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Highlights—September 21, 2013

  • Triangle Business Journal (RTP, NC): IBM retirees, here are five myths you must understand. Sincerely, a health exchange CEO. By Lauren K. Ohnesorge. Excerpts: Bryce Williams, Extend Health CEO and managing director for Towers Watson Exchange Solutions, has some beef with the media over what he calls “five myths” in their coverage of IBM switching its Medicare-eligible retirees to a private health exchange. ...

    His five myths:

    • “No. 1 is that this is somehow connected to ObamaCare and the Affordable Care Act, and the answer is no.” ...
    • “No. 2: People have said, ‘Oh, this is shifting a burden from employers to tax payers. That’s dead wrong.” ...
    • Myth No. 3: “That somehow retirees are worse off in this program,” he says, pointing to a report by IBM showing that its prior retiree program was going to triple in costs between now and 2020. “So our program is not going to be anywhere near that.” ...
    • Myth No. 4: “That somehow this is a way of companies getting out of having to provide health care coverage to retirees,” he says. ...
    • And the last myth according to Williams? “That somehow retirees are dissatisfied with this program, and that’s dead wrong.”
  • Albany Times-Union: Officials fear IBM job losses over fab plans. Plan to build chip factories near Utica has Duchess County officials worried. By Larry Rulison. Excerpts: The state's plan to build up to three "mega" computer chip factories at the SUNY Institute of Technology outside Utica is raising questions about the future of IBM's operations in downstate Dutchess County.

    "It's a little disappointing," Ron Hicks, the Dutchess County deputy commissioner for strategic planning, told the Poughkeepsie Journal last week.

    IBM likely saved the semiconductor industry in New York state — and set the stage for the success of the SUNY College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering in Albany — when it built a $2.5 billion state-of-the-art computer chip factory at its industrial campus in East Fishkill in 2002.

    But the future of the IBM fab has repeatedly been called into question in recent years — including that it could be sold — punctuated by the recent layoffs of more than 600 IBM employees in East Fishkill and neighboring Poughkeepsie. ...

    Now, officials in the Poughkeepsie area — once an IBM stronghold in the state — are watching as the Mohawk Valley could potentially see $45 billion in investment and 30,000 jobs if three fabs were built in a plan led by the NanoCollege that also includes IBM and other chip companies.

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Officials fear IBM job losses over fab plans" by "finitewisdom". Excerpt: IMO, sharing facilities via consortia suggests IBM is working toward reducing full ownership of all of its fabs, and perhaps will allow the company to more gracefully exit the business if they so choose.

  • CNBC: Betting on a boom in private health exchanges. By Dan Mangan. Excerpts: Investors are eyeing an opportunity as companies find new ways to provide health insurance to their workers and retirees, but picking the next stocks to pop in that trend is easier said than done.

    The potential of the trend toward private health exchanges was underscored this week by an IPO that saw its shares go through the roof, and disclosures that yet another large company was moving workers to such an exchange. ...

    Two weeks ago, news broke that IBM was shifting 110,000 retirees into a Medicare private exchange run by Towers Watson's ExtendHealth division, which already has about 300 companies as clients. Towers Watson's exchange primarily handles retirees but expects to soon sign up several big companies for active workers. Days later, Time Warner revealed it also would direct retirees to an exchange to get health coverage. ...

    Private health exchanges offer multiple competing insurance plans, at different levels of premium and out-of-pocket costs, to workers, who usually are given cash by their employer to offset the purchase price. The online exchanges give employees increased options to meet their individual insurance needs and shift some of the cost and administrative burden from employers to workers.

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension, Retirement Issues & Extend Health message board: "retiree" by "w2uha". Full excerpt: Can some one explain what the term "2nd choicer" means? I see it on posts but don't understand its meaning. Maybe i have been retired too long ago, 1985. Thank you.
  • Yahoo! IBM Pension, Retirement Issues & Extend Health message board: "Re: retiree" by "madinpok. Full excerpt: In the spring of 1999, IBM announced changes to the pension plan, effective July 1, 1999, that would create a Cash Balance plan, which is a hybrid defined benefit pension plan.

    At the time they did this, they initially said that those who were within 5 years of being eligible for retirement would have a choice and could keep the "old" pension plan or switch to the C-B plan. Everyone else would be converted over to the Cash Balance plan whether they liked it or not.

    IBM tried to convince the employees that the C-B plan was a good thing, but the reality was that those in the C-B plan would see a significant reduction in their pension benefits. Employees who were mid-career (e.g. 15 to 25 years of service) took the biggest hit and would lose as much as half of their pension. Many employees figured this out and an uproar resulted. Part of the result was the establishment of this Yahoo group.

    People complained loudly to IBM executives and wrote their representatives in Congress. In September 1999, days before a Senate hearing where IBM was summoned to testify, IBM backed off a bit and said that anyone who had 10 years of service and was at least 40 years old on July 1, 1999 would also have a choice of which pension plan they wanted.

    The original group of employees who were given a choice of plans became known as First Choicers. The second group that was added are the Second Choicers. And those who had no choice are the No Choicers.

    First Choicers were allowed to keep the old retirement medical plan. Everyone else, including the Second Choicers, were forced into the Future Health Account medical plan.

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension, Retirement Issues & Extend Health message board: "Re: retiree---Second Choicers and First Choicers and No Choicers" by "fhawontcutit". Full excerpt: And what some of us have tried to tell people over the years is that IBM can drop or change the retiree medical plan(s).

    Guess what? IBM just changed the old retiree medical plan. IBM can change it again.

    We tried to warn people that they weren't necessarily "safe" just because they retired.

    Fair warning to the Medicare-eligible retirees: Even if your HRA subsidy, when you get it, is something you would consider reasonable or not too bad, remember...IBM is on the roadkill 2015 path and IBM hasn't been able to raise revenue. Whatever your HRA is for 2014, it can change for 2015. IBM will try to meet the EPS target. IMO.

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension, Retirement Issues & Extend Health message board: "Kaiser info" by "larryrgeorge". Full excerpt: I got a letter this past week from IBM's Medical Director, Dr. Rhee, informing those of us that are currently with a Kaiser Permanente HMO, that we will be able to remain with them, even though they are not one of the companies that Extend Health represents. The letter also stated that if we chose to stay with Kaiser, that we would also have an (HSA) set up for us that IBM would contribute to.

    This was major news for me, since it is almost impossible to find a doctor locally that will take new Medicare patients. So regardless of how good the insurance offering being suggested by Extend Health, if you can't find a doctor, the plan is worthless. I found this out a couple of years ago when IBM offered a plan through Aetna. It would have saved me over $200 a month, but no doctors would take new Medicare patients. So knowing this and knowing Kaiser that was not one of Extend Health's offering, we were going to be left out in the cold. I'm still going to look at the Extend Health offerings, but at least those of us with Kaiser have a fall back position.

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension, Retirement Issues & Extend Health message board: "RE: My observations after attending ExendHealth presentation" by "hankharty". Full excerpt: "If IBM had the retirees best interests at heart, they should have contracted to have EH minimally provide the same plans that IBM offered its retirees." That's funny! Do you really think that is what Ginni is worried about? Executives want to pay the minimal amount possible for retiree benefits without getting too much negative publicity or too many lawsuits. It's not personal, just business. Nobody gets to be an executive by having a heart.
  • Yahoo! IBM Pension, Retirement Issues & Extend Health message board: "Medicare Publications - I found these 2 useful" by "redrock_5432". Full excerpt: I found these to be good references. This first one, you will get in the mail (or an email if you agreed to online delivery), is the standard "Medicare and You" (this is the new one for 2014.) Page 16 is good if you are new to Medicare.

    This one I found when I was trying to figure out various scenarios like heart surgery and which Medicare. 'part' pays what. It is called: Are You a Hospital Inpatient or Outpatient? I found page 3 to be informative.

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension, Retirement Issues & Extend Health message board: "EH appointments" by "netmouser". Full excerpt: Comments about what EH told me today: The person noticed I had no appointment. I told her I made my appointment weeks ago and the date. She put me on hold for a long time to check on this with others. She then said it was in notes on my record but not on some calendar. We made me a new appointment. If my appointment got "lost" or not entered correctly, maybe others did, too. In most calls before now, the EH person began by saying they could see I had an appointment already set-up. Don't really know why today was different.

    You can enroll at any time in the enrollment period, and change you mind about plan selection before the end of the enrollment period. Someone thought a selection made during the first weeks of October could not be changed.

    I'd double check with your adviser at your appointment.

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension, Retirement Issues & Extend Health message board: "Re: EH appointments" by "redrock_5432". Full excerpt: Netmouser, I see my appointment on the EH site after I login and go to my 'account'. Do you think I still need to call to confirm?

    Also, I have heard from an IBM rep that the enrollment guides for IBM plans for non-Medicare dependents of Medicare. retirees will not be available until early November. I expect I will be enrolling after I see that data. I want to understand any options of using HRA funds for reimbursing spouses health plan OR is the HRA going to be split between us, like some of the other companies do. I'll Just have to wait.

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension, Retirement Issues & Extend Health message board: "Is a Medicare. supplement plan a good value for catastrophic coverage?" by "redrock_5432". Full excerpt: While I am currently healthy, I expect the day will come when I am not. I am trying to decide next years choices as an IBM Medicare. retiree.

    One of my considerations is limiting the total out of pocket cost for the future large/expensive health event.

    I think I may have found some data that will help. This report, "Medicare. Payments for Common Inpatient Procedures: Implications for Episode-Based Payment Bundling" provides some data on total Medicare. payments for some 'big' events from admission to 30 days post discharge. I am only interested in Medicare. payments as this is what Medicare. Supplement plans cover.

    So this is my derived 'case' from the report: A CABG is $45K Medicare. payments, 60 to 80% go to hospitals. What would this cost without or with a supplement?

    Since this event is not likely to exceed 60 days in Hospital, the member payment for part A is about $1.1K

    For the other charges, 20 to 40% to $45K, yielding a max of $18k is Part B. So the Part B deductible and 20% would be $3.6K.

    So now the question is what premium is worth capping $(1.1k+3.6K)=$4.7K? And, how often do these or similar events occur? This is an acute condition. This analysis does not apply to chronic conditions.

    If one selects Plan F HD then the cap is $2.1K, saving $2.6K. If the premiums are $600 per year, then after 5 years without a 'big' event the premiums have cost more than paying the savings of $2.6K. At age 85 (I'm hoping) the premiums almost double, reducing the years to break to less than 3. One could do the same analysis for Plan F or others.

    One side note is that after studying the 'submitted charges' versus Medicare. payments (including member payments), the really big savings in the Medicare. world are the rates set by Medicare. and the Part A coverage. This data was recently made available in spreadsheet form by Medicare.

    I am beginning to appreciate how the insurance companies can make money on a $600/year plan F HD policy at age 65 (Texas)

    Additional note. For MA plans with zero premium, I think max in-network out of pocket is $6.7K. If one can live with the MA network, MA rules and other restrictions, this may be a good deal, especially with minimal drug coverage at no additional cost.

    Lots of moving parts in the new Medicare./EH world.

    I am not done with this analysis and comments are welcome.

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension, Retirement Issues & Extend Health message board: "Re: Is a Medicare. supplement plan a good value for catastrophic coverage?" by Sheila Beaudry. Full excerpt: Just to give you a clue of what the hospital charges are like if you don't have health insurance, a heart attack with emergency room charges, a heart catheter procedure, and a triple bypass with total of 5 days in the hospital, the hospital charges are $217,000 in South Carolina. Don't skimp on insurance.
  • Yahoo! IBM Pension, Retirement Issues & Extend Health message board: "Re: Is a Medicare. supplement plan a good value for catastrophic coverage?" by "netmouser". Full excerpt: This is such a personal choice. I think Medigap Plan F is the most popular plan because it is simple, requires little thinking, and covers everything 100% that Medicare. covers, even if the premium - the only thing you pay - does increase as you grow older.

    Then, I have friends where both of the couple bought a Medicare. Advantage plan.

    When you come down to it, Medicare. is so much cheaper than plans non-Medicare people buy. Consider that Medicare. is free for 80% coverage (because you paid taxes during your career to get that), then you get to buy a supplemental plan pretty cheaply to help with the other 20% if you want to with lots of choices on how much cost sharing you want.

    Those on the new ACA plans in 2014 will pay a high premium for the same 80% we get free (with the upper level "gold" plan, and the standard "silver" plan has only 70% coverage). They cannot buy any "supplemental" plan for the other 20% or whatever so they pay that out of pocket as well as the premium. There may be a subsidy if they have low income, but maybe not.

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension, Retirement Issues & Extend Health message board: "Factoid: Tower - Watson (ExtendHealth) and IBM" by "retired_engineer". Excerpts: Diane Gherson is senior vice president, Human Resources. In this position she is responsible for IBM's global human resource practices, policies and operations, and reports to Ginni Rometty, chairman, president and chief executive officer. ...

    Diane joined IBM in 2002 from consulting firm Towers Watson, where she was principal and global practice leader for the worldwide employee rewards and performance management practice. Diane was with Towers Watson for 11 years, holding positions of increasing responsibility.

  • Yahoo! IBM Retiree Information Exchange: "RE: "Don't panic if you got IBM's retiree health exchange memo" by Bob Sutton. Full excerpt: https://skydrive.live.com/redir?resid=CC3FA2A41E84642A!555 posted to MS skydrive for free so thank them not IBM/EH. You might wonder with all this IBM cloud resources why they did not post this and put the link on Netbenefits or EH/IBM as just two places. Oh I got it; some bean counter figured it would cost $.0038457566636363 per month for the storage and access bandwidth and Ginney/Rhee nixed it so it did not come off their bonus.

    Editor's note: Thanks, Bob, for posting these. For the convenience of our readers, the PDF versions of these documents are also hosted on this site. See the links below:

  • Yahoo! IBM Retiree Information Exchange: "Non-Medicare Eligible Dependents" by "exitasap". Full excerpt: The big problem with Extend Health is that it covers only the Medicare. Eligible. i.e. if your wife is not Medicare. Eligible, along with your child dependents, the wife and children stay with an IBM-employee like medical plan.

    Of course, the entire subsidy goes to the retiree's Extend Health plan, and $0 stays for the family. Realizing the employee medical plan is subsidized heavily by IBM, just imagine what the cost for say "employee/spouse" plus "1" would cost in premiums, given $0 subsidy! This could be easily be $1K/mo, for the basic United Healthcare (or other) PPO.

    For 2013, the IBM Retiree Supplement (w/o prescriptions) for employee plus 2 or more dependents costs $40/mo, or $480/year.

    I once calculated that the basic Prescription plan would return at most $9200/year if a family of four each maximized their prescription expenses, while paying $10,000 in premiums.

    A good question is whether the employee-like IBM health plan will also be offered w/o prescription drug coverage. Understandably, the prescription coverage is expensive these days, with doctors prescribing all sorts of drugs or worse, brand-name drugs at $6-7/pill. Those who don't need drug coverage, or simply wish to pay on their own, would benefit by a low-premium supplemental coverage.

    But, it seems IBM will not release information until it shows up in the mail.

  • Alliance@IBM Job Cut Reports comments:
    • Comment 09/05/13: The IBM help desk is reporting a major issue that has increased call volume above capacity. How is that furlough working out? -Anonymous-
    • Comment 09/05/13: IBM Burlington posting jobs for engineers with graduation dates 2010 or later. Nice. I'm sure they let a seasoned vet go only to replace with a lower salary. -fool_me_once-
    • Comment 09/06/13: Posting jobs for engineers with graduation dates 2010 or later. Truth or consequences; fact or fiction? Answer me this: Does IBM (RE)TRAIN anyone anymore they employ? IBM Employee Education and Management Education (at the MDC) continuing career education used to be a cornerstone of the philosophy of IBM. Now it is RA the experience and hire the neophyte. IBM's motto used to be THINK. Now it is REACT or $AVE? -Pravda?-
    • Comment 09/06/13: I was RA'd 7/12, but am in the process of getting an offer (from a slightly different division); does anyone have experience with bridging one's service upon returning to IBM -Recent-
    • Comment 09/06/13: "I was RA'd 7/12, but am in the process of getting an offer (from a slightly different division); does anyone have experience with bridging one's service upon returning to IBM -Recent-" Until you have signed the paperwork and management has given you the separation check, your employment is intact. I was RAed twice, and both times managed to obtain a new job in different divisions. My service was continuous and was not effected as far as time, or benefits. Good luck. -Ich Bin Muede-
    • Comment 09/06/13: Dear -Recent-: Please explain why you think re-entering the lions' den will save you from being a meal for the next hit? Another division; how did you remove yourself from the blacklist? Is it really worth the medical issues that will come from another stab in the back? -WhyThere-
    • Comment 09/06/13: Since my loyalty to IBM is gone, so is my work ethic. I do not turn my computer on until 8:30 am which means I cannot participate in Think Fridays which start at 8 am. Ginni, you need to schedule Think Fridays to accommodate those of us who will not work any extra hours for IBM since the resultant rewards only go to a select few. -Anonymous-
    • Comment 09/06/13: The first "Think Friday" presentation is this morning, the subject is Cloud computing. Guess what, the web site for the presentation is not responding! -Anon-
    • Comment 09/06/13: Re: Web site non response during Ginni's 'Cloud Computing' "Think Friday" this AM. Jeff Bezos should be LHAO (laughing his ass off) holding it up to the CIA during the contract battle. "See, IBM can't even deliver services to its own employees!" -Anonymous-
    • Comment 09/07/13: RA'd in June in Poughkeepsie, NY. My last day is this Tuesday. Good luck to everyone left behind. How ironic that the contractor I hired back in November of this year to 'help me' with all the work gets to stay, but I am the one to go. Now the contractor is complaining that there is too much for her to do alone and she is going to talk to the manager about it. LOL. She better be careful or they will get an off-shore resource to 'help her' with the work and she will be gone. -dun-4-
    • Comment 09/07/13: I recently left IBM voluntarily after being there for 25+ years. I didn't get a package (surprising to many); I just wanted to move on to an environment that wasn't so toxic. While at IBM, I saw my benefits eroded to nearly nothing, averaged less than 1% pay increases for the last 10 years, and basically felt that my job existed at the will of some lottery in the sky. So I started at the beginning of this year getting ready and looking for something that I would love doing. It was scary leaving, but I figured I had nothing to lose. Sure, a package would have been nice, but it took me 6 months to find a job, so I didn't see it as a real loss. I and now with a company that values its employees, and provides benefits like IBM did 20 years ago...and oh yeah, more pay to boot. Stop waiting for your number to come up in an RA and move on to a company that values you! -RecentlyDeparted-
  • Glassdoor IBM reviews. Selected reviews follow:
    • Get all the facts in writing first before drinking the Kool-Aid” US Team Leader for CTS (Former Employee), Sandy, UT. I worked at IBM full-time for more than 10 years. Pros: It was a steady job until they lost the contract at American Express. Got to know a lot of people all over the globe. Had a really good online university that was free. Cons: The HR Manager was in another state and covered many states, so she really didn't understand what our team did on a daily basis. We all went for seven years without a raise because the management claimed we weren't making enough money on the contract. After we all left, we found out that every year we were making substantial money on the contract. Advice to Senior Management: Stop treating your employees like sub-humans. No, I would not recommend this company to a friend.
    • Brand Software Specialist” Brand Software Sales (Current Employee), Dallas, TX. I have been working at IBM full-time for more than a year. Pros: Decent benefits, general training, mostly because it's a good stepping stone to a real job having IBM on your resume. Cons: NOT A SALES COMPANY. Sales managers only care about pipeline numbers; everyone is busy but nobody is around, and there is absolutely no accountability. They pay commissions and assign accounts when they feel like it, and then ask you to have results within days. Ridiculous. Do what we say, not what we do. Advice to Senior Management: Get involved with what the field is doing. These drive-by visits once a quarter to clients and endless spreadsheet management of sales is not really sales management and account planning. Long sales cycles and change accounts every 6 months is self defeating. Not paying commissions is asking for a class action suit. Steal from its own employees. No, I would not recommend this company to a friend. I'm not optimistic about the outlook for this company.
    • Excellent Training Ground, Limited future prospects for Millenials” Inside Sales (Current Employee), Atlanta, GA. I have been working at IBM full-time for more than 5 years. Pros: Excellent training resources. Hard working culture. Strong commitment to ethical and professional behavior. Cons: Time consuming and complicated reporting processes. Low pay/raises compared to other IT companies. Death by a thousand metrics. Advice to Senior Management: There should be more emphasis on the intangible value of producing quality work vs meeting irrelevant metrics. Yes, I would recommend this company to a friend. I'm not optimistic about the outlook for this company.
    • IBM is a company with many unique opportunities for those to take the initiative to find them.” Program Manager (Current Employee), Rochester, MN. I have been working at IBM full-time for more than a year. Pros: -International assignments for college hires; -Cross-continent collaboration on a daily basis; -Leadership opportunities for college hires; -Flexible working hours and locations. Cons: -IBM politics often times gets in the way of progress and innovation; -Recent changes in benefits (401K, Thanks Award, etc.); -Expect late night and early morning meetings if working with international counterparts. Advice to Senior Management: -Stop cutting benefits and allocate some real budgets for recruiting and retention—we as a company are losing talent due the recent actions called by the upper management. Yes, I would recommend this company to a friend. I'm optimistic about the outlook for this company.
    • Indifferent about closed chapter” Senior Software Engineer (Current Employee), Lexington, MA. I have been working at IBM full-time for more than 5 years. Pros: Telecommute. Work/life balance. Auto-based salary adjustment after being severely-underpayed for assigned position vs. hired position. Cons: Degrading office morale. Often overworked at expense of other slack geos. Advice to Senior Management: Happy workers = increased productivity. Yes, I would recommend this company to a friend.
    • IBM Global Services only wants warm bodies to take positions so they can bill customers” IT Specialist (Current Employee), Armonk, NY. I have been working at IBM full-time for more than 10 years. Pros: Can work from home on some assignments. Direct managers will work with you to get another position on the same contract. Cons: If you are technical there is no chance for advancement; only way to advance is if you are in management. In constant fear of losing you job, due to customer cutbacks or IBM cutbacks. Advice to Senior Management: Work with employees to develop in-demand skills instead of searching outside the company for hot skills. No, I would not recommend this company to a friend.
    • Mid-Level Manager” Senior Manager (Current Employee), Raleigh, NC. I have been working at IBM full-time for more than 10 years. Pros: Smart people; hard working, and client-driven. Cons: Poor work-life balance; expectations of long hours for little reward. Advice to Senior Management: Focus on the client; focus on quality and innovation; stop starving the company to make the 2015 roadmap. Stop letting the finance guys run the business and take care of your employees. Yes, I would recommend this company to a friend.
    • IBM going down in a blaze of glory” SSR (Former Employee), Orlando, FL. I worked at IBM full-time for more than 10 years. Pros: Not a whole lot. IBM used to be a industry leader and everybody wanted to work for them. IBM consists of a lot of new hires, which can be good, but most of the senior folks were let go. Cons: Been 10 years since I had a raise and I've gotten 2+ and 3's. People getting let go left and right. Quality of service being delivered to IBM customers is getting worse and IBM employees treated as a burden and inconvenience. Advice to Senior Management: Look for a new job. No, I would not recommend this company to a friend. I'm not optimistic about the outlook for this company.
    • Great company that provides flexibility and employee development” Marketing Manager (Current Employee), San Diego, CA. I have been working at IBM full-time for more than 10 years. Pros: Work from home is available to every employee. The company treats employees as assets and most managers are very good at listening and guiding teams. Cons: Internal systems sometimes become a hindrance to productivity. Reorganization takes place every year, making some positions very vulnerable. Advice to Senior Management: Take a longer term view with business decisions. Yes, I would recommend this company to a friend.
    • Not at all what it once was” Anonymous Employee (Current Employee). Pros: Decent work-life balance. The lower-level managers can be accommodating for flexing work schedules. Cons: Review system does not work. The company has switched gears for the sake of the stock prices and lost its core values. No, I would not recommend this company to a friend. I'm not optimistic about the outlook for this company.
    • Not at all satisfied with environment; very political” Anonymous Employee (Former Employee). Pros: Great brand name, a lot of patenting work. May be a good place to start your career. Cons: You need to be political and know how to please the boss. You cannot survive if you cannot sell even if your role is not selling. Advice to Senior Management: Try to respect people especially people who have joined on contract
    • Great if you're single and want to travel” Anonymous Employee (Current Employee). Pros: Opportunities galore. Plenty of places to travel, build your resume and do a lot of different things. Cons: Tough place to be promoted within. Easy to get lost. Top performers are rewarded by not being fired. Most US jobs going offshore as IBM is a global company and not a US company. No, I would not recommend this company to a friend.
    • More emphasis on cutting costs than on producing great products and technology” Software Engineer Manager (Former Employee), Portland, OR. I worked at IBM full-time for more than 10 years. Pros: Lots of great people; many teams are highly committed to customer success. Cons: Constant cutting of benefits; corporate strategy to cut US jobs to fund expansion in China and India. Advice to Senior Management: IBM was a better place to work 10 years ago than today. Few top SW engineers would want to work at IBM. Is this going in the direction you want?
    • Decent resume-builder, but not worth much more than that.” Anonymous Employee (Current Employee). I have been working at IBM full-time for more than 10 years. Pros: Well-known, global brand that is favored by Warren Buffet. Cons: It's all about the quarter. Cost control is the name of the game and morale is abysmal. Very easy to get sucked in and think that the opportunity to work from home is worth working 16 hour days; no advancement and no salary increase. Advice to Senior Management: Get beyond EPS...it may be working for the short-term, but only at the expense of the longer term. By the time you figure it out, you will have alienated all of your employees you should be valuing now. No, I would not recommend this company to a friend. I'm optimistic about the outlook for this company.
    • Poor Leadership @ IBM GBS” Anonymous Employee (Current Employee). I have been working at IBM full-time. Pros: Talented pool of resources. Excellent potential. Cons: Poor leadership skills especially at Associate Partner level. Promotion is NOT MERIT based. Advice to Senior Management: Carefully evaluate Associate Partners at the time of recruitment or promotion. Don't make anybody am AP. Promote deserving folks from band 6-8 to higher levels. No, I would not recommend this company to a friend. I'm not optimistic about the outlook for this company.
    • Not your father's IBM” SSR (Current Employee), Houston, TX. I have been working at IBM full-time for more than 10 years. Pros: You get pretty decent benefits. First line management seems to care about their group. Peers are willing to help you out. Cons: Low pay. Callouts every weekend. Upper management does not seem to care. Every day there seems to be a new direction. Advice to Senior Management: Retire. No, I would not recommend this company to a friend. I'm not optimistic about the outlook for this company.
    • Outstanding experience in a global company with lots of opportunity to have a diverse career” Anonymous Employee (Former Employee). I worked at IBM full-time for more than 10 years. Pros: high caliber of talent, great training, strong leadership. Cons: I've observed a steady erosion of founding values that made IBM great—most notably respect for the individual (not the same as full employment). Advice to Senior Management: Go back to the basics—dare to be great by standing out from the pack in favor of your employees. Yes, I would recommend this company to a friend. I'm optimistic about the outlook for this company.
    • Would not recommend it” Change Management (Former Employee), Brno (Czech Republic). I worked at IBM full-time for more than 5 years. Pros: Possibilities for developing your career. Cons: Some managers can really make your life hell there. They don't have people skills; they don't have enough knowledge. Very low salaries, even after a few years of experience in their company. No real motivation for employees; no meal vouchers, no real salary raises, not even a thank you usually from management. If you are not Czech and end up in a team mostly made of Czech people, you will probably not enjoy waking up in the morning and going there, as you will be totally invisible. A lot of pressure and stress, even when it's not necessary. Your responsibilities are often not clear, which can create a lot of frustration. No, I would not recommend this company to a friend.
    • “Nice to have on a resume...” Senior Programmer (Current Employee), Saint Louis, MO. I have been working at IBM full-time for more than 10 years. Pros: Telecommuting, which offers some flexibility in work schedule. Cons: All about the next quarter's bottom line. No raises in over 5 years. International outsourcing requires 7am phone calls to China as well as 2+ hours calls to China starting at 8pm. Sure makes your day feel like it never ends. Have to use Lotus Notes. Now being required to run Red Hat (RHEL6) for email, and then Windows inside a VM for "security". This might not be so bad if things worked properly under RHEL or if the VM scaled properly but that's not the case. Advice to Senior Management: Rometty's constant ra-ra email blasts are as bad as spam in my constantly overloaded in-box. Ditch Lotus Notes; even your own employees can't stand that product. No, I would not recommend this company to a friend. I'm not optimistic about the outlook for this company.
    • Good place to learn how cheap Big Blue really is” Financial Analyst (Former Employee) I worked at IBM as an intern for less than a year. Pros: Great culture. Very flexible with working remotely. Cons: A ridiculous amount of needless manual work. There are many things that can be automated but won't as it costs money, at least one cent. Fixated about cutting costs: Any changes to the finance group is motivated by cutting costs rather than improving the overall process. Advice to Senior Management: Stop obsessing over cutting costs. For all that cash that you generate, you can really spare some of it to resources and still follow the roadmap. No, I would not recommend this company to a friend.
    • Great company, great values, great opportunities, - just stay away from STG (Hardware)” Sales (Current Employee). I have been working at IBM full-time for more than a year. Pros: Flexible work life balance; most positions can work from home at least some of the time. Lots of opportunities; if you want to change careers, you can do so without leaving the company. Cons: Currently, lots of budget restrictions, hiring freezes. Lots of good programs and intentions, so long as earnings per share are met. If the company is not doing well then promises to employees are quickly forgotten. Hardware division is a sinking ship; software and services are where to be. Advice to Senior Management: Stop focusing on earnings per share; also too much short-sighted decisions that seem to be knee jerk reactions to earnings. Furloughs damage the company's brand to potential future talent. Yes, I would recommend this company to a friend.
    • Got the boot after 29 years of faithful service” IT Systems Management Specialist (Former Employee), East Fishkill, NY. I worked at IBM full-time for more than 10 years. Pros: Great work @ home program. Management pretty much leaves you alone to do your job and make the company look good. Cons: Lack of any type of raise. Decreasing bonus every year. Every year employee has to pay more $$ out of pocket for healthcare. IBM does not care how long you work here. If you are in the wrong job when a layoff comes around, you're a gonner. After 29+ years of service I was let go because I had the wrong skills. (Even though those skills were in demand in another department within the company). IBM won't transfer you into the other group. They will just lay you off. Advice to Senior Management: Treat your employees with respect. We are humans, not machines. No, I would not recommend this company to a friend. I'm not optimistic about the outlook for this company.
    • Steady deterioration over recent years” Anonymous Employee (Current Employee). I have been working at IBM for more than 10 years. Pros: The work is challenging. IBM is still designing some of the most complex processors in the world. 1-3rd line management does what they can to make employees feel appreciated. Cons: Executives have one goal: maximizing the earnings per share. Given the current state of shrinking revenues, that only leaves them with cost cutting as an alternative. All decisions are based on this with no consideration of the future. No, I would not recommend this company to a friend. I'm not optimistic about the outlook for this company.
    • used to be a great place to work” Manager (Current Employee), Hopewell, NY. I have been working at IBM full-time for more than 10 years. Pros: Still some of the best engineers work here—good place to learn. Not what it used to be though. Cons: low pay, insecure job, increased workload; young grads from great engineering schools don't dream of working at IBM anymore. Not even in research and development. Advice to Senior Management: Focus on the people; too much focus on quarterly earnings and short term actions. No, I would not recommend this company to a friend. I'm not optimistic about the outlook for this company.
    • Overworked & underpaid” Executive Assistant (Former Employee), Austin, TX. I worked at IBM as a contractor for more than 3 years. Pros: The work from home program. Cons: Never knew day to day if you would get laid off. Very fast and frequent turnover. Advice to Senior Management: More Incentives for contractors and give an opportunity to go permanent, especially the hard working and loyal admins. No, I would not recommend this company to a friend.
  • Glassdoor IBM Canada reviews
  • Alliance for Retired Americans Friday Alert. This week's headlines:
    • Rep. Linda Sanchez Introduces the Strengthening Social Security Act in U.S. House
    • Census Data: Social Security Kept Over 15 Million Americans Out of Poverty in 2012
    • Minimum Wage and Overtime Protections Extended to Home Care Workers
    • Missouri Alliance Helps Defeat Dangerous Anti-Senior and Anti-Union Legislation
    • New Hampshire Alliance Demonstrates in Front of Senator Ayotte’s Office
    • New Film Exposes Rise of Income Inequality in America
    • Detroit Retirees at Risk of Losing Pensions Tell Their Stories in Court
  • New York Times: Target-Date Funds Might Not Hit Your Bull’s-Eye. By John F. Wasik. Excerpts: Target-date funds are all intended to do the same thing: reduce stock market risk incrementally the closer you get to your retirement target date. But that does not mean the funds, known as T.D.F.’s, are entirely adequate for every rainy-day situation. They could flip up in a strong financial wind.

    Holding a fixed number of mutual funds, T.D.F.’s are sold as a no-brainer default solution. They have gained in popularity and hold nearly a half-trillion dollars in assets, up from $71 billion in 2005, according to the Investment Company Institute. They are sold by most major mutual fund groups and are becoming mainstays in 401(k)-type plans.

    Yet T.D.F.’s may not be ideally suited to every retirement investor, particularly those near or in retirement. You have to look inside each plan and vet it carefully to see if it is right for you. ...

    Expenses are also worth vetting. While average expenses have come down in recent years — to 1.07 percent in 2012, from 1.23 percent annually in 2008, according to the Investment Company Institute — they are no bargain. You can find a retail, broad-basket United States stock fund like the Vanguard Total Stock Market Index ETF for as little as 0.05 percent annually. As with any “fund of funds,” you are paying for the packaging and allocation features. ...

    Choosing a fund by the target date is not going to help much in your decision. You have to take a close look at what kinds of funds they hold and how the glide path changes over time. Also ask whether the fund is aimed at getting you to retirement, then staying at a static mix, or getting you through retirement with an income-focused allocation.

  • New York Times: An Adage Adjustment for Investors at Retirement. By Tara Siegel Bernard. Excerpts: It’s the kind of advice that people approaching retirement long to hear: you may not need to keep as much of your hard-earned savings in stocks.

    Traditionally, retirees have been told to keep a significant slice — about 50 to 60 percent of their portfolio — in these risky assets, and that’s what many people tend to do. Then they hope and pray the stock market doesn’t plummet as it did in 2008 and 2009.

    That’s why the results of a new study are so intriguing. It found that holding as little as 20 percent in stocks upon retirement, with the remainder in bonds, would result in a smoother ride during turbulent markets, and the money would last a few years longer.

  • Charlotte News & Observer: Duke Energy becomes latest employer to stop insuring retirees. By John Murawski. Excerpt: Duke Energy, the nation’s largest electric utility, became the latest corporation to opt for ending a long-standing company practice of insuring its retirees, a cost-saving approach already embraced by IBM, Time Warner, Caterpillar, General Electric, DuPont and many others.

    About 14,500 retirees of Duke Energy, Progress Energy and others, including 6,600 retirees in North Carolina, began receiving notices last week alerting them that the utility company will no longer provide retiree insurance to supplement Medicare. coverage. Instead, the Charlotte-based power company will pay retirees an annual stipend, and the former employees will be responsible for picking their own insurance.

    To qualify for the company’s stipend, however, the retirees will have to buy coverage from one insurer: UnitedHealthcare. The changes apply to all Duke retirees except unionized retirees in Florida. ...

    IBM and Time Warner made similar announcements this month, and other companies are expected to follow. The primary benefit of offloading retirees from the company’s ledger is lower costs, and private insurance exchanges have arisen to take up the slack for businesses looking for options to manage runaway health care bills, said health care benefits expert Skip Woody, a principal with Hill, Chesson & Woody in Durham. ...

    Many employers began fixing their contributions to retiree plans years ago to rein in costs, said Paul Fronstin, an analyst with the Employee Benefits Research Institute. He also said that it’s common to give retirees the choice of a single insurer to shop with

    Several local Progress retirees said they were blindsided by the announcement and are skeptical that they’ll be better off.

    “How can that be possible?” said Jerry Hargis, a Raleigh resident who retired from Progress in 1995 after 30 years with the company. “We’ll get a deal maybe this year, but next year what keeps them from going up?”

New on the Alliance@IBM Site

Job Cut Reports

  • Comment 09/12/13: @ CreeperPeeper: yes, they are using BCG as a way to fire people. It is a double score for IBM: get rid of an "expensive" US employee without severance! I had this happen to me. They resurrected an old audit from 2 years ago. I had met with my manager over a year ago and we worked out a way to eliminate any "gray area" that might constitute a BCG violation. All of a sudden, I have a nasty corporate investigator interrogating me. I did my best to respond to her requests but when I couldn't produce something (like a calendar entry from two years ago because I had deleted it to stay out of "mail Jail") she called me a liar and harassed me. If you have had any audit or even minor issue over the past several years they may dredge it out and get you on BCG violation. Ugly stuff. Back up your computer and be ready to hand it over and be escorted out of the building the same day. No package, no benefits, no goodbyes to colleagues, no human decency after 15+ years of faithful service. -BlindsidedinRTP-
  • Comment 09/12/13: I was RA'd for my age. I was the oldest technical person in the office. If I do get a job I have to say I will dissuade management from buying any IBM products. There is so much bad karma that surrounds this company that I don't want it following me to any new company I work with. I have dissuaded practically all the tech convention goers I have met recently at a conference. I tend to be vocal. -FP-
  • Comment 09/12/13: -FP- I have empathy for what happened to you; it happened to me also. But good you are taking a stand! IBM is not the benevolent employee still that most people think they are. So you are making it clear what the real IBM of today really is! -trexibmer-
  • Comment 09/13/13: According to news reports, IBM total worldwide employee count will drop to around 399,000 from currently 434,000 with the sale of IBM GPS customer care group to Synnex. Approximately 35,000 employees (mostly in offshore delivery centers) will be acquired by Synnex subsidiary. -Anonymous-
  • Comment 09/13/13: RSD SSRs being forced to ignore customer contracts and postpone calls in order to have no overtime...wonder if this is in the BCG manual, eh? Get out now with your dignity...nothing good on the horizon with IBM. -Tired-
  • Comment 09/15/13: Ginni has outlined a 1-3-9 plan for IBM and the 1 is "be essential". The irony is how do I appear essential to my customers while knowing that IBM has declared me non-essential by furloughing me? -anonymous-
  • Comment 09/16/13: For those still employed, the ECCC charity campaign will soon be kicking off. Let's all show our support for IBM by donating $0! Let the executives dig into their own pockets so that IBM doesn't "lose face" with a goose egg donation this year. Now, I'm not saying don't donate -- just donate directly to your same charities, but on your own. There's no sense in IBM taking credit for your generosity. If I understand it correctly, there's no corporate match, so there's no benefit of doing it through IBM. -No_Charity_For_IBM-
  • Comment 09/16/13: I used to brag to technical staff about my move into PMing within the CIO organization, and how safe and untouchable it was. The brown-nose fest didn't save me however. Now I'm laid off and practically unemployable. -mgr_flotsam-
  • Comment 09/16/13: So AIS management just sent out a note saying that there is a mandatory weekend day that we must work on. That is a cute idea, what is next: optional choice weekend? In the note it said that this mandate is not just for AIS but for other groups and sectors as well -nice try-
  • Comment 09/16/13: Just received another "Call to Action". Seems like the previous demand for an extra 30 hours for the quarter isn't going so well for AIS. Its now "Mandatory Work Weekend". What a joke. I know of several projects that are limited by the customer to 40 or 44 hours per week. I can only imagine what the next demand - I mean request - will be. -Blue Flu Coming On-
  • Comment 09/16/13: Conference calls today for RSD SSR's...Some picked to go to TOSHIBA others not going and to stay IBM on March 1st 2014.... Smell a resource action coming in the future. -Tired-
  • Comment 09/17/13: Ref Toshiba transition- in my group in a large Metro area-all techs over 60 of age told they would not be going to Toshiba but was also told it was not age discrimination....baloney!! -Anonymous-
  • Comment 09/16/13: I have been working with a reputable lender over the last 2 years trying to qualify for a mortgage. No such luck. I was basically told by the lender tonight that they think I should seek other employment that has some upward mobility and a higher base salary in order to achieve my goal of home ownership. It's just not doable on IBM's salary. 5 years with no raises looks really bad to the underwriters she said. I was stupid to ever take this job and dumber to believe IBM when they said they cared about my future. They don't. -time4me2fly-
  • Comment 09/17/13: Sydney Australia: Workplace morale is at rock bottom due to mass RA's and we get told today those remaining have to bill 5 extra unpaid hours per week. Starting to suspect our execs are motivated to make IBM fail. -Canary in the Coalmine-
  • Comment 09/19/13: Heard rumors that the Rochester plant had terrible numbers and a big layoff is coming. Any truth to that? -VA172-
  • Comment 09/19/13: I heard 2nd hand that Tivoli plans to add technical support for USA hours from a call center from Philippines. Anyone in customer service not looking for a job? -ExTivoli-
  • Send the RA pack to ibmunionalliance@gmail.com so we can validate and count the number of workers fired. Names are confidential.

IBM Retiree Issues

  • Comment 09/14/13: Today, I received in the mail "important IBM benefits" Inside it says as a retiree, I can select to stay with IBM PPO, HMO Aetna Medicare. plan until 2016. Then at end of 2015 will be forced to select Extend-Health or other. This is a change. I am glad to see this option left on the table for a couple more years. It might change again before 2016. -retired 2010-
  • Comment 09/15/13: I keep reading that the ACA doesn't affect Medicare. recipients. That means IBM is taking this opportunity to dump us. It's a two-step dump (I received a packet from ExtendHealth, with "Important info about your IBM benefits" prominent on the front). So, how it starts, if you use the exchange, and contract with one of the insurance groups (e.g., Aetna) then you pay the premiums yourself, and IBM will send some money directly to you, the retiree.

    If you sign up with something else (e.g., your doctor or plan is not handled by the exchange), then you don't get the extra subsidy. Either way, you pay your own bills. How much of a disaster this is depends on a) what plans we are offered, and b) what kind of puny stipend IBM provides. And, of course, next year they can just zip the stipend out from under us. -Anonymous-

  • Comment 09/16/13: I was part of the recent RA in July. I am on the "new" retirement plan (missed the old one because I was age 39 when I needed to be 40) This also means I got switched to the FHA health plan. I was nearly 53 when RA'ed and just found out because I was not age 55, that not only do I lose the FHA funds, but also can never participate in IBM plans. Had I quit, it would be one thing, but for them to push me out the door and then steal my medical (for a second time) is just unconscionable. -forced to retire 2013-
  • Comment 09/18/13: To -Forced to retire 2013-: Happens to many, it stings. However, the IBM early retiree FHA plans that you hoped for are not great coverage and very expensive for those of us (as I was) without FHA funds. I hung in with an IBM plan to be eligible for the IBM Medicare. retiree plans which are great, but close this year.

    I suspect the FHA early retiree plans will also close and people would be pushed to the ACA Plans. The ACA plans are what you will now have access to and they are better, including subsidy if you have lower income (and the ceiling is pretty high).

    The ACA gold plan pays 80% of costs, and you pay 20% (helped if low income), up to some annual ceiling. This is like the IBM FHA EPO plan, but the IBM EPO plan premium is a lot more at about $10,000 for self and no subsidy. I think you will be much better off with ACA and not IBM. -anonymous-

  • Comment 09/18/13: I am in the same boat as forced to retire 2013. I was 3 months shy of 40, was let go this July and because I am 53 I lose out. My 30+K kitty for health care is gone gone gone. When I brought this up to my retire representative (funny I am old enough for one of those) she commented that it was not my money in that kitty...lol. But I thought IBM put it in there on my behalf? -gone in vermont-

How Does the Furlough Affect You & Your family

  • Comment 09/16/13: AIS just announced a "mandatory work weekend" in which all are required to work 8 hrs this coming weekend. Furlough by another name. -ais-anon-
  • Comment 09/18/13: To -ais-anon-: Yep - IBM gave you the weeks furlough at 1/3 pay, but you will now have to make up those hours. Figure on 4 more 'mandatory work weekends' until all 5 furlough days are made up. IBM will extract that extra pound of flesh. One thing I learned in my 20 years at the company. They give you something with one hand, but take 2 things away with the other hand. Good Luck! -dun-5-
News and Opinion Concerning Health Savings Accounts, Medical Costs and Health Care Reform
  • Bloomberg: Obamacare Blamed by Seniors for High Costs, Medicare. Changes. By Shannon Pettypiece. Excerpts: More than half of senior citizens surveyed mistakenly attributed rising costs of their medicines to Obamacare, according to Express Scripts Holding Co., a misunderstanding that is contributing to the law’s unpopularity.

    While the Affordable Care Act lowers drug costs for Medicare. recipients who fall into a coverage gap and provides certain vaccines and preventative screenings for free, about half of those surveyed are cutting back spending on food, travel and health care in anticipation of higher medical expenses, according to the survey released today by St. Louis-based Express Scripts, the biggest U.S. processor of prescriptions.

    Medicare. has been providing taxpayer-funded health care to the elderly since 1965, while the 2010 Affordable Care Act targets working-age adults. A major provision of the new law is the creation of insurance exchanges where people under 65 years old can buy coverage starting Oct. 1. About 20 percent of seniors surveyed thought they would be able to shop on the exchanges.

    “They don’t understand that Medicare. is different and isn’t really changing with the exception that there has been a move to preventative care and more use of medications,” said Rebecca Rabbitt, vice president of government programs at Express Scripts. “That message has been lost, if not absent, from a lot of the dialogue.” ...

    For many seniors with Medicare., the law will save them money rather than increase their costs, Rabbitt said. By 2020, the so-called doughnut hole, a gap in prescription drug coverage that increases out-of-pocket costs, will be eliminated and is already being reduced. The law also includes free preventative care like certain vaccines and screenings, Rabbitt said.

    More than 6.6 million Medicare. beneficiaries saved more than $7 billion on their prescription drugs since the law was enacted, the Department of Health and Human Services said in July. The law requires drugmakers to discount covered brand-name Part D medicines sold to beneficiaries in the coverage gap and provides subsidies for the covered therapies to those beneficiaries that rise to 25 percent in 2020 from 2.5 percent in 2013. ...

    Though the law makes no changes to Medicare. eligibility or enrollment, about one-third of seniors mistakenly believe it raises the eligibility age, the survey found. About 17 percent said it was likely the exchanges would replace Medicare.

  • Kaiser Health News: FAQ: How Is Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance Changing? By Jay Hancock. Excerpts: United Parcel Service got attention by dropping some working spouses from its health plan and partly blaming the Affordable Care Act. But UPS’s move is only one among many changes in employer health insurance, most of them having little to do with the health law.

    Employers are raising deductibles, giving workers health savings accounts that look like 401(k) plans, mimicking the health law’s online insurance marketplaces and nudging patients to compare prices and shop around for treatments.

    Together the moves could eventually affect far more consumers than the law’s Medicaid expansion or health exchanges aimed at the uninsured and scheduled to open Oct. 1. Here’s a rundown.

  • Wall Street Journal: Walgreen to Shift Health Plan for 160,000 Workers. By Timothy W. Martin and Christopher Weaver. Excerpts: Rising health-care costs and a climate of change brought about by the new federal health law are prompting American corporations to revisit the pact they've long had with employees over medical benefits.

    Walgreen Co. is set to become one of the largest employers yet to make sweeping changes to company-backed health programs. On Wednesday, the drugstore giant disclosed a plan to provide payments to eligible employees for the subsidized purchase of insurance starting in 2014. The plan will affect roughly 160,000 employees, and will require them to shop for coverage on a private health-insurance marketplace. Aside from rising health-care costs, the company cited compliance-related expenses associated with the new law as a reason for the switch.

    Walgreen is the latest in a growing list of companies making changes to their benefits. International Business Machines Corp. and Time Warner Inc. both said in recent weeks they will move thousands of retirees from their own company-administered plans to private exchanges. Sears Holdings Corp. and Darden Restaurants Inc. said last year they would send employees to a private exchange. ...

    Like the shift from pension plans to 401(k) plans beginning in the 1980s, the moves mark a transition in which employers are handing their workers more control over their benefits, some experts say. But as companies set their contributions at fixed amounts to limit benefits spending, workers could wind up shouldering a greater share of the burden if health costs increase. ...

    Big companies have been gradually pushing far more of the costs of health care to workers. More than one-third of workers at companies with 200 or more workers had annual deductibles of $1,000 or more last year, according to a report by the Kaiser Family Foundation. That's up from 10% of workers at those businesses in 2006.

    Though companies point to the health law for accelerating the trend of broad benefits changes, supporters of the law note some firms may be using it for cover as they make adjustments that aren't always popular with workers.

    Strategies like moving workers to private exchanges "may be the way of the future, but don't blame the Affordable Care Act for it," says Ezekiel Emanuel, a former Obama administration health-care adviser and University of Pennsylvania professor of health-care management.

    "For decades, rising health-care costs have burdened employers, but since the Affordable Care Act became law, health-care costs have been slowing and premiums are increasing by the lowest rates in years," said Erin Shields Britt, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Human Services.

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension, Retirement Issues & Extend Health message board: "RE: Walgreen goes a step further" by "justa_bean_counter". Full excerpt: Companies are looking to get out of the health insurance business because they 'make money' in getting rid of your obligation. As an accountant, I'm anxious to see the 'profits' they post in their annual statements. FAS 106 forces them to book accrued obligations. Although it applies to all forms of post-retirement benefits, it focuses primarily on post-retirement health care benefits. Several of us have been tracking it for many years on IBM.

    It's not about uncertainty. Trust me, they are certain.

  • Washington Post: Mental-health coverage to get a big boost under Obamacare. By Michelle Singletary. Excerpts: When my brother, who had severe epilepsy, died of a massive seizure at 32, I needed to see a grief counselor. I had been his primary caretaker, and his death hit me hard.

    I was fortunate to have access to workplace insurance that included quality mental-health services. It’s a benefit I have come to really appreciate.

    But many people don’t have access to such care. ...

    I think about the folks who were working at the Navy Yard or other workplaces who have to deal with the aftermath of such tragedies. And while such incidents are rare, it is likely that you are working with people who are struggling with mental illnesses and need help to handle their condition. They aren’t likely to go on a shooting spree, but they may drink too much, take illicit drugs or fall into a depression they can’t shake.

    Although many large and small group insurance plans include services for some mental-health and substance-use illnesses, there are gaps in coverage. About one-third of those who are now covered in the individual market have no coverage for substance-use disorders and nearly 20 percent have no coverage for mental-health cases, including outpatient therapy visits and inpatient crisis intervention and stabilization, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

    But starting next year, this will change for many workers.

    Under the Affordable Care Act, insurance plans offered in the new marketplaces will have to cover a core set of services called “essential health benefits.” Included on the list of 10 benefits are mental-health and substance-use disorder services, which include behavioral health treatment, counseling and psychotherapy. Specifically, as part of what’s considered preventive services, plans will also cover alcohol-misuse screening and counseling, depression screening for adults and adolescents, domestic and interpersonal violence screening for women, and behavioral assessments for children. ...

    The Affordable Care Act will provide one of the largest expansions of mental-health and substance-use disorder coverage in a generation, the Obama administration says. I hope that by expanding access to mental-health coverage, we can get people the help they need, and in the most severe situations prevent tragedies that result in the loss of life.

  • Kaiser Health News: FAQ: Hospital Observation Care Can Be Poorly Understood And Costly For Medicare. Beneficiaries. By Susan Jaffe. Excerpts: Some seniors think Medicare. made a mistake. Others are just stunned when they find out that being in a hospital for days doesn't always mean they were actually admitted.

    Instead, they received observation care, considered by Medicare. to be an outpatient service. Yet, a recent government investigation found that observation patients often have the same health problems as those who are admitted. But the observation designation means they can have higher out-of-pocket expenses and fewer Medicare. benefits.

    More Medicare. beneficiaries are entering hospitals as observation patients every year. The number rose 69 percent in five years, to 1.6 million nationally in 2011, according to the most recent federal statistics. At the same time, Medicare. hospital admissions have declined slightly.

    Here are some common questions and answers about observation care and the coverage gap that can result. (Seniors enrolled in Medicare. Advantage should ask their plans about their observation care rules since they can vary.)

  • Medicare.gov: Keeping costs down with assignment. Excerpt: Assignment means that your doctor, provider, or supplier agrees (or is required by law) to accept the Medicare-approved amount as full payment for covered services.
  • Washington Post opinion: Why Republicans are desperate for a shutdown. By E.J. Dionne Jr. Excerpts: The coming battles over budgets, the debt ceiling, a government shutdown and Obamacare are not elements of a large political game. They involve a fundamental showdown over the role of government in stemming rising inequality and making our country a fairer and more decent place

    Anyone who doesn’t see this should be forgiven. The stakes in this battle are almost always buried in news accounts about tactics and obscured by an unquenchable desire across the media to provide the latest take on whether President Obama is growing “weak” and has already become the lamest of lame ducks.

    Yes, Obama has work to do in quelling doubts about his leadership. But little of what we’re hearing offers enlightenment as to why this big argument is happening in the first place, and why it matters.

    To begin with, this is not just a fight between Republicans and Democrats. The GOP is clearly divided between those who take governing seriously — they still believe in government enough to accept responsibility for keeping it open — and those who see in every issue the “final conflict” that Marxists kept predicting. Stopping Obamacare, in their view, is necessary to prevent the country from reaching the end of the road to serfdom. Compared with this hellish prospect, who cares about shutdowns?

    What’s fascinating, and this speaks to the perceived power of the tea party in primaries, is that it has taken only a small minority of House Republicans to push toward Armageddon. The Post’s Lori Montgomery and Paul Kane estimated that roughly 40 conservatives revolted against their leadership’s efforts to keep the government open past Sept. 30. That’s 40 in a 435-member House of Representatives. What’s become of us when less than 10 percent of one chamber of Congress can unleash chaos? What does this say about the House Republican leadership gap?

    But it’s also important to understand why the Republican right is so fixated on killing or delaying ObamaCare before it goes into effect. Its central worry is not that the program will fail but that it will succeed. ...

    In other words, Obamacare, like Medicare. and Social Security, could work well enough and improve the lives of enough people that voters will get “hooked” on it. For fear of this, the tea party’s champions would shut down the government and risk financial calamity over the debt ceiling? Even the Wall Street Journal’s reliably anti-Obama editorial page on Tuesday upbraided the “kamikazes” of the right.

  • New York Times editorial: The House Republicans’ Ghoulish Defunding Rally. By David Firestone. Excerpts: There was something ghoulish about the rally that House Republicans held today in the Rayburn Room after they voted to defund health care reform. The party atmosphere was so boisterous, the cheers and laughter so loud, that it was easy to forget everyone in the room had just voted to keep tens of millions of people from getting health insurance.

    By keeping spending at its current levels through mid-December, they had also voted to continue the sequester, which is preventing millions of people from getting public housing subsidies, Head Start seats, and unemployment benefits. The sequester is also taking a serious toll on scientific research and investment in infrastructure, not to mention its infuriating drag on employment and the economic recovery. How about another round of applause? ...

    What he (Eric Cantor, Republican House Leader) didn’t mention, though, is that the House’s real beef is with Senate Republicans, not Democrats, many of whom have denounced the extremist tactic of threatening a government shutdown if health reform isn’t defunded. The defeat of the House demand in the Senate is pre-ordained, and when the measure comes back to the House next week without any mention of the health law, and with little time left to avoid a shutdown, the laughter and applause will be long gone.

News and Opinion Concerning the "War on the Middle Class"
Minimize "It is a restatement of laissez-faire-let things take their natural course without government interference. If people manage to become prosperous, good. If they starve, or have no place to live, or no money to pay medical bills, they have only themselves to blame; it is not the responsibility of society. We mustn't make people dependent on government- it is bad for them, the argument goes. Better hunger than dependency, better sickness than dependency."

"But dependency on government has never been bad for the rich. The pretense of the laissez-faire people is that only the poor are dependent on government, while the rich take care of themselves. This argument manages to ignore all of modern history, which shows a consistent record of laissez-faire for the poor, but enormous government intervention for the rich." From Economic Justice: The American Class System, from the book Declarations of Independence by Howard Zinn.

  • New York Times opinion: This Debt Ceiling Fight Isn’t About Spending. By David Firestone. Excerpts: Senator Mitch McConnell said today that raising the debt ceiling represents an opportunity to demand that President Obama “do something about the debt.” He said that was the “view of virtually every Republican.”

    But that’s not the view of hard-line conservatives in the House, who are trying to prevent the passage of a debt-ceiling increase as well as a temporary spending measure to keep the government open past the end of the month.

    They’re not talking about the debt. If they were, the House and Senate might have something to negotiate over. Up to now, the House has refused to even sit at the same table as the Senate and discuss ways to reduce the long-term debt (one of which, obviously, would be higher revenues).

    No, House conservatives are narrowly focused on achieving one impossible thing: the end of health care reform.

  • New York Times opinion: Red State Pain. By Timothy Egan. Excerpts: Late Thursday, despite pleas from Catholic bishops and evangelicals, the Republican-dominated House passed a bill that would deprive 3.8 million people of assistance to buy food next year. By coincidence, this is almost the exact amount of people who have managed to remain just above the poverty line because of that very aid, the Census Bureau reported a few days ago. ...

    Certainly there are frauds among the one in seven Americans getting help from the program formerly known as food stamps. But who are the others, the easy-to-ignore millions who will feel real pain with these cuts? As it turns out, most of them live in Red State, Real People America. Among the 254 counties where food stamp use doubled during the economic collapse, Mitt Romney won 213 of them, Bloomberg News reported. Half of Owsley County, Ky., is receiving federal food aid. Half.

    You can’t get any more Team Red than Owsley County; it is 98 percent white, 81 percent Republican, per the 2012 presidential election. And that hardscrabble region has the distinction of being the poorest in the nation, with the lowest household income of any county in the United States, the Census Bureau found in 2010. ...

    You have to wonder where this animus for those in the economic basement comes from. It’s too easy to say Republicans hate the poor. Limousine liberals can seem just as insensitive. And if Republicans were offering some genuinely creative approaches to helping the 26 million Americans who self-identified as “lower class” in a recent survey, they would deserve a listen. Tax cuts, the party’s solution to everything, do nothing for people who pay no federal income tax. ...

    What’s at work here is the poison of ideology. Underlying the food assistance fight is the idea that the poor are lazy, and deserve their fate — the Ayn Rand philosophy. You don’t see this same reasoning applied to those Red State agricultural-industrialists living high off farm subsidies, and that’s why Republicans have separated the two major recipient groups of federal food aid. Subsidized cotton growers cannot possibly be equated with someone trying to stretch macaroni into three meals.

    But Republican House leaders do have some empathy — for themselves. National Review reported this week that Representative Phil Gingrey, a hard-right conservative who wants to be the next senator from Georgia, complained in a private meeting about being “stuck here making $172,000 a year.” To say the least, he doesn’t yet qualify for food assistance.

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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