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Highlights—September 22, 2007

  • Yahoo! message board post: "Lawsuit Alert" by Janet Krueger. Full excerpt: There’s a lawsuit that’s been filed in New York federal court seeking class action status that some of you may be interested in. I’ve been in touch with the lawyer who filed it – Eli Gottesdiener, Gottesdiener Law Firm in New York . Here’s his website: www.gottesdienerlaw.com. He said it’s important that he hears from as many potential class members as possible. He can be reached at (718) 788-1500 or email at eli@gottesdienerlaw.com.

    It seems that anyone who hits age 65 who didn’t immediately withdraw their benefit from the Plan – doesn’t matter how, lump sum or annuity – gets shorted interest or an actuarial adjustment for the time that they leave their money in the Plan (while the Plan gets to use it to invest, make money, etc.). The suit says that’s illegal under ERISA and actually also contradicts the Plan’s terms, etc.

    So if you reached age 65 and had previously stopped working for IBM and didn’t act right away to pull your money out, the time between the date you reached age 65 and whenever you got around to getting your money, you earned 0 interest. Seems it also applies if you were still working past the age of 65, except you get hit with the no-interest thing as soon as you terminate employment for as long as you delay taking your benefit.

    That’s what happened apparently in the case of the plaintiff in the case, Richard Adams. He worked for IBM for 40 years. He retired at age 67 but didn’t draw his benefit for over 2 years in part because he believed that the Plan would continue to credit his account with interest. When he finally took his benefit at age 69 or so, he was shocked to learn it was the exact same amount as if he took it 2 years earlier.

  • BusinessWeek: 2007 Best Places to Launch A Career. #4 IBM. Excerpt: On Think Fridays, employees develop skills and meet with mentors. Plus, IBM gives bonuses for hitting the gym.
  • BusinessWeek IBM forum post by "vanguard": IBM on the skids. Full excerpt: IBM is a good place to start a career, as long as you don't stick around. This company, that used to be a regular among the top three in Fortune's annual list of the best places to work, had slipped to #75 by 2006 and, in 2007, didn't even make the cut. In fact, when a magazine in IBM's home base -- Westchester County, New York -- did a "Top 10 places to work" list earlier this year, IBM didn't get into that group, either. The reason? No doubt, constant layoffs, elimination in employee perks ranging from "family day" to retraining, cuts in major benefits like pension plans. The old three-point mission statement that defined IBM for decades used to include this principle: "Respect for the individual." However, a few years ago, this line quietly disappeared.
  • Vault message board post: "Business Week article puts IBM at #4" by "bluedose007". Full excerpt: I was surprised to see that IBM was rated #4 in Business Week's "Best Place to Start a Career" ahead of companies like Google, and Goldman Sachs. Granted, this article is all of IBM and not just the GBS consulting group...but still? They say the average retention is 90% after 3 and 5 years and that 26% of new grads make 70k or more? Can you believe these numbers? Hard for me to do so. But maybe the grass is not greener?
  • Vault message board post: "That puts Business Week at #1..." by "Dose of reality". Full excerpt: ...of paid propagandists. Peruse any issue of Business Week, and you will see just how objective they are. Printed media is the ultimate in incestuous business relationships. 90% retention?? Look around you and tell me how many employees are still here from 5 years ago? No way 26% of new grads get a based of 70k or more.
  • Vault message board post: "Survey Methodology on Ranking Page" by "ancientblueconsultant". Full excerpt: States that the surveys from students/new employees had only half the weight as a survey from the "employer?". That says it all.
  • Vault message board post: "Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha" by "bluedngone". Full excerpt: 70k is probably the starting salaries of MBA types in New York. I was at IBM for 12 years and made 68k as an engineer. IBM likes to plant stories such as this for PR purposes. Much like the recent article of flexible vacations. The example they showed was a Director on the east coast. Nothing like being a Band6-7-8 type where you work farmers hours. Can't see to Can't see.
  • Vault message board pos:t "All true" by "wh1ppersnapper". Full excerpt: ...if those retention stats apply to India operations! Did you not see the footnote that the 70k referred to rupees?! And the Indian grads are worth every bit, ha ha ha ha ha hee hee hee hee ho ho ho ahhhhhhhhh, that was a good one - I amuse myself!
  • Vault message board post: "Interesting Survey Question - BW Misleads?" by "ancientblueconsultant". Full excerpt: I was attracted by what appears to be a misleading entry on Paid Time Off.

    The entry "PTO Bank", is market as "Yes" by IBM. In reality, last I saw when I worked there was a very limited accrual system for the amount of time worked, which is not banked, but set to zero at year's end. If you take 2 weeks of vacation the first few months you are there then quit or leave for any reason, you get docked for the vacation. There is no initial PTO Bank vacation amount.

    In most other environments (govt, etc.) PTO is "banked" (like IBM used to do) and kept in a running total over the years until either the employee quits or takes the PTO.

    The answer IBM gave is correct, but misleading. Seems like a case of BW incompetence from BW or collusion to hide the fact that the PTO Bank really has no inter-year accrual and is really not a true PTO Bank as most people would think of and use a PTO Bank.

    This is yet another example of hiding a nasty surprise for unwitting new hires who won't find out the real policy until AFTER they been a calendar year at the pig.

  • Vault message board post: "Vacation is a hoax at IBM" by "GBS_BC". Full excerpt: Another place where IBM is dishonest in regards to vacation is in its willingness to allow employees to take their earned vacation. At least in GBS, the expectation is that you will forego your vacation for the good of the project. It is expected that employees will take vacation during their bench time, which, of course, is unpredictable in its timing so forget about planning an actual vacation.

    Also, billable percentage targets are *not* adjusted downward for employees with additional earned vacation, long term employees with four or five weeks of vacation. All employees, regardless of how much vacation they're theoretically entitled to typically must bill 94% of 2080 hours per year. Do the math, and you'll see that there is no way an employee can actually take their earned vacation without working extraordinary amounts of overtime to make up. (And, of course, many projects won't allow consultants to bill over 44, or even 40 hours per week).

  • Vault message board post: "IBM desperate?" by "civilliberty". Full excerpt: Perhaps this says much more about IBM's desperation to fill it's ranks with cannon fodder. I understand that they are hungering after staff, so perhaps to dispel negative publicity they've resorted to outright lies (wouldn't be the first time, since they've been practicing this on their staff for years). Grad's in Australia a couple of years back were on about 54K. I doubt if that has changed significantly.
  • Yahoo! message board post "IBM Medical goes up after 65" by "neeko4314". Full excerpt: Will be turning 65 in a couple of months and have myself + spouse on IBM Medical. Currently I pay $170/month, but after I turn 65 I pay $264/month for basically the same. My premium goes up, but IBM liability goes from primary to secondary supplemental. Given that IBM will only be liable for 20% instead of 80%+ this makes no sense. The IBM helpless 800# had no clue. Has anyone found any rationale for this?
  • Yahoo! message board post "Re: [IBM Retiree] IBM Medical goes up after 65" by "Joel Kollin". Full excerpt: As I recall, the amount allocated for those on Medicare was one half the amount for those under 65. I retired in 1993 and I think at the time the figures quoted were $7,000 and $3,500, being the amount that IBM would contribute per retiree ( per retiree, not per retiree plus dependants0. Anyone know if I remember correctly?
  • Yahoo! message board post: "Re: [IBM Retiree] IBM Medical goes up after 65" by "David Sharpe". Full excerpt: Think again! If Medicare is primary and IBM is secondary and Medicare pays 80%, then IBM insurance pays nothing. At least that is what happened to me. IBM says because Medicare pays 80% and IBM's only pays 80%, it doesn't apply to the remaining 20% that Medicare didn't cover. I guess, if Medicare only paid 60%, then maybe IBM's insurance would pay 20%. But, I wouldn't bank on that.

    I gave up and got my own supplemental insurance, (I happened to go with Blue Cross), now my supplemental insurance is paying everything that Medicare doesn't cover. There may be circumstances where the supplemental won't pay everything, but I haven't run into that situation.

  • Yahoo! message board post "Re: IBM Medical goes up after 65" by "jschuler11". Full excerpt: I believe you may be incorrect in the assumption that IBM will be liable for 20%. They would be liable for a portion of your medical expenses after you have reached the annual out of pocket maximum. But at any rate they pay nothing above what Medicare approves as recognized expense (after the OOP max). You will probably find like most of us, that IBM (UHC) will pay nothing, ever, if you're both on Medicare, unless you have huge medical bills. You'd probably be out anywhere from $2K to $8K in a year before they would pay anything (IF THEY FELT LIKE IT!)

    Do yourself a favor and dump IBM insurance for a good supplemental plan with a prescription option (Medco's annual cap of $3500 may impact you also).

  • Yahoo! message board post: "Re: [IBM Retiree] IBM Medical goes up after 65" by "Jim Moran". Full excerpt: J., I think you are under a general misconception about what IBM pays in addition to Medicare benefits. It is true IBM becomes secondary (if you select that option) and what this means is that IBM will pay 80% of anything that it covers that Medicare doesn't. In other words when Medicare does pay the first 80% of a bill, IBM does NOT contribute anything. So, you must pay the other 20%.

    I was under this plan for a while and I couldn't find anything that Medicare didn't cover that IBM did cover. So, one must ask the question: "Why have the IBM medical coverage?" The conclusion I came to was that it was a waste of money. After my wife and I both became Medicare recipients, we dropped the IBM medical and acquired private Medicare supplemental policies. Our private policies cover the other 20%, plus the Medicare deductibles, plus eye exams, plus health club cost. In other words all of our medical bills are covered 100%. Hearing problems, due to aging, and optional procedures are not included.

    Now this discussion does not include Drugs. To the best of my knowledge the IBM Drug plan is still our best bet.

    The cost of our private policies is $150 per month, EACH. We are both over 70 and in good health. Now you may say that that's a lot of money. You need to keep in mind that as you age your health conditions can take turns for the worse very quickly and bills can become astronomical. I think you can almost plan on having some big heath problem between the ages of 70 and 80. It is just a matter of time. To us, the peace of mind knowing things are taken care of is well worth the cost.

  • Yahoo! message board post: "Re: IBM Medical goes up after 65" by "dorieann2003". Full excerpt: As a recent widow of an IBM employee I trusted my husband's words (your medical costs will be taken care of). I had IBM's supplementary and kept expecting the 20% coverage. Unfortunately, I had a serious health problem soon after and my financial losses were tremendous. I am now healthy but can never recoup. I finally changed to AARP who has covered the 20% every time.
  • Yahoo! message board post: "Re: [IBM Retiree] IBM Medical goes up after 65" by "i_be_mad_as_heck". Full excerpt: IBM's total annual contribution to each category's health care coverage will be limited so that IBM's annual average per retiree contribution will not exceed the amounts indicated below:
    Limit Category
    $7,500 Retired in 1991 or earlier and not yet eligible for Medicare
    $3,500 Retired in 1991 or earlier and eligible for Medicare
    $7,000 Retired after 1991 and not yet eligible for Medicare
    $3,500 Retired after 1991 eligible for Medicare (does not include dental costs)
  • Yahoo! message board post "Re: [IBM Retiree] Some Good Advice: IBM Medical goes up after 65" by "ignatz713". Full excerpt: Ralph, Second Choicers refer to those IBMers not aged 50 (or not otherwise 5 years from retirement eligibility) in 1999 whose promised lifetime retiree medical was taken away from them.

    It was replaced with a 'bucket' script system known as the FHA (Future Health Account) which, if the employee retires more than a very few years before Medicare eligibility, will run out.

    The full impact of the FHA was not known until now, when employees are retiring and finding out the parameters of the charges for health coverage from IBM.

    I have long maintained that the lifetime Prescription Plan under the old retiree medical plan was worth its weight in gold. And it is, even given its caveats.

    As more Second Choicers wander over to this board in their retirement stage, hopefully they will share how they are managing the FHA, also fondly called the Future Hell Account

  • Yahoo! message board post "Re: [IBM Retiree] IBM Medical goes up after 65" by "Joel Kollin". Full excerpt: I will throw my 2 cents in. I had a kidney transplant and the meds I take have run about $18,000 so far this year with me having to pay less than 10%. I also need the security of the having a "I can live with" max out of pocket of $3,500.

    Since I am single and on Medicare the premium is $75. In my case this is just fine.

    Following all these discussions, it is clear that the IBM "subsidy" goes mostly to the employee and not his dependants.

    I caution all of you/us who are getting up there in years to be concerned with the catastrophic protection you may need in the future. Having to spend 5-10 k a year is one thing. Having to shell out $200,000 or much more can wipe out the savings.

    Until I was diagnosed with kidney failure, I was one of those who could easily predict my yearly medical expenditure fairly closely - now the sky is the limit!!!!

  • Yahoo! message board post: "Re: IBM Medical goes up after 65" by "Bob Sutton". Full excerpt: One other factor I forgot to mention about turning 65 and actually seeing an increase in IBM payments is the fact that IBM segregated its medical insurance pool and put everyone 65 and over into a separate risk pool. Naturally this pool has the most expensive medical costs and that by itself explains some of this anomaly in pricing.

    You will say to yourself isn't insurance supposed to have the largest risk pool possible so that the average costs are lower?

    IBM has done everything possible to do just the opposite and segregate the overall IBM risk pool and have separated retirees from active as the first step; from there they separated by age and even location.

    They did this is reduce the medical premiums for young employees and active ones as much as possible for retention and PR purposes for those doing the work now.

    Remember the days when everyone was in the same risk pool including execs?

    Again it shows that there is no limit for the greed of the current execs to get their stock options and bonuses up more using retirees as just one pool of opportunity.

    This over incented culture of winner take all is epidemic to all of corp. America today and is the core reason we have so much social tension among the classes. Its the ME society not the WE society and you can see it in every aspect of our current culture............its not just an IBM exclusive but they certainly are helping to make it t worse with great vigor.

  • Yahoo! message board post: "Re: [IBM Retiree] IBM Medical goes up after 65" by "Jim Moran". Full excerpt: Don, you really have the best situation with your wife being a little older than you, because she becomes eligible for medicare first. When this occurs, obtain the best Medicare supplemental policy for her that you can find and/or afford (Include Medicare part D). You, yourself take the IBM medical plan for the employee with no dependents (really quite reasonable).

    In my first note, I stated that I thought that the IBM drug plan seemed to be the best option going. Recently a person I worked with, a friend, and a fellow IBMer, who was 64, married, retired and looking forward to a long retired life, died of cancer after a 9mo illness. He had the IBM Option B plan with the $3500 drug cap and didn't feel he needed more, at the time he signed up for the plan in '06, because both he and his wife were pictures of heath (never a sick day), never smoked, exercised regularly, etc. Prior to his death, his drug bill exceeded $200,000. The family savings have been depleted and the family home is in jeopardy.

    A sad story, but very true! My point in telling it is to ask the question - "Is a $3500 limit on drugs a viable option for persons in our age group?" The Medicare option "Part D" offers a much better solution for the "BIG" bill.

  • The Christian Science Monitor: Moms eye part-time jobs to achieve work-life balance. How families can get more face time and companies can retain top talent. By Margaret Price. Excerpts: A recent Pew Research Center survey found that when working mothers were asked about their "ideal" situation, only 21 percent cited full-time work, down from 32 percent in 1997. Instead, 60 percent of this year's respondents cited part-time work as "ideal," up sharply from 48 percent a decade earlier, while 19 percent of employed moms this year said they'd prefer not to work outside the home at all.

    Of course, many mothers can't afford to scale down to part-time work – if they can even find it. But the mounting appeal of that arrangement highlights the extent to which today's conditions beleaguer working moms. Not only are they expected to meet corporate America's drive for productivity – and all the demands that entails – but they're also counted on to play a key role in their children's lives. All the while, some moms also may be caring for aging parents. [...]

    But to critics, the most common methods of addressing employees' work-life balance – such as flexible working schedules, telecommuting, and (to a much lesser extent) job sharing – haven't filled the need. In some cases, they seem to have made matters worse. When some employees have tried to use such programs, some critics charge, they've been stigmatized as uncommitted workers, thereby heightening their frustration. [...]

    For instance, just over a year ago, the international professional services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) in New York launched Full Circle. The program is designed for PWC professionals who want to leave the workforce for up to five years to care for their children or parents. During this stint, program participants get annual training to keep their skills fresh. They also have a coach – a PWC employee – who keeps in touch with them while they are gone and helps them transition back to the firm when they are returning to work.

  • Plan Sponsor: Court Throws Out Three Cash Balance Challenges. Excerpts: In reaching his decision to dismiss discrimination complaints against the cash balance plans, U.S. District Judge J. Phil Gilbert of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois said he was bound by the 7th US Circuit Court of Appeal's decision in Cooper v. IBM Personal Pension Plan (See IBM Cash Balance Discrimination Ruling Reversed). [...]

    Gilbert added that while several federal courts within the jurisdiction of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals have disagreed with Cooper, that the Cooper ruling was binding on him.

  • Forbes: The Forbes 400. Edited by Matthew Miller. Excerpts: One billion dollars is no longer enough. The price of admission to this, the 25th anniversary edition of the Forbes 400, is $1.3 billion, up $300 million from last year. The collective net worth of the nation's mightiest plutocrats rose $290 billion to $1.54 trillion.

    Wall Street led the charge, despite this summer's market jitters. Nearly half of the 45 new members made their fortunes in hedge funds and private equity. Money manager John Paulson joins the list after pocketing more than $1 billion short-selling subprime credit this summer. [...]

    The youngest member of the Forbes 400 this year is 33-year-old John Arnold, a former Enron trader who now runs hedge fund Centaurus Energy and has amassed a $1.5 billion fortune. The oldest member of the list is potato king John Simplot, who is 98 years old and worth $3.6 billion.

News and Opinion Concerning Health Savings Accounts, Medical Costs and Health Care Reform
  • New York Times: Health Care Hopes. By Paul Krugman. Excerpts: All the evidence suggests that it has finally become politically possible to give Americans what citizens of every other advanced nation already have: guaranteed health insurance. The economics of universal health care are sound, and polls show strong public support for guaranteed care. The only thing we have to fear is fear itself. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of that around. [...]

    John Edwards broke the issue of health care reform open in February, when he proposed a smart and serious plan for universal health insurance — and bravely announced his willingness to pay for the plan by letting some of the Bush tax cuts expire. Suddenly, universal health care went from being a distant progressive dream to something you could actually envision happening in the next administration.

    Senator Clinton delayed a long time before coming out with her own plan — a delay that created a lot of anxiety among health care reformers, and may, as I’ll explain in a minute, be a bad omen for the future. Still, this week she did deliver a plan, and it’s as strong as the Edwards plan — because unless you get deep into the fine print, the Clinton plan basically is the Edwards plan. [...]

    The Edwards and Clinton plans as well as the slightly weaker but similar Obama plan achieve universal-or-near-universal coverage through a well-thought-out combination of insurance regulation, subsidies and public-private competition. These plans may disappoint advocates of a cleaner, simpler single-payer system. But it’s hard to see how Medicare for all could get through Congress any time in the near future, whereas Edwards-type plans offer a reasonable second best that you can actually envision being enacted by a Democratic Congress and signed by a Democratic president just two years from now.

    To get there, however, would require overcoming a lot more fear.

    There won’t be a serious Republican alternative. The health care plans of the leading Republican candidates, such as they are, are the same old, same old: they principally rely on tax breaks that go mainly to the well-off, but will supposedly conjure up the magic of the market. As Ezra Klein of The American Prospect cruelly but accurately puts it: “The Republican vision is for a world in which the sick and dying get to deduct some of the cost of health insurance that they don’t have — and can’t get — on their taxes.”

    But the G.O.P. nominee, whoever he is, won’t be trying to persuade the public of the merits of his own plan. Instead, he’ll try to scare the dwindling fraction of Americans who still have good health insurance by claiming that the Democrats will take it away.

    The smear-and-fear campaign has already started. The Democratic plans all bear a strong resemblance to the health care plan that Mitt Romney signed into law as governor of Massachusetts, differing mainly in offering Americans additional choices. But that didn’t stop Mr. Romney from denouncing the Clinton plan as “European-style socialized medicine.” And Fred Thompson claims that the Clinton plan denies choice — which it actually offers in abundance — and relies on “punishment” instead.

  • Reuters, courtesy of the New York Times: One-Third Of U.S. Lacked Health Insurance: Survey. Excerpts: More than one-third of the U.S. population under the age of 65 went without health insurance for all or part of the last two years, a consumer group said on Thursday. The nonprofit Families USA group used data from last month's U.S. Census Bureau report that found 47 million Americans went without health insurance for all of 2006. [...]

    "The huge number of people without health coverage over the past two years helps to explain why health care has become the top domestic issue in the 2008 presidential campaign," Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, said in a statement. "The expansion of health coverage in America is no longer simply a matter of altruism about other people but a matter of intense self-interest." [...]

    Texas had the most people without insurance -- 45.7 percent of the non-elderly population.

    The report found that more than 79 percent of those without insurance were in families in which at least one person had a job, 70.6 percent were themselves employed full-time, and 8.7 percent were employed part-time.

  • New York Times: Mayo Clinic Recommends Universal Health Insurance Plan. By Milt Freudenheim. Excerpts: The Mayo Clinic jumped into the national debate on improving health care yesterday, calling for every individual to have basic universal insurance as a step toward gradually replacing the current employer-based system.

    But Mayo, in a proposal hammered out over 18 months by a panel of more than 400 health policy experts, is not advocating a government-run single-payer system. Instead, it suggested that private insurance companies be required to offer standard plans with many options, like the Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan available to government workers. Applicants for this insurance could not be turned down, under the Mayo plan.

  • Health Affairs, courtesy of Physicians for a National Health Program: Health Benefits In 2007: Premium Increases Fall To An Eight-Year Low, While Offer Rates And Enrollment Remain Stable. By By Gary Claxton, Jon Gabel, Bianca DiJulio, Jeremy Pickreign, Heidi Whitmore, Benjamin Finder, Paul Jacobs and Samantha Hawkins. Excerpts: Premiums for (employer-sponsored) family coverage increased an average of 6.1 percent from spring 2006 to spring 2007. This was the lowest annual increase in premiums since 1999 (when premiums rose 5.3 percent) and the fourth consecutive year in which premium increases declined from the previous year’s increase. Nonetheless, the average premium increase is 3.5 percentage points more than the increase in overall inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index and 2.4 percentage points greater than the rise in workers’ earnings. Since 2001, premiums have increased 78 percent, while inflation rose 17 percent and workers’ wages, 19 percent. [...]

    Comment: By Don McCanne, MD. Many of the media reports celebrate the fact that premium increases for this year have declined to only 6.1 percent. Stop right there!

    This year’s premium will be used as the basis for next year’s increase. This year it is 3.5 percentage points more than the rate of inflation. That greater-than-inflation increase will never be recovered, and will be added to next year’s increase, and to the increase in every year thereafter. Not only this year’s increase, but the greater-than-inflation increases of each prior year and of each future year are also added. In the past six years alone, the greater-than-inflation increase has been 61 percent.

    Some would say that the increase in workers’ wages is a more appropriate comparison than the rate of inflation. For the past six years, the greater-than-wage percentage increase in premiums has been only 59 percent. Only?

  • New York Times: Clinton to Propose Universal Health Care. By Robert Pear. Excerpts: Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton on Monday will lay out a plan to secure health insurance for all Americans while severely limiting the ability of insurers to deny coverage or charge higher premiums to people with chronic illnesses and other medical problems, her aides and advisers say. [...]

    Clinton aides said her plan would preserve a large role for private insurance companies; would promote the use of health information technology and low-cost generic drugs; and would create a public-private institute to evaluate and compare drugs, devices and medical treatments.

    Mrs. Clinton will not try to impose an overall limit on national health spending, the aides said. But she is prepared once again to do battle with insurance companies, which she has said “spend tens of billions of dollars a year figuring out how not to cover people” and “how to cherry-pick the healthiest persons, and leave everyone else out in the cold.”

  • USA Today: Clinton unveils details of her health care plan. By Richard Wolf. Excerpts: Determined to avoid the fatal flaws of her 1993 plan, Hillary Rodham Clinton proposed an overhaul of the nation's health care system Monday that would require Americans to buy insurance but allow them to keep what they have.

    The front-runner in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination said that under her new plan, the federal government would spend $110 billion a year to help employers and individuals pay for insurance. About half of the money would come from repealing tax cuts and tax breaks for people with incomes above $250,000; the rest would be saved through efficiencies in the system, such as chronic disease management. [...]

    Health policy experts said Clinton's plan is more centrist than the one 14 years ago because it builds on the current employer-based system. "This is designed to be less threatening to insurers," said Paul Ginsburg of the Center for Studying Health System Change.

  • New York Times: Health Plan Overhauled at Wal-Mart. By Michael Barbaro. Excerpts: Wal-Mart, long criticized for its health care coverage, unveiled a broad plan yesterday that is intended to cut employee costs, expand coverage and offer workers thousands of cheap prescription drugs. Starting Jan. 1, Wal-Mart’s insurance will look a lot like that offered by many other American companies, but with some twists that even longtime critics described as innovative. Independent experts praised several features of the plan and said it could represent a turning point for the retailer, the nation’s largest private employer.

    Wal-Mart said it would give each employee or family that signs up for coverage a grant of $100 to $500 to defray health expenses while charging premiums as low as $5 a month. It will eliminate expensive hospital deductibles and make 2,400 generic drugs available to employees for $4 a prescription — about 2,000 more than it sells to customers at that price.

    The plans with the lowest premiums would still charge annual deductibles as high as $2,000 — typical for American corporate health plans, but perhaps steep for Wal-Mart employees, many of whom work part time and earn less than $20,000 a year. And the company’s plans have other limitations, including waiting periods as long as a year for new employees.

  • The Boston Globe, courtesy of Physicians for a National Health Program: Health reform failure. By Steffie Woolhandler and David U. Himmelstein. Excerpts: In 1966 - just before Medicare and Medicaid were launched - 47 million Americans were uninsured. By 1975, the United States had reached an all time low of 21 million without coverage. Now, according to the Census Bureau’s latest figures, we’re back where we started, with 47 million uninsured in 2006 - up 2.2 million since 2005. But this time, most of the uninsured are neither poor nor elderly.

    The middle class is being priced out of healthcare. Virtually all of this year’s increase was among families with incomes above $50,000; in fact, two-thirds of the newly uncovered were in the above-$75,000 group. And full-time workers accounted for 56 percent of the increase, with their children making up much of the rest. [...]

    Health reform built on private insurance isn’t working and can’t work; it costs too much and delivers too little. At present, bureaucracy consumes 31 percent of each healthcare dollar. The Connector - the new state agency created to broker coverage under the reform law - is adding another 4.5 percent to the already sky-high overhead charged by private insurers. Administrative costs at Blue Cross are nearly five times higher than Medicare’s and 11 times those in Canada’s single payer system. Single payer reform could save $7.7 billion annually on paperwork and insurance profits in Massachusetts, enough to cover all of the uninsured and to upgrade coverage for the rest of us.

    Of course, single payer reform is anathema to the health insurance industry. But breaking their stranglehold on our health system and our politicians is the only way for health reform to get beyond square one.

New on the Alliance@IBM Site:
  • The Future of Your Health? By Rick White, Co-Chair Health and Safety & Web Maintenance, CWA Local 1701. Excerpt: Now the information is starting to flow; at a pace similar to the flow meter reading on the equipment that ‘failed’ and resulted in the “release” of hundreds of thousands of gallons of chemicals into our community environment. Did it happen that way? Apparently, that may have been one way that it happened. The community and the employees of the IBM Endicott facility still don’t know ALL the details.
  • From the Job Cuts Status & Comments page
    • Comment 09/15/07: I 'hated' my job when I was an IBM'er. You know the story, remote employee with half the team H1B visas (in other words team meetings were comparable to ordering late night Taco Bell, no offense of course but the language ppl). To cut a long story short, heard lean was coming, basically devoted 80% of my time (while claiming the 50 mandatory hours a week) to finding a new job because IBM sold out. Plain and simple, IBM puts hard working Americans out of work, regardless if it's 1 or 100,000, they are NOT an American company unless it's to reap the benefits financially.

      Prepare, use the company as they've used you, and look forward to your new career without your schiesty manager(s). I'm loving life, rewarded for what I do, paid well, training is actually pushed on us (who would have thought, grow your own employee's, it's like IBM in the 90's, amazing).

      Final thought ... IBM hurts it's American employee's in most cases than it helps, period, didn't used to be that way, used to be once you got onto IBM you were basically set. Now once you get into IBM you can basically plan on getting it up the rear at some point.

    • Comment 09/15/07: Labate - Seems to be common practice to be let go on your birthday -I was RA'd 3/19/07 - a Monday - only because my birthday fell on Sunday this year. Nice touch IBM - Sums it right up doesn't it - I don't miss the BS - but I'm also 50 years old - 26 years with IBM - I still haven't landed a job - The job hunt as you know is to say the least very exhausting - wish you and your family the best -Anonymous-
    • Comment 09/18/07: Sorry anonymous,, I too was RA'ed. 51 years old 26 years with the company, 2+ performer. This is a pattern not a coincidence. Good luck. -Anonymous-
    • Comment 09/19/07: There appears to be certain individuals being tapped behind closed doors and offered an early retirement package. Why not make it fairly available across the board to all. -sonOFsam-
    • Comment 09/20/07: True, I have heard it. That's why the ESC was forcing those who had submitted retirement papers to a specific date that couldn't be changed. Band D's and above seem to get the early retirement incentive automatically. They are building a case for discrimination, but the current administration won't let a case go through. -Mad at not being tapped-
  • General Visitor's Comment page:
    • Comment 09/17/07: In solidarity for those IBMers who have been the victim of the unfair IBM LEAN practices that have hit Southbury CT (as well as Fishkill, Poughkeepsie (NY), Essex Junction (VT), and other areas), please boycott the 9/19/2007 IBM "Spirit" Day event in Southbury. -sby_willie-
    • Comment 09/19/07: I worked in East Fishkill for nine years and was fired. It felt great! Doing much better now. It was like getting dumped by an ex who didn't treat me all that well and I realized I would be better off with out them anyway. IBM is sneaky and cant be trusted. Just take full advantage of everything when your there cause no one is safe and a hard working loyal employee means nothing to IBM. Hey Ron what's up! Say hi to Kenny and AL and the hot chicks! -Steve G.-
    • Comment 09/20/07: How did the Boycott of Spirit Day up in Southbury go ? Just curious. I'd like to see boycotts of Spirit Day activities in Lexington KY (and RTP and Boulder). Spirit Day is a hard slap in the face. -Anonymous-
    • Comment 09/21/07: It's starting now. I mean the financial collapse of the United States. This article just about sums it up: America’s Hegemonic Status Slipping Away . IBM is just a tiny part of all this. After the elimination of the socialist threat, America's upper class launched an all out attack on the middle class. They are after the wealth that we accumulated for the past half a century. This must be the greatest heist in history: robbing the richest nation on Earth while keeping us distracted by war, terrorism and religion. We are entering an era of anarchy. Corporations are out of control and they want everything you own. If we don’t stop this madness soon, our children will be slaves and live in Third World poverty.

      The 20th century proved that communism doesn’t work. The 21st will prove the same about globalism. In fact, globalism must be the most idiotic economic model that mankind ever flirted with. It borders on lunacy. No person in his/her right mind can believe that keeping the consumers here and moving the jobs abroad can work. This idea can only come from people who bend over backwards kissing the boots of their corporate overlords and making up any policy to please them and earn their miserable kickbacks. It’s troubling that most people still think left and right. There is no left and right anymore. Today it’s globalism against nationalism or economic lunacy against common sense. Which side are you on and how soon do you think you can start doing something to protect your country and your kids’ future? That is the question. Sorry for being philosophical. Reading about yet another round of layoffs begs the question where it all ends. Well, it won’t, unless we stop it. -Just me-

  • Pension Comments page
  • Raise and Salary Comments
    • Comment 09/17/07: Here is the monthly salary survey update:
      • Band 2: 4 respondents, avg: $36K, standard deviation: $9K, range: (min/max reported): $24K to $42K
      • Band 3: 1 respondent, $25K
      • Band 4: 11 respondents, avg: $46K, standard deviation: $11K, range: $32K to $60K
      • Band 5: 3 respondents, avg: $58K, standard deviation: $16K, range: $48K to $77K
      • Band 6: 30 respondents, avg: $61K, std dev: $9K, range: $41.9K to $79K
      • Band 7: 63 respondents, avg: $71K, std dev: $13K, range: $49K to $110K
      • Band 8: 64 respondents, avg: $98K, std dev: $16K, range: $55K to $130K
      • Band 9: 30 respondents, avg: $118K, std dev: $17K, range: $89K to $152K
      • Band 10: 11 respondents, avg: $148K, std dev: $25K, range: $107K to $190K

      It has been reported that the "official" range for:

      • Band 6 is 39.5K to 80.3K
      • Band 7 is 53.4K to 108.5K
      • Band 8 (Software Engineer, 01A) is 60K to 144K

      Bands 1-5 are non-exempt (overtime-eligible) while bands 6-10 are exempt. -Anonymous-

  • PBC Comments
  • International Comments
Vault Message Board Posts:

Vault's IBM Business Consulting Services message board is a popular hangout for IBM BCS employees, including many employees acquired from PwC.

  • "through the looking glass" by "SouthRoute55". Full excerpt: Funny, but interestingly realistic post, I left IBM and doing contracting now. Would you believe it my first contract is working for a client along side the IBMers…same group I was in before leaving IBM….its amazing looking at consultants from the other side, 5 big consultants all sitting analysing simple things to death, brain storming the hell out of unimportant things, recycling the same old documents and slides with fancier logos and diagrams, the consultants desperation is just so pathetic, the sad sad sad longing to be recognised for what they are doing (or think you are ). Its sooo soooo sooo saaaaaad and I think suicide is the best solution.
  • "It's the PBC thing I think" by "civilliberty". Full excerpt: They're desperate and spending much time over trivial things because they need to justify themselves on their PBC. I saw a lot of this at IBM where consultants create work so they could justify a high PBC rating.
  • "Industry outlook?" by "nobodyinparticular". Full excerpt: Hi everyone, I'm finishing up my undergrad degree this year (MIS/Marketing) from a top school and looking to get into the technology/consulting arena. I've been reading the boards from here, Booz Allen, and Accenture trying to get a feel for the overall industry outlook. I currently have a (pretty decent) offer from ACN, but there really isn't any substantive thought on those boards. (At all.)

    So what would you all tell a new grad who loves tech and wants to do consulting? Is this a dead-end industry, with US operations eventually becoming empty shells? Should I look more towards traditional strategy/management consulting? Or should I focus more on niche IT consulting firms? Thanks in advance for any insight/advice/opinions you can offer.

  • "Good question" by "Dose of reality". Full excerpt: Here's my take: The way NOT to start a career in IT consulting is with one of the mega firms. You will do grunt work for a long time, be on a slow career track, and will find it difficult to distinguish yourself before you get burned out.

    Going to a niche firm will accelerate your learning curve, but don’t expect to get a decent salary grade until year 4-5, unless you have a distinctive, marketable knowledge base already.

    If you want to consult, you need to be an expert in a technology, have development experience, and project management skills. You can get those in industry, if you find the right company to work for, and the work-life balance will be much better. We have killed the entry – executive pipeline with all the offshoring that we do. We don’t hire best and brightest, because the entry level salary levels are weighted down by the offshore salary rates.

    The best course of action is to get skilled up somewhere else, and then get a big bump moving into IT consulting when you have something to sell. That way you are not spending your formative years underpaid, under trained, and overworked for nothing. Even then, do NOT come to IBM - we have destroyed the resource model from entry level on up.

  • "My experience" by "civilliberty". Full excerpt: I have industry and consulting experience. I certainly got well trained in industry, where generally high standards for project management and solution design are required (much more so it seems in the finance industry than manufacturing, where the production engineers tend to rule. They taught me how to think and work in a structured environment, what was good design and structure and why it was good. This set a foundation for the rest of my industry experience regardless of the technology I worked with.

    Unfortunately IBM and others are spooling the industry and devaluing the traditional technical work by moving it off-shore. The reduced salary rates and quality are trivialising this area in the mind of employers, and it seems to be a downward spiral. Those consultancies poised to do well IMHO are those that can offer a good technical solution with good business consulting/client facing skills - they can easily sell the cost benefit of an all-in-one solution to a client if they have the right motivation/rewards for doing so. This requires though building and maintaining the rapport with the client through superior service. The moment a client thinks all you are offering is a technical skill is the moment he looks for the off-shore/on-shore cheaper technical solution.

    There a smaller/medium size consultancies (in OZ anyway) which continue to offer value across the full-spectrum because they've developed and hired well rounded consultants who can engage the client effectively whilst delivering a technical solution - something IBM is either reluctant to do, or lacks to imagination to do. I suspect it';s just easier for them to off-shore rather than innovate, whilst being lucrative for the lazier senior executives.

Modern-Day Robber Baron Corner:

noneToday's highly compensated executives face many difficulties, including figuring out how they can possibly spend all of the rich rewards they've earned on the backs of ordinary workers. Take a look at the insider trading of many of our IBM executives—spending the cash from all that stock "acquired at $0 per share" must be a real challenge! Or, imagine the difficulty IBM CEO Sam Palmisano will face spending his $10,000 to $20,000 a day pension when he retires!

As a way of helping out our beleaguered, modern-day robber barons this site will periodically feature "spending opportunities" that the "upper crust" of our society may want to take advantage of!

  • Register Hardware (UK): Lenovo unwraps Reserve Edition ThinkPad. By James Sherwood. Excerpts: It's been 15 years since IBM first unveiled the ThinkPad laptop and about two years since Lenovo acquired it as part of a $1.25bn spending spree. So, in an attempt to capitalise on its purchase, Lenovo has unveiled a leather-bound, 5000-unit limited edition ThinkPad.

    Dubbed the ThinkPad Reserve Edition, the machine is clad in hand-stitched, ahem, saddle-grade premium French leather, no less. Each machine is individually numbered and comes with all-hours executive-class service and support.

    This, Lenovo claimed, means users receive access to specially trained, dedicated support staff. So if you spill your Martini on it, they might just tell you how to best clean the leather without spoiling it. However, Lenovo didn't mention how documents will be retrieved if you accidentally wipe your hard drive or how to restore the display if you accidentally drop gold bullion on it.

If you hire good people and treat them well, they will try to do a good job. They will stimulate one another by their vigor and example. They will set a fast pace for themselves. Then if they are well led and occasionally inspired, if they understand what the company is trying to do and know they will share in its sucess, they will contribute in a major way. The customer will get the superior service he is looking for. The result is profit to customers, employees, and to stcckholders. —Thomas J. Watson, Jr., from A Business and Its Beliefs: The Ideas That Helped Build IBM.

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