Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Bob Buerkle to STRS Board: Why stay in the Aetna Medicare plan?

Bob Buerkle's speech to STRS Board
October 17, 2019 
So Why Stay in the STRS Aetna Medicare Plan? 
At the June 20th Board Meeting I proposed the STRS issue a Health Care Debit Card as a way to return some of our own money that had been placed in the Health Care Contingency Fund. After all, the HC Fund is way overfunded at 180% and it has rapidly grown by over $500 Million dollars in the last four or five years; despite the fact that no new contributions are being made. I have heard no response back from any Board Member or any STRS Staff Member about my proposal. Only investment returns are growing the HC Fund! Even though the HC Fund has grown by a half-billion dollars, STRS only begrudgingly provides a $29.90 monthly Medicare reimbursement. 
A number of plans offer many extra benefits that our STRS plan does not offer and they charge a lot less. By now you might understand that I am somewhat disillusioned with the STRS Health Care Plan that I have been in since 2014. In 2002 Kim Nicholl, the STRS Actuary, shared information with the Board, which I shared with you on June 20th, 2019. It showed that STRS should have had over $181,000 set aside for the lifetime Health Care needed for my wife and myself. However, the money available for health care was miniscule compared to the amount needed. When the 2012 pension changes lengthened the career requirement they also shorten-ed the number of years STRS has to provide for retiree health care, enabling the 180% ratio. 
I will now list some of the comparisons between the STRS plan and the plan I have picked for my wife and I for 2020. I realize that this will cost STRS about $10,000 that it has been receiving annually from Government Medicare Subsidies for me and I'm just one person. I believe there are about 110,000 STRS Retirees who, like myself, who are of Medicare age. 
Here are a few plan comparisons between the STRS Aetna Plan along with the Express Scripts medication plan and open market plans available to anyone who qualifies for Medicare Part A, which requires 40 quarters of work under Social Security by yourself or a spouse. Some 12,000 STRS retirees do not meet this requirement so STRS pays around $60 million annually for them, meaning the rest of us who do qualify pay the bill for the 10% of our retirees who don't qualify. 
With the STRS Aetna Plan there is a $150 annual deductible and I pay a $15 co-pay to see my primary care doctor and $25 to see a specialist. My new plan has no deductible and charges $5 and $40 co-pays. The STRS Aetna Plan has no built in dental, hearing or eyeglass benefits. My new plan covers two free dental cleanings with exams and one bitewing x-ray per year, one free hearing exam and a $3000 credit towards the purchase of hearing aids per year and one free eye exam and $175 toward the purchase of eyeglasses or contact lenses. The STRS prescription drug plan has a $250 deductible while my new plan has no deductible and 90-day Tier 1 Generic drug orders are free by mail order. My new plan also has nearly $300 worth of free over-the-counter medical supplies per year and several other free benefits to choose from. 
Finally, the STRS plan has a scheduled monthly premium for 2020 at $126 per month. My new plan has no monthly premium, saving me $1500! The STRS Plan issues one card for the Aetna policy and another card for the Express Scripts prescription drug policy. My new plan issues only one card that covers everything.
Larry KehresMount Union Collge
Division III
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