make much sense when the ACA's stated goal is "improving access, affordability and quality in health care for Americans."
One more reason to dislike the Cadillac tax
The cost of health benefits in California is among the most expensive in the nation, leading to a much bigger bill for our employers and the potential for a much larger drop in your coverage.
One piece of good news about the Cadillac tax
The tax isn't scheduled to go into effect until 2018, which means there's still time to fight it. All IAM members and signatory employers should contact your representatives in Congress and let them know that the Cadillac tax needs to be repealed.
Health insurance opt-out policy may become available
The Automotive Industries Welfare Fund Plans A and B are now providing an Opt-Out option for members who have alternative coverage available, such as coverage under a spouses health plan. This option is not automatic and must first be bargained between the Employer and the Union.
Your current collective bargaining agreements that provide the Automotive Industries Health Plans require contributions on behalf of all employees covered by the collective bargaining agreement. Therefore, before the option can be implemented, the bargaining parties must meet and agree upon the conditions that will apply to the Opt-Out option. Once a written agreement is reached between the bargaining parties, the option can be implemented pursuant to the terms of that agreement. Without a written agreement, the Fund will not accept any Opt-Outs, since acceptance would be a violation of the current collective bargaining agreement.
Members interested in this option should contact their Business Representative for further information. It should be noted that if a member opts out of coverage, they are still required by law to have health insurance. Once a member opts out of coverage with the Automotive Industries Health Plans they are barred from returning to this plan unless a COBRA qualifying event takes place, such as the loss of health coverage through the death of a spouse who was providing such coverage. Members should also note that if they opt out of their employer-provided plan, they are not eligible for Obamacare subsidies.
Think very carefully before exercising this option when it becomes available.
Important notice to members with Anthem insurance
Members who have Anthem health insurance (Anthem Blue Cross of California) should be aware that Anthem, Inc. was recently discovered to have been the target of a very sophisticated cyber-attack.
In this attack, personal information from current and former members, including Anthem associates, was obtained such as names, birthdays, Social Security numbers, street addresses and email addresses. No credit card information was compromised, nor is there evidence at this time that medical information, such as claims, test results, or diagnostic codes, were targeted or obtained.
Anthem discovered the breach on January 27, 2015 and believes the unauthorized access began by December 10, 2014. As soon as they learned about the attack, Anthem immediately made every effort to close the security vulnerability, contacted the FBI and began fully cooperating with their investigation.
Anthem understands that this is a very urgent and important incident and reports that they are taking all measures to secure their members private information. The company will individually notify current and former members whose information has been accessed. They will provide credit monitoring and identity protection services free of charge so that those who have been affected can have peace of mind.
The company has created a dedicated website (www.AnthemFacts.com) where members can access information such as frequently asked questions and answers. They have also established a dedicated toll-free number that both current and former members can call with questions related to this incident. That number is: 1-877-263-7995.
Current and former Anthem members should watch their mail for the notice from Anthem that will presumably include information about free credit monitoring services.
Everybody should educate themselves on the risks of identity theft. The San Francisco-based Privacy Rights Clearinghouse is an invaluable resource for information about what steps you can take to protect yourself both before and after a data breach occurs. Their website is:
Want to stop smoking? Your AI benefits will help!
For those members with the direct pay health plan under Automotive Industries, the plan is now adding tobacco cessation as a nocost member benefit.
The plan covers screening for use, and at least two tobacco cessation attempts per year. This includes at least four counseling sessions and any FDA approved medication, without pre-authorization. Optum Rx will cover the medical piece of this. This new benefit took effect on September 1.
"The IAM has a higher percentage of smokers than the general population," says Area Director Don Crosatto. "This directly impacts our health care costs. We want to encourage smoking members to take advantage of this new benefit."
ATPA is the administrator for the Automotive Industries Health & Welfare and Pension Trust Funds.
Contact us at 510-836-2484
You may be eligible for
"Paid Family Leave"
When you need to take time off work to deal with serious family health issues—childbirth, adoption foster care, or illness of a family member—you may have a right to Paid Family Leave (PFL).
If deductions are taken from your paycheck for State Disability Insurance (SDI), and you meet the eligibility requirements, you should be able to collect Paid Family Leave. PFL benefits may last up to 6 weeks a year (after a one-week waiting period), and generally replace approximately 55 percent of income, up to certain limits.
Paid family leave is a state program, funded by deductions from workers' paychecks. It provides benefits to workers who need to miss work to bond with a newborn or newly arrived adopted or foster child. or who need to deal with the serious health condition of a close family member.
If you need time off to care for any of these relatives with a serious health condition, or to oversee their medical treatment, or to bond with a new child, it makes sense to apply for Paid Family Leave. To learn more about the eligibility requirements or what you need to do to apply, go to: paidfamilyleave.org
If you are planning to take Family Medical Leave (FMLA) or have ongoing medical treatments for an on-the-job injury, make sure your company is aware of your absence. The HIPAA law protects you. But as a courtesy to your co-workers and employer, let the company know you're going to be gone.
Retirement is around of the corner for a lot of us. Have you checked your IAM Pension account or SSI? You need to do both. If your pension is with the IAM National Pension Fund, go to the web iamnpf.org. Log in look at your account. If you have problems or questions, call your local union office — we can help!
Those working at car dealerships
Having some issues regarding flat-rate, non-paid time, breaks or meal time? Some dealers and body shops don't want to follow the Downtown LA (DTLA) court decision. Our members need to ask questions. Don't let your rights slip away! DTLA addresses many issues, but most importantly, you should know that if you're at work, you need to get paid! Track your pay sheet. Does it show breaks? OT?
If you have concerns about your pay, call your local union office. If you are not getting paid right, probably all of the techs are not getting paid right.