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Highlights—October 5, 2013

  • Wall Street Journal: IBM Settles With Justice Department Over Discrimination Allegations. By Brent Kendall. Excerpts: IBM agreed to settle allegations some company online job listings expressed a preference for foreign workers with temporary visas over U.S. citizens, the Justice Department said Friday.

    The department alleged certain IBM job application postings for software developers expressed citizenship preferences for foreign job candidates holding student visas or H-1B visas issued to foreign nationals with technical expertise. ...

    Under the terms of the settlement, IBM will pay $44,000 in civil penalties and revise its hiring and recruitment procedures to comply with the Immigration and Nationality Act. The company will also provide reports to the government for two years. ...

    The settlement agreement said the department had “reasonable cause” to believe IBM committed violations from April 2009 to February 2013. The department said it opened its investigation of the company last December.

    Selected reader comments follow:

    • It doesn’t matter. They still prefer H-1B visa foreign nationals in practice. This isn’t even a slap on the wrist.
    • IBM got caught a few weeks ago asking for “recent college graduates” on job recruitment forms. The discrimination is rampant in IBM.
    • If you want to see the biggest amount of discrimination by IBM against US citizens, check out the Global Marketplace application for IBM Global Business Services. They don’t want local resources in the US, just resources in Mexico, India, Brazil, Philippines, China etc...yet IBM wants big tax breaks from the US communities it works in! Double standards or not? You decide.
    • Big deal! a 44k+ penalty? That’s like a penny from the IBM coffers. In the meantime, IBM will just push this practice underground. Same practice. It just will not be advertised anymore. Oh sure, lots of ‘on-shore US residents will interview’, but the records shown to the Justice department will ‘prove’ the better talent comes from overseas.
    • The ruling says "IBM do whatever you want."
    • Wow, IBM got off easy. It’s no wonder this crap still goes on. I’ve seen it since 2002 and in our case the corporation only got a ton of negative press.

      Back then our IT department in Lake Mary, FL was told we’d be laid off. But first, they said “we want you to train your replacements, then we’ll have a severance for you when you leave.” About 20 days later, in comes a slew of employees from TATA Inc, India.

      We were all given our agenda and Tata H-1b and L-1 visa holders were the recipients. Our job was to train them so we would be laid off. They even created “Knowledge Transfer Documents” of what we taught them.

      The only enjoyable thing about this was watching them deal with the massive amount of press that constantly pounded Siemens ICN Lake Mary, FL and US Rep John Mica.

      Contacting our US Senators and US Rep John Mica was pretty much worthless. The 2 senators are POS that never returned any communication. John Mica’s office was a little different. They communicated with us but about 3 weeks after our initial contact I noticed a $5000 donation from Siemens to John Mica’s campaign (at opensecrets.org). Coincidence? I don’t think so.

      So, we’re told we need these foreign guestworkers because there are not enough Americans to do the work; yet we’re told to train them???

      They (Congress) work against the people. They only work for the corporations lining their pockets, both parties. Re-Elect Nobody!!!

    • This is the teeny tiny tip of the iceberg. All 100+ companies that signed Zuckerberg’s letter to Congress asking to double the current number of H-1B visas should be exposed in the same manner. This was a huge slip up for an IBM HR employee who was most likely canned shortly after this was publicized. The only need for another million immigrants per year is for mega-corps. to suppress wages and hire them to work them to death. There is not shortage of Americans to work– they just don’t want Americans.
    • When is government going to get some backbone and start “settling” for jail time. The workers don’t walk the line, they get screwed. Employers don’t walk the line, they loose a few seconds profit. When is government going to stop “acting” like it is looking out for it’s citizens and start actually looking out for us.
    • I see the WSJ buried this story as far down as it could. IBM is doing what most other Fortune 500 companies do, but more brazenly. Caterpillar, John Deere, every single tech company in Silicon Valley, manufacturers, friends and relatives who work at these companies have witnessed the systematic replacement of Americans with Indian worker monkeys, all for a buck. American business will accelerate this with Obamacare.

      If Republicans move in ANY WAY to pass ANY further increases in Visas, or any kind of immigration “reform” that results in more foreign nationals coming here to replace Americans, I think there will be hell to pay.

    • This is further proof that immigration reform has nothing to do with a shortage of workers, but only to drive down wages. Sadly too many of our elected leaders are willing to go along with them in order to raise campaign money. We are very rapidly being turned into third world wage earners with only part time jobs and no benefits available and any hope of achieving the American Dream gone, so that the Buffets, Gates, Kochs, Soros and Zuckerbergs can increase their billions.
    • This article establishes a pattern of conduct for IBM that matches most large employers. The firm’s focus is on maximizing profits for the economic elite – at the expense of middle-class America. We are being pitted against the World’s poor – and losing! To understand the context of this article, please search by title for the PDF version of the 2012 expose, “How Record Immigration Levels Robbed American High-Tech Workers of $10 Trillion.” The references provided in the end notes establish the corporate actions that should be prosecuted under the RICO Statutes.
  • Poughkeepsie Journal: ICYMI: IBM to settle for $44,400 after feds call job postings discriminatory. By Craig Wolf. Excerpts: IBM Corp. will be paying a $44,400 civil penalty to the federal government under an agreement announced by the U.S. Department of Justice to settle claims of discrimination favoring immigrants on temporary visas.

    The settlement, a statement from the department said Friday, includes IBM’s agreement to revise its hiring and recruiting procedures “and train its human resources personnel to ensure compliance” with the law.

    The DOJ said the company broke the anti-discrimination provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act “by placing online job postings for application and software developers that contained citizenship status preferences for F-1 and H-1B temporary visa holders.”

    This is the second time in a month that IBM’s online postings have gotten the company into hot water. Several job recruitment postings, including ones for East Fishkill, Albany and Burlington, Otsego County, were found to have “recent college graduates” or similar phrasings. Alliance@IBM, slammed the ads as discriminatory against older workers, and pointed to language in federal and state law forbidding use of such terms.

    “This confirms what IBM employees have been saying for years, that there is systematic discrimination going on in hiring,” said Lee Conrad, national coordinator for the alliance, a worker group. “Recently IBM was caught in posting job openings that were clearly age discrimination. Now this. Clearly IBM is not the good citizen it claims to be.” ...

    IBM has been criticized by workers over reductions of jobs in America as the company shifted work to overseas sites. In some cases, U.S.-based IBMers trained foreign workers who came in temporarily and then returned to their home countries.

  • Glassdoor IBM reviews. Selected reviews follow:
    • Great place to work but work loads are heavy with layoffs and reorgs a common event.” Marketing Manager (Former Employee), Austin, TX. I worked at IBM full-time for more than 10 years. Pros: Flexibility to work remotely is a big plus for work/life balance. If a new college grad, probably a good opportunity for you. Cons: You actually end up working more due to time saved commuting and working early and late evening hours as is generally needed with the workloads. Loyalty, work ethic and performance don't come into play anymore when it comes to job retention. Employees get cut first to make financials look good. Advice to Senior Management: Keep jobs in the US and consider pay reductions across the board instead of massive employee cuts. By doing so, you retain the knowledge in experienced employees needed to keep the business running smoothly. Yes, I would recommend this company to a friend. I'm not optimistic about the outlook for this company.
    • IBM Airoli is worst” Senior Software Engineer (Current Employee), Mumbai (India). I have been working at IBM full-time for more than a year. Pros: IBM Airoli is worst location. Cons: Located at isolated location with no connectivity. Poor facilities. No transport, poor canteen facility, no library or even newspapers. Extremely stressful work environment. 10-12 hours of work daily and management expects work on weekends too, that to no extra pay poor management. Treat employee as resource only. No work/life balance; bad culture with political people. Job dissatisfaction is much high among employees. As of now not seen any investment for employee. Only focus on company revenue. Single employee is involved in 3-4 projects! Company can't even effort freshers. Not at all recommended. Advice to Senior Management: Do not treat employee as resource or machine. IBM top management must look in to issues seriously specifically for Airoli location. No, I would not recommend this company to a friend. I'm not optimistic about the outlook for this company.
    • From a great company; to quite possibly the worst...” Anonymous Employee (Former Employee). Pros: Some potential employers might still see IBM as a good thing on your resume; but don't stay too long. Get some experience then jump ship. Get to Intel, TSMC, or Samsung instead down the road.

      Cons: Everything else. Worked in Hopewell Junction EF /and Burlington, Vt facility—total over 24 years. RA'd right before my 25th. Excellent reviews, (was a 2+ last year) then RA'd in June with no warning. Blindsided. Sucker punched...along with many colleagues of mine. The only thing I can think of is it was all about cost this time and many of us were "eligible" to retire; also were heavily penetrated (salary wise) in our band levels. Even though we "earned" those pay raises through the years through very hard work—in the end it was held against us. And a few younger folks were "sprinkled" in the layoff "mix" as to avoid an age discrimination lawsuit; no doubt.

      This time around it seems like it was a very carefully crafted scheme from Armonk. Didn't matter those of us that were RA'd were also "key expertise" in our areas. Even fellow PhDs got let go. Senior management probably feels they can get someone off the street do what we do in hardware manufacturing at half the pay like they've done to the IT divisions. Yeah-good luck with that. In the end the customer suffers and we lose the business.

      Also the cronyism I've seen through the years was not to be believed as well. I've seen many "screw up" employees cost the business ($) thousands, however since they played a good golf game screw/ 3rd level management, all was swept under the rug. (Many of those screw-ups are still there by the way, missed "yet again" by the June RA).

      I saw an earlier post about a month ago where someone mentioned the technical expertise of management isn't what it should be. You got that right. I too have seen managers get "promoted" to run organizations they had no business running since they only had a two year technical (in some cases, no technical) degree; many so called "diplomas" dating from 70's. Must be great at golf, but why are these managers currently running a big R & D and/or engineering org? Many do.

      No wonder companies such as Intel considers IBM hardware completely insignificant. And of course many of these managers made bad decisions through the years and as a result, big costs to the business, yet all covered up once again.

      This time around however I also find this interesting—until this most recent RA traditionally managers seemed "exempt" from the layoff list. If you are/were a manager, married to a manager, related to a manager in any way such as a cousin and such, it seemed you were part of that "protected species" of that very prevalent "good old boy club". However, this recent RA they actually nailed a few managers (not many, but a few-quite possibly for the first time) so that tells me "cost" overall was the priority. And with the recent furloughs, (which I've NEVER seen before) it would seem this particular division may be gasping for its last breath anyway.

      I'm getting the impression Ginni has a cash flow problem she isn't telling Wall Street about. When I was RA'd in June, first thing I did was go back to the office; jumped on the laptop and quickly dumped all of my stock; (just before wiping the hard drive). The stock price has dropped further since then. Time will tell.

      Advice to Senior Management: No advice would matter...status quo. You've never listened to positive suggestions before; why start now? Keep trying to nail people who want to make a positive difference by painting that bullseye on their back, just as you've always done before. Keep following that pecking order as you've always had and "hope" you won't get RA'd as well. Maybe some other company will buy the facility and treat the employees better. Hopefully for those that remain but I don't see anything positive happening in the near future.

      No, I would not recommend this company to a friend. I'm not optimistic about the outlook for this company.

    • Working as a Junior SAP consultant” Anonymous Employee (Former Employee). I worked at IBM full-time for more than a year. Pros: Acquiring invaluable knowledge in the SAP industry as well as methodologies and a whole plethora of imperative corporate skills. Cons: Horrible management, empty promises, unprofessional approach to internal problem solving. Advice to Senior Management: All the problems of the world could be settled easily if men were only willing to think Yes, I would recommend this company to a friend. I'm not optimistic about the outlook for this company.
    • Good, bad and indifferent” Anonymous Employee (Former Employee). Pros: Family oriented in the 80's, best years, benefits were good, salary was good until 2002 on. Cons: 90's with merging was horrible; stole pensions from u;, then 2002 on every year downsized. Advice to Senior Management: Take a cut in pay and give it to your lower levels who do all the work.
    • The experience here at IBM is among the best in India. Having worked here for 5 years, I am completely satisfied.” Quality Assurance Engineer (Current Employee), Calcutta (India). I have been working at IBM full-time for more than 5 years. Pros: Good work life; good remuneration. Most of the top level officials are good and are helpful professionally. Cons: Way more hectic schedules than others. The life offered here gives you almost everything except a very vital component—time. If not today, then someday or the other one will opt for more time and thats where the problems creep in. Advice to Senior Management: Excellent management. But one word to you guys—you have to understand your employees' needs carefully because by doing so, you guys can make more out of a person. Always, fastest target achieving mentality may change your creative workers to monotonous machines.
    • Not the IBM we remember” Database Administrator (Current Employee). I have been working at IBM full-time for more than 10 years. Pros: Decent salary, keeps to what is considered market average. Cons: Red tape. Getting too wrapped up in process instead of results. Advice to Senior Management: Return to treating employees as valuable assets instead of disposables. No, I would not recommend this company to a friend.
    • Working at IBM gets worse every year due to benefit cuts and feeling less valued.” Anonymous Employee (Current Employee). I have been working at IBM full-time for more than 10 years. Pros: It pays the bills until I can get another job. Cons: Upper management gets more perks and outrageous salaries while the workers lose benefits. I used to get stock options, but not any more. There are virtually no promotional opportunities. I travel worldwide, and even on extremely long haul flights (i.e., 17+ hours) have to fly in coach. Upper management doesn't care about employee health or morale. Advice to Senior Management: Give Band 10 and below stock option equivalents. Let us travel business class to Asia and Africa. Quit delaying raises. Make us feel valued as employees and proud to be an IBM'er again. No, I would not recommend this company to a friend.
    • Employee of 15 years.” Project Manager (Former Employee). I worked at IBM full-time for more than 10 years. Pros: A company of tremendous depth and breadth. Lots of wonderfully smart people. Great place to grow your career if you are flexible enough to go where the opportunities are. Plethora of internal resources for learning. Cons: The management's relentless focus on bottom line, not only to keep the company profitable but also to keep expanding the profit margin, is alienating its workforce. The short term stock price gain might come at the expense of the company's long term prospect. Advice to Senior Management: The employees should be treated as human resources, not just resources. No, I would not recommend this company to a friend.
    • No such thing as work/life balance; not a good long term career option.” Managing Consultant (Former Employee), Atlanta, GA. I worked at IBM full-time for more than 10 years. Pros: Good place to start a career to gain experience with big clients and projects. Great network of smart, experienced people.

      Cons: The work/life balance is awful. Late nights and weekends are the norm. Sprinkle in some all-nighters throughout the year for good measure. The Global Services culture revolves only around meeting a ridiculous utilization target rather than delivering innovative work. The employee utilization target ignores vacation days and company holidays (YES, your earned time off counts against you), so everyone is required to carry additional projects throughout the year to meet their target.

      Any admin employees are forced to perform (completing the hours of regular mandatory training, attending all-hands meetings, navigating the bureaucracy, etc.) won't count toward their utilization target so employees must add more work time to their 60+ hour work week. Many won't take all their earned vacation because they fear not meeting those targets. There isn't enough bench or bandwidth to address business development, so late nights/weekends are spent crafting responses. Managers aren't given raises when they are promoted or even given a break in their utilization targets.

      Promotions to management positions are presented simply as "opportunity", which meant a 30% increase in work and no additional compensation for my promotion. The real "opportunity" is to gain as much experience as possible and move on to a company that respects their employees.

      Even if employees meet or exceed their utilization target, raises and bonuses are still minimal at best. I was always a top or higher performer ("1" or "2+" ratings) and typically received only a 1% or 2% annual raise while being told to be "thankful you have a job". Many coworkers would significantly exceed utilization targets and still not receive an annual raise. Employees are ranked as "low performers" so IBM can justify layoffs.

      The US staff count continues to be reduced while a large amount of work has moved to (cheaper) inexperienced global resources with inferior skills. There isn't any career path for most employees anymore. The management style is often one of instilling fear of a low performance rating and a layoff.

      The purse strings were so tight that new employees were instructed to download trial software to perform their jobs because we couldn't get licenses for them. Meanwhile, the approval to purchase a software license was a 10-step process of justifying the purchase to people who either would ignore the request or immediately decline. It takes months to get anything done because of the bureaucracy.

      Toward the end of Q4, it is common to receive an email encouraging employees to sacrifice vacation or work as many hours as possible. Sometimes, the incentive for those sacrifices would be to enter the employees into a contest to win a DVD player or MP3 player (not making this up). Typically, no incentive was offered at all. Last year, we received an email from the organization lead strongly encouraging everyone to work an additional weekend as "an opportunity to catch up on your projects", which was a thinly veiled way of saying "we need to bill more hours so we can exceed our quarterly projections".

      IBM is run by people who care only about driving up the stock price at the expense of innovation, delivering high quality work, or any consideration of their employees work life balance. Advice to Senior Management: Stop squeezing the life out of the employees. No, I would not recommend this company to a friend.

    • ...” Operations (Current Employee) Dublin (Ireland). I have been working at IBM full-time for more than 5 years. Pros: Trainings are very good and very broad; you can improve your knowledge in many areas from knowledge of a particular industry to various personal development courses. IBM has a very good brand reputation, and it's heritage is to be proud of. Internal progression is possible as well as inter countries transfers. Work/life balance is OK too. Cons: Salary would be on the low end compared to similar companies. Staff benefits are not good; no health insurance; no benefits comparable to the likes of Google, for instance. Company is never classified among the best companies to work for in Ireland. Obscure commission payments. The logic seems to change all the time so if you work in sales you should clarify that before joining. Advice to Senior Management: Improve staff recognition and atmosphere, team morale and benefits. Yes, I would recommend this company to a friend. I'm optimistic about the outlook for this company.
    • Staff Engineer” Staff Engineer (Current Employee), Raleigh, NC. I have been working at IBM full-time for more than 3 years. Pros: Overall good benefits for the market: Great 401k matching, vacation, and insurance. Good place to start career: Management was aware of steep learning curves. Was constantly exposed to new software/hardware. Plenty of friendly experienced co-workers: Everyone was willing to help out when they could. Extremely knowledgeable people in a variety of skills. Recognizable brand: Most everyone has heard of IBM. A lot people in the engineering industry have worked or know someone that has worked at IBM. Viewed as a respectable company to work for. Cons: For a first job out of college the age gap (avg team age: 45-50 years old) made it a bit more difficult to get into the culture. The benefits continually got worse (although minimally). The employees overall opinion of executive management was very poor. Overall morale was low throughout the time I was there. Advice to Senior Management: 1st and 2nd line managers were fine. Higher really needs to work on employee morale. Yes, I would recommend this company to a friend. I'm not optimistic about the outlook for this company.
    • Blue BlueB” Advisory Software Engineer (Former Employee), East Fishkill, NY. I worked at IBM full-time for more than 10 years. Pros: Flexible work hours, health plan, well established company, commitment to professional behavior, high performance culture, some very smart technical leaders. Cons: Robotic management focused on quarterly results—everything is a metric; negative changes to employee benefits; truly international; one American worker replaced three or more Asian workers; hardware is sinking. Advice to Senior Management: Offshore fewer American jobs? Reward the employees better? No, I would not recommend this company to a friend.
    • Bad place to works; treats employees like pawns” Global Business Services - Band 8 (Manager) (Current Employee), Herndon, VA. I have been working at IBM full-time for more than 3 years. Pros: Company has a great history. The opportunities are good if you have a responsive Band 10 or above to employees needs and concerns. Benefits are fair to on par with industry.

      Cons: Where do I begin? No one in this company can communicate for beans. Leadership calls employees "resources" and gives us all serial numbers...most organizations call their people, well, people or talent. This trickles down to everything...poor treatment of employees, ever shrinking benefits, terrible pay and no increases, company expects the world out of its employees but gives us NOTHING in returns. IBM has sold out to EPS and absurd promises to the Street.

      Advice to Senior Management: Go back to what IBM so strong and powerful in the beginning. Respect your TALENT. No, I would not recommend this company to a friend.

    • OK pay, good benefits and vacation” Manufacturing Operator (Current Employee), Essex, VT. I have been working at IBM full-time for more than 5 years. Pros: 12 hour work shift means you only have to work 3 or 4 days a week. At least 2 weeks of paid vacation with the opportunity to earn more.

      Cons: You have to work most major holidays including the 4th of July and Thanksgiving. They never have funds available for morale building events like they had in the past.

      If you have issues with payroll you must call employee services where you are directed to a call center overseas. These employees have no real idea what's going, only a rough black and white outline of what is suppose to happen. There is a HUGE disconnect between even the manager and payroll.

      When you leave IBM it is very common for them to over pay you and then either take the money back (straight from your bank account) or send you a bill, threatening to send it to collections if you do not pay. They hire, fire and layoff thousands of people every year... you would think they would get this right by now.

      Advice to Senior Management: Help build morale within the company. And figure out your payroll issues. Yes, I would recommend this company to a friend. I'm not optimistic about the outlook for this company.

    • Loved this company, but am deemed irrelevant due to my salary band and years of service” Anonymous Employee (Current Employee), Atlanta, GA. I have been working at IBM full-time for more than 10 years. Pros: Salary that is comparable to entry-level contract work. Work from home and client site, instead of an actual building. "Flexible" work schedules. Practically doubled in size during the worst recession in most of our lifetimes...though growth was everywhere except the US.

      Cons: IBM's idea of "flexible"work schedule means 130% utilization (or else), evening and weekend work, having to work an extra week for every week of vacation you take (or else), frequent stealth layoffs when IBM is looking to purchase another company in distress, a dramatic shift from quality to quantity (utilization is all that matters to them, now), abandoned core beliefs.

      Advice to Senior Management: I had hoped to stay at IBM for at least 20 years, but fear that 18 is probably the limit. It's really too bad, because IBM has done many great things in its history. I hope someone wakes up before it is too late and you lose all of your intellectual capital. No, I would not recommend this company to a friend.

    • Good place to learn, hard to advance” Financial Analyst (Current Employee), Somers, NY. I have been working at IBM full-time for more than 3 years. Pros: There is a wealth of knowledge at IBM, and you can learn about any aspect of business there. Cons: There are very long hours and the pay scale does not increase greatly. Promotions are hard to come by and vertical movement is rare, with a lot of horizontal movement. There are low raises and low bonuses. No, I would not recommend this company to a friend. I'm not optimistic about the outlook for this company.
    • Practically begging experienced engineers to quit so they can be replaced with young, cheaper new hires.” Senior Software Engineer (Current Employee), Seattle, WA. I have been working at IBM full-time for more than 10 years. Pros: A few years look good on the resume. Opportunity to advance career by spending a couple years in a developing country. Cons: Unlike a few years ago, few options to move to a different, growing area. No retraining, or any training. Benefits reduced every year. Advice to Senior Management: Stop pandering to Wall Street. Revive company value that considers employees an asset. No, I would not recommend this company to a friend. I'm not optimistic about the outlook for this company
  • Glassdoor IBM Canada reviews
  • LinkedIn's IBM Official Alumni Group: The Greater IBM Connection: Am Thinking about Leaving IBM, What’s it Like Out There? Excerpt: I was asked by a friend the other day “I am thinking about leaving IBM after 25+ years. What’s it like out there?” Of course what my friend meant is “What are the job search challenges, and how do I get started?” Well, it has been some time since I moved on from IBM, so I thought why not ask this group!! My friend is at the executive level in manufacturing, has some options internally, but the “siren call” of the world outside IBM is also beckoning. What advice would you offer?
    • I recently left after 25 years. When you start somewhere new, they don't typically pay as well. Many companies want tech people fresh out of college. The advantage of working remote at IBM is something I really miss.
    • I got a new job within 6 months of looking while I was still working at IBM. I started looking in August, accepting a new job in January making about 15% less than I did at IBM. I understood IBM was never going to let me reach 30 years service (I had 26 at the time).
    • Could you expand on this: "I understood IBM was never going to let me reach 30 years service (I had 26 at the time)"?
    • It was understood your retirement benefits get a little bump at 30 years service. If you ran the pension calculator before and after the 30 year mark you would see a difference. So, IBM saves money by terminating people before they reach 30. People already past 30 years service did not have to worry about that.
    • Agree on that point...just got the ax with 29 years at IBM.
    • I have found it very refreshing. I can think for myself and actually get things done. I do not need a committee to make a decision. I do miss some of the people but in the end it was getting really political and to be honest strange. The drive to 2015 seemed more important then sales. Oh and the other day I thought to myself that I really missed lotus notes. I will never say that out loud but the DB function it had was awesome.
    • I left after 16 years (5 with PwC and 11 with IBM as an acquired person). I loved the people I worked with, the work and most of the clients, but hated the Corporate culture and philosophy, so it was time to go. I wasn't even out the door before I was being contacted by other IBMers (current and former) and former business and client contacts asking if I might be interested in working with their agency or firm. The network anyone can build within a company like IBM should be able to help them through their next move and maybe even the one after that. My advice is to maintain and keep up with those contacts continually.

      I started working with a non profit run by a former PwC Executive Director I met on a project over 13 years ago. I'm loving every day now knowing that people listen to and respect my opinion, thank me on a daily basis, pay me for the value of my work, and legitimately concern themselves if they intrude on even a minute of my personal time.

      I started working with a non profit run by a former PwC Executive Director I met on a project over 13 years ago. I'm loving every day now knowing that people listen to and respect my opinion, thank me on a daily basis, pay me for the value of my work, and legitimately concern themselves if they intrude on even a minute of my personal time.

    • Hey, go for it! I never realized how unfulfilling my IBM "career" was until they laid me off in Feb-09 (along with most everyone else who was over 55) and I landed a job with Google. Wow! What an eye-opener! There *is* life after IBM, and it can be excellent. Tell your friend to check out google.com/jobs and see if anything interesting pops up.
    • Some great wisdom here from folks. As for me: I had 12 wonderful years with IBM software group, then three miserable ones with ITS. All the worst traits of IBM were manifested in my last role in ITS. It was a big change to leave, but like Francine people reached out to me almost as soon as I posted on Linkedin that I had left IBM. I found a new job within six weeks of leaving and had other offers too,

      Companies outside IBM tend to have less deep specialists, but better generalists than in IBM, and they make far better use of less/worse resources than IBM does. The lack of suffocating process can actually be disconcerting after fifteen years at Big Blue, but the freedom tastes sweet. After fifteen years my salary had hit a real good level in IBM, so I lost a little base salary outside, but to be honest the freedom of the role is well worth that.

      My hard careering at IBM bought me a house, and took my family all over the world on wonderful adventures. That season has ended, and I while I am grateful for it I am glad to not be flying every week now. Be brave, for the employment world loves ex IBMers :)

    • There's no doubt that time at IBM is a good thing on your CV and the experiences gained will stand you in good stead almost anywhere else. However there is a strong feeling that anything more that 5 years in Blue and you gradually become institutionalised and hence increasingly unemployable elsewhere. I believe I surmounted that hurdle by working in a role very much on the outside with partners etc and then going the whole hog by seconding out for several years. 'never looked back since!
  • Alliance for Retired Americans Friday Alert. This week's headlines:
    • Activists at U.S. Capitol Warn: “Don’t Use Shutdown to Cut Benefits for Seniors”
    • Rolling Stone Explains How Wall Street Wins at Public Workers’ Expense
    • Video Explains Affordable Care Act as it Applies to Seniors
    • Arizona Alliance Convention is Held in Phoenix
    • California Alliance Holds its 10th Annual Convention
  • Computerworld: H-1B workers in line for Obamacare work. IT requirements of the Affordable Care Act are being met under state contracts that allow, in their silence, the use of temporary visa workers. By Patrick Thibodeau. Excerpts: Some state governments are willing to hire offshore IT service providers to work on healthcare IT projects under controversial contracts that don't bar use of temporary foreign labor, or workers on H-1B visas.

    Two multimillion-dollar government healthcare IT projects, one in Illinois and the other in the District of Columbia, illustrate what's going on.

    In Illinois, Cognizant was awarded a $74.1 million contract in June to upgrade the state's Medicaid systems to meet the requirements of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare.

    In January, the District of Columbia awarded Infosys a $49.5 million contract to develop a health benefit exchange and replace its Medicaid and eligibility systems. ...

    Asked about the paperwork filed with the Labor Department, Cognizant said it would take on visa workers if needed. "Due to the shortage of qualified talent in many parts of the U.S., we routinely file LCAs when we anticipate a large contract to ramp up," Cognizant said in a statement. "Our first course of action is always to seek out qualified U.S. workers to fill these positions. We file LCAs as a fallback measure in the event that we are not able to find qualified U.S. workers."

    Ron Hira, a public policy professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology and a researcher who studies tech immigration issues, said that Cognizant "is able to piggyback off of the false claims of a dire shortage of U.S. IT workers," adding that "Microsoft and others are providing cover to firms like Cognizant by making broad-based claims of IT shortages." ...

    The hiring of temporary visa workers "isn't due to a shortage of U.S. IT workers, but instead for the simple fact that those H-1B workers can be paid less than the market wage," said Hira.

  • Forbes: The Real Reason Why Baby Boomers Are So Far Behind In Retirement Savings. By Robert Laura. Excerpts: One of the most persistent retirement questions is, “Why are baby boomers so far behind in saving for retirement?” While there are numerous ideas and theories surrounding it, I found the alarming answer during an interesting review of retirement planning history. ...

    Another important historical event provides insight into why people are behind in saving for retirement and why they avoid talking about it. Essentially, the transition of responsibility for retirement savings that took place in the 1980’s was a monumental shift that no one could have anticipated or appropriately planned for. 401(k) plans were initially introduced as a supplement to pensions and social security, not a replacement. Yet, 401(k) or defined contribution type plans today represent the primary and often only retirement funding vehicle people have access to use.

    Furthermore, this seismic shift from company sponsored pension plans to individual retirement savings plans is slightly more than 25 years old. The baby boomers are the first group to face this new retirement era and have many challenges ahead of them including the burden of saving and investing for up to 70% of their retirement, making those savings last for 20-30 years, and dealing with two of the worst economic environments in the history of investing (internet & housing bubbles) … and during the most critical time for them to build their retirement savings.

    Quite frankly, it’s surprising the group is not further behind or hasn’t completely given up. It’s no wonder people avoid talking about retirement because everything they read, see, and hear is designed to scare them or make them feel bad about being behind. The reality is, this is not your parents or grandparents retirement and people are behind and concerned for very real reasons.

  • Crain's Detroit Business: UM report: Employer-sponsored health insurance on decline for over 10 years. By Jay Greene. Excerpts: Employer-sponsored health insurance has been in decline for more than 10 years, according to a report from the University of Michigan Center for Healthcare Research & Transformation in Ann Arbor.

    From 1999 to 2011, the number of people covered by employer-sponsored health insurance declined by 15 percent nationally. From 2008 to 2011, people purchasing private health insurance dropped 4.7 percent in Michigan and 4.4 percent nationally, said the study, Private Health Insurance in Michigan 2008-2011.

    "Many people are concerned that employers will drop employee health insurance as the Affordable Care Act fully kicks in, but the fact is, this has been happening for many years already," said Marianne Udow-Phillips, director of CHRT.

News and Comments Concerning ExtendHealth (New Medical Plan for Medicare-Eligible Retirees)
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  • Yahoo! IBM Pension, Retirement Issues & Extend Health message board: "RE: Future Health Costs" by "netmouser". Full excerpt: Bill, I emailed Dr. Rhee about the document statement that access-only people must also buy through EH (says it twice).

    I asked: Please confirm, since I am access-only and have no IBM healthcare funding, that I am free to enroll in a new Medicare medical plan directly with an insurer and NOT through Extend Health. If not, tell me why I cannot or what I lose by doing so.

    He responded: You are free to enroll in whatever coverage you choose. If you do not to enroll through the Extend Health Medicare Exchange, you will not be able to enroll through affiliation with IBM in future years, and will no longer receive IBM communications.

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension, Retirement Issues & Extend Health message board: "Future Extend Health Enrollments" by "chz_whiz". Full excerpt: So what happens if, in subsequent Medigap enrollments, Extend Health no longer provides the specific plan one is on? Sounds like there’s a choice of (1) changing to an EH plan, with potential underwriting or decline for pre-existing conditions, or (2) keeping the plan you’re enrolled in, without EH, and forfeiting the HRA. Nice choice!

    Keep in mind the pre-existing conditions are before subsequent enrollments, and may not have even occurred yet.

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension, Retirement Issues & Extend Health message board: "HRA letter arrived and is it funny" by "lastdino1". Full excerpt: Well I just got home from a round of golf and opened the letter from Dr. Rhee on the HRA . It's pretty funny and must have taken a group of staff pukes to put it together. Being I fall in the $3000 a year group it looks like the swizzle of the dollars was pretty interesting.

    To cut to the chase we will get a form in Nov and we need to make a decision on our spouse. If we choose to have our spouses receive HRA cover after our death then our new HRA will be $2374 a year. Upon our death if we die before our spouse she will get a subsidy of $1187 a year for the rest of her life.

    If we choose not to give the spouse coverage after our death we will have $3000 in the HRA to use, but when we die the spouse gets nothing. I'm still laughing so now you know the whole story. They must have been working on this for at least a year. I like the spin LOL. Good luck.

  • Yahoo! IBM Retiree - Information Exchange: "RE: HRA letter arrived and is it funny" by "here2test". Full excerpt: Is this something new? My HRA is $3,000. Why do we have to take a reduced HRA amount in order for the spouse to receive a reduced HRA after our death? And with no rollover of unused amount. This deck is stacked!
  • Yahoo! IBM Retiree - Information Exchange: "RE: HRA letter arrived and is it funny" by "grandpafromli". Full excerpt: Wow, thanks for that information. What a screw job. Then again, would we expect anything less from IBM. These jerks make the mafia look like a benevolent organization. Then again, the mafia never hurt me or my family. All those promises IBM made when I joined about how we will always have a job, healthcare, etc. for the rest of our lives. What a load of cr$p. It just gets worse and worse. It makes me want to join a free militia of the independent states.
  • Yahoo! IBM Retiree - Information Exchange: "RE: HRA letter arrived and is it funny" by Bob Sutton. Full excerpt: I asked IBM to look at the SPD for the first choicers and the answer was that the survivor continues the get the same subsidy i.e. in your (and mine) case 3k.

    This new spin will likely more than cut that in half on average since the average of the two options is $593 if half took each option (0 or 1187 survivor benefit and assuming half the IBMers were male and female supporting the other spouse).

    Instead of simply cutting the subsidy in half we can now look at the mortality tables and get the expectancy of each spouse and then factor in pre existing conditions to play the Vegas game except that like Vegas they know each of our ages and have already figured it out to six decimals and guess what they claw back even more money if you take the reduced subsidy on average (otherwise they would never have offered it).

    For you gamblers the current joint life expectancy is 79, male 76, female 81 now roll the dice.

    Makes you almost puke and shows the desperation of the current execs who have only one strategy and that is cost cutting before they bail out with that golden parachute...after all the end game of cost cutting is liquidation but not for them.

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension, Retirement Issues & Extend Health message board: "RE: HRA letter arrived and is it funny" by "larryrgeorge". Full excerpt: I got my letter from IBM today too. I fall in the $3,500 group, since I retired June 30, 1991. But since I want to ensure my wife also has this help, should I die before her, I am going to have to take the reduced amount of $2,600 a year.

    But I have a further question that is not covered in this letter. If we have any unused money in our HRA at year end, does the remaining amount carry over to the following year? Because if you have a Health Savings Account (HSA), any unused money carries over. Because you might not have a lot of expenses in 2014, but you could have major expenses in 2015 or later.

    No, I have not been drinking. I would just like to be surprised and find out that IBM is doing something good for their retirees. But then why should they start doing so now?

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension, Retirement Issues & Extend Health message board: "Re: HRA letter arrived and is it funny" by "harris_berman". Full excerpt: Any unused funding in the HRA will be forfeit at the end of the calendar year. The HRA will be reloaded at the start of the next year for the amount stated for your subsidy. Only the unused FHA money in the HRA will rollover to the following year.
  • Yahoo! IBM Pension, Retirement Issues & Extend Health message board: "RE: HRA letter arrived and is it funny" by "retired_engineer@...". Full excerpt: Per the IBM ExtendHealth Announcement Newsletter, Page 7: "The HRA represents IBM's annual contribution to your health care costs, and will not roll over year to year. Any balance at the end of the calendar year will be forfeited."
  • Yahoo! IBM Pension, Retirement Issues & Extend Health message board: "RE: HRA letter arrived and is it funny" by "bobc4012". Full excerpt: BTW, other companies providing a similar HRA roll them over. Since IBM will never increase that subsidy, if they are correct in their assessment that costs will triple by 2020, that subsidy will be akin to a pimple on an elephant's butt.
  • Yahoo! IBM Retiree - Information Exchange: "Re: ExtendHealth May Be Limiting Our Choices While Not Addi..." by "grandpafromli". Full excerpt: I just looked at the ExtendHealth options today, since they said the plans available will be on today. I have no choice. There is only ONE frigging plan in our state, namely Humana. It's either take it or leave it, and the premiums are about four times what I paid last year for Aetna, even after deducting the $3000. What a screw job.
  • Yahoo! IBM Retiree - Information Exchange: "Re: ExtendHealth May Be Limiting Our Choices While Not Addi..." by "richvancer". Full excerpt: Double check to make sure you didn't miss the little blurb about AARP plans being available by phone. It might not be there for you but if it is, it's easy to miss.
  • Yahoo! IBM Retiree - Information Exchange: "Dental plans for 2014" by "grandpafromli". Full excerpt: If we thought the medical plan options were bad, wait until you hear about DENTAL. According to the person I talked to at ExtendHealth today, maximum coverage per individual is either 1,000 or 1,500 per year, and the premiums have tripled over what a couple paid in 2013. Another screw job.
  • Yahoo! IBM Retiree - Information Exchange: "Medicare eligible 2014 but wife not" by "strato77mike". Full excerpt: I am still trying to understand what everything means to me. I have the Future Health account (missed by 30 days the old plan) and I turn 65 in Oct next year however wife is still under 65 for entire year.
    1. When do I receive info on picking a plan for 2014?
    2. What happens in Oct to both myself and wife; do I pick another plan or what?
    3. Does IBM provide any of the FHA to paying insurance once I am Medicare eligible?
    4. Can I still use the FHA to pay for wife's insurance and also prescription, vision, dental?

    I was hoping to get some info in the mail to start going thru this as I am so confused now.

  • Yahoo! IBM Retiree - Information Exchange: "RE: Medicare eligible 2014 but wife not" by "netmouser". Full excerpt: You will receive a package just before October NEXT year when you turn 65. You are a year away so why worry now?
  • Yahoo! IBM Retiree - Information Exchange: "RE: Medicare eligible 2014 but wife not" by "netmouser". Full excerpt: Your early retiree plan package you'd expect to receive now - ask ESC when those packages are mailed out, open enrollment begins October 15 and as I recall the packages are received early October, so probably this week, maybe next week you'll get your package.
  • Yahoo! IBM Pension, Retirement Issues & Extend Health message board: "HRA spouse coverage option" by "rhs". Full excerpt: Points to ponder if you commit to the lower amount to cover your spouse.

    The fine print on page 4 has the usual escape clause... we can change anything at anytime, so:

    • If you opt for the lower amount, so your spouse will receive a subsidy upon your demise, and IBM decides to discontinue the HRA in the future (it is not guaranteed by IBM or ERISA), is your spouse still covered? If not, you gave up the full HRA amount for nothing.
    • Unless I missed it, there is nothing in the letter that says if you take the lower amount, your spouse will receive the subsidy for the rest of his/her life. Is it just a yearly thing?
    • Suppose after taking the lower amount for several years, you decide in a future year to opt out of Extend Health for whatever reason. You will not be eligible for the HRA, so does your spouse lose the coverage if you die? If so, you just lost the money you could have had in previous years. Looks like this is a life long commitment to stay with Extend Health.
    • What happens if IBM reduces your HRA subsidy in future years? Is your spouses coverage also reduced?
    • This sounds like the final and irrevocable pension coverage for your spouse, only that is (hopefully) protected by ERISA, while this is not.
  • Yahoo! IBM Pension, Retirement Issues & Extend Health message board: "RE: My observations after attending ExendHealth presentation" by "kindtr". Full excerpt: "Does it read that as a Medicare eligible retiree I MUST enroll in Extend Health and my non Medicare spouse must go with a traditional IBM plan? Or is what Bob Sutton said earlier correct (we do not use EH until we are both 65). And yes what would them mean for the HRA money?" It sounds like you will be keeping the coverage you have now until you're both Medicare eligible. Please call the ESC to confirm.

    I asked this verbally after the Poughkeepsie EH presentation (they chose not to read my written card) and was told that I should enroll in EH and my non Medicare wife go with a traditional IBM plan via Fidelity. They did not know how the subsidy money would divide up but said that the IBM money would 'go to both'. It sounded to me like they had not been trained on how to handle this split, or even considered it.

    Having just been RAed on September 10 I said that I would instead be using COBRA (transitional medical plan) coverage for next 15 months (MVP PPO+). I have not received ANY EH or IBM mailings regarding my future medical decisions. I suppose due to being in the employee termination process using Fidelity but it is frustrating to have so little information.

    The EH person told me that I would be able to save LOTS of money by using EH now as above instead of COBRA. THEN she asked me how much I was to pay under COBRA.

    Hopefully I can use COBRA until end of 2014 along with its IBM subsidy and then yes I will be forced to go to EH for myself and traditional IBM for wife.

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension, Retirement Issues & Extend Health message board: "Re: EH on 2014 plan status" by Anne McBride. Full excerpt: Because my HRA is incorrect I just spent approximately 1-1/hours on phone between Extend Health and IBM NetBenefits (Fidelity) who was finally able to confirm my argument but told me to go back to ExtendHealth to get it changed. So, after being bounced around (I talked to 4 people in both organizations) EH finally created a "ticket" within the "funding dept." of EH. So, if someone has a similar problem, you can try to get to them direct and request a ticket and save the frustration and time.

    One of the people I talked with in EH was a "benefit advisor" and while we were waiting, I asked him about dental and vision. (I know there were questions earlier about this). He said they can be purchased outside of EH, as well as anything that is considered a 213D expense (Schedule A) by the IRS, i.e., acupuncture, etc. This is, however, just verbal input, so check everything out for yourself.

    P.S. FWIW, Fidelity Net Benefits doesn't have a clue yet what is going on with all this!

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension, Retirement Issues & Extend Health message board: "Completed enrollment process" by "harris_berman". Full excerpt: I called EH this PM to inquire how to transition my BCBSNC Medigap plan to their enrollment process and wound up completing that application and all of the rest of my drug, dental and vision plan choices. The entire process took about 1 hour guided by a very knowledgeable broker. You basically go through an oral application for each product selected during which time you have confirm your understanding of what has been discussed and the plan summary (all recorded).

    I checked the EH website at the end of the call and saw that all of the applications for products had been successfully completed. I canceled my scheduled appointment of the middle of October since everything was completed. I'll receive a confirmation letter from EH within the next two weeks. There might be additional verifications required which will be done either by telephone or mail.

    All in all, it was a reasonable experience, but lengthy. Be prepared with coffee and food while you are on the phone. I've no idea how EH will handle 110,000 retirees at 1 person/hour, but that's not my concern.

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension, Retirement Issues & Extend Health message board: "RE: How much is IBM putting into the Heath account?" by "nabrum". Full excerpt: I have $3K allocated to my name. Is that for both of us or did they forget my wife?
  • Yahoo! IBM Pension, Retirement Issues & Extend Health message board: "RE: How much is IBM putting into the Heath account?" by Samuel Bernadino. Full excerpt: I have $3K allocated to my name. Is that for both of us or did they forget my wife? That is it.
  • Yahoo! IBM Pension, Retirement Issues & Extend Health message board: "Re: State to state price" by Bob Sutton. Full excerpt: Here is my sign-up decision and logic for those in similar situations to compare; be prepared for a half hour ordeal to hear all the weasel words for both spouses when you sign up but you can change up to 12/31 any number of times.

    In CT with guaranteed and MOM laws so we can shift between plans with no underwriting monthly an unlimited times and not pay any Medicare excess charges. That said I picked the community based Anthem HD F plan (Humana also available) for both of us figuring we can upgrade and downgrade around any planned medical procedure leaving only 18 wheelers and heart attacks as the real risk to have to spend the max OOP $2110/year; the cost $35/month/person. I finally found an offset to retiring in CT which is the second worst state behind California to do so but I still miss my IBM Integration A plan for $57 for both.

    The two dental plans offered by Humana and Delta Dental max at $1000 and cost around $500/year so you are betting $500 to get a max of $500 back (as opposed to the max $1500 payback with IBM capped at $2k)...not a good bet even in Vegas unless you like to play red and black on the roulette wheel all night; so we are going self insured and will pay from the HRA. Once you start paying the company monthly they send an electronic notification to EH and they deposit the rebate in your checking. For ad hoc expenses there is a rebate form on the home page of EH.

    Vision is self insured by seeing a real ophthalmologist and getting the best exam and prescription and then fulfill in Costco.

    Now that the shock of change is over I think it's a good time to reminisce a bit. We were the generation that helped build the best corp on the globe and got in return the best benefits and most interesting historic assignments in an atmosphere of almost total respect for the individual ever seen on planet Earth, then or now, due to the foresight of the Watsons. I say we saw the best of IBM and that no current exec can ever take away from us all.

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension, Retirement Issues & Extend Health message board: "Competition, choice, and value—not what was promised" by "stevedbmw". Full excerpt: Took a quick look at my EH choices here in POK (retired in 2009). Four Medigap plans offered, no managed care plans. My bitch is that all plans were Humana, ranging in price from (rounded) $95: High Ded Plan F to $285: No deductible Plan F. These are also more expensive than my current Aetna Managed Care PPO. So we are pretty much stuck with whatever this one company decides to charge us.

    I have not yet checked to see if the 3 med groups that I must deal with annually accept this plan. If not the case I will have to chose between the care I want (and pay list) or compromised care that may not be sufficient.

    Where is the competition? Where is the choice? Where is the better value? I do have the option of staying with Aetna Managed Care for 2 yrs, but at prices as yet undisclosed.

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension, Retirement Issues & Extend Health message board: "RE: Competition, choice, and value—not what was promised" by "netmouser". Full excerpt: Steve: likely not all plans in yet, still being approved. NJ has nothing Medicare Advantage and will have lots I'm sure based on 2013 at EH.
  • Yahoo! IBM Pension, Retirement Issues & Extend Health message board: "Goodbye & Good Riddance to Aetna Integration Plan A (AIPA)" by "ibmexe". Full excerpt: Yep, AIPA at $57/month for me and wife seemed like a reasonable deal. But that was only because someone else was paying for most of it. Who really paid for the rest and how much was it that they paid?

    Well simple math tells me that at my age an identical plan would cost at least $4784 on the open market. Assuming IBM paid my whole $3K and I paid my $57 *12 = $674, that still leaves $1010 unaccounted for...not to mention whatever subsidized my Dental and Vision plan.

    Where did this excess come from? Well clearly IBM paid it, but how could it? It is much more than the cap. Why did I get this good deal, and why and how did the pre-1992 retirees get an even better deal paying only $17/month for two? Considering that they are in their 80's, their open market rate would be 1.5-1.75x mine; their excess over their $3.5K capped amount would be significantly higher than my own $1K+.

    Simple answer is that OTHER IBMers for one reason or another were UNDERINSURED relative to their capped subsidy. For every dollar they received less from IBM, I and others could get $1 more. So I got at LEAST $1K more and this could possibly be made up for by one other IBMer who for whatever reason only chose medical options costing $2K or $1K less than his own $3K subsidy.

    That's the problem with a capped aggregate subsidy amount. Some of us got a "free ride" at the expense of another IBM retiree. That's not going to happen anymore thanks to EH, thank goodness.

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension, Retirement Issues & Extend Health message board: "RE: Goodbye & Good Riddance to Aetna Integration Plan A (AIPA)" by "lastdino". Full excerpt: Sorry but I don't agree with your summary on aggregate payment. IBM capped each employee and did not contribute different amounts to different plans. The plans that were/are listed were negotiated by IBM with the insurance companies. Some were better then others as well as being priced differently.

    These were all negotiated and after the smoke cleared IBM allocated $3500/$3000 to each plan and the remaining costs were picked up by the employee. It is still being done today for the full time employees but the plans have to meet the new government standards.

    If you use the Aetna IP A the cost was just $57x12+$3000 = $3684.

    These plan only paid the 20% remaining but based on their history most medical group would live with the 80% Medicare payments. So the insurance company would loose a few but not pay anything for the majority.

    I believe it is fair to say that neither IBM or the insurance company lost out.

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension, Retirement Issues & Extend Health message board: "RE: Goodbye & Good Riddance to Aetna Integration Plan A (AIPA)" by "ibmexe". Full excerpt: Sorry but you seem to be making things up out of thin air.

    First, IBM did not cap each employee. They divided the Medicare eligibles into 2 groups depending on when they retired...i.e. group3 and group3.5. Then if group3 had "n" retirees in it, they asserted that for this group, IBM would NEVER pay more than n * $3000 for the whole group. That's not the same as saying they would never pay more than $3K for any retiree, is it?

    The average age of those in group3.5 is about 83 and those in group3 average above 70. Those in group3.5 paid $17/month for AIPA above their group average $3.5K cap and this would total $3.704K for a retiree and his spouse. But Aetna itself charged $298/month for an 83 year old male and $274/month for a female for a Plan F ND last year. This totals up to $6864/year if bought on the open market from Aetna. Similar math holds for group3.

    Facts then clearly show that although for each group IBM never paid more than n * $3K or m * $3.5K for each group, some of them received the equivalent of almost $7000 in benefits. The only way these conditions can be met is that benefits for some had to be substantially lower.

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension, Retirement Issues & Extend Health message board: "RE: Goodbye & Good Riddance to Aetna Integration Plan A (AIPA)" by "hdaxe98". Full excerpt: Please help me understand the basis for the title of Goodbye & Good Riddance to Aetna Integration Plan A.

    t would appear that the plan was packaged well and administered fairly. If pricing fairness is an issue, any pricing disparities could be adjusted year to year. Although the $57 rate for Retiree + 1 was fantastic for 2013, I would be willing to pay significantly more to receive the coverage provided.

    With respect to winners and losers, IBM wins by lowering its payouts to those retirees that participate. For example, IBM contributed a full share for me and many others that used other health insurance (10 years in my case) instead of the IBM retiree package. Since this is now a zero sum game, the retirees are all losers.

    I understand the IBM rationale for the move but I deplore the IBM lack of candor regarding the significant take aways.

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension, Retirement Issues & Extend Health message board: "RE: Goodbye & Good Riddance to Aetna Integration Plan A (AIPA)" by "southlk". Full excerpt: Somehow, your overall assessment and "Good Riddance" crack fails to consider the fact that for many years IBM promised "lifetime free medical coverage". This promise was broken, which in turn violated all the managers, who for years believed this "free health care" position, and continually assured those reporting to them their health care was a given. I was an employee for 38 years and I can only imagine that top execs within the company were happy to break this commitment as this likely increased their personal wealth.

    It seems offensive to me to now be told by you that we had been given a free ride on the backs of other employees, when in fact we have been paying for many years because our company opted to break this healthcare promise.

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension, Retirement Issues & Extend Health message board: "Dependent who is not on Medicare" by "maplemistymorning". Full excerpt: I am completely confused about insurance for one's living spouse who is not on Medicare In talking about "surviving" spouses, who are not Medicare-eligible, the letter says they will receive subsidized coverage under the IBM Plan. What IBM Plan? I assume they can't get coverage from Extend Health.
  • Yahoo! IBM Pension, Retirement Issues & Extend Health message board: "RE: Insurance for spouse who is not Medicare eligible" by "ileftibm". Full excerpt: I also have a non-Medicare-eligible spouse, and I have received nothing from IBM mentioning this situation. Are you looking, IBM? Time to Speak Up on this.
  • Yahoo! IBM Pension, Retirement Issues & Extend Health message board: "RE: Dependent who is not on Medicare" by "kindtr". Full excerpt: They mean a traditional IBM Plan for your spouse as provided today by going to the Fidelity website but only for her If you are Medicare eligible you use EH. EH is only offering plans for Medicare eligible. I know this is very confusing, such as how the IBM subsidy gets divided across the two of you, all I was told that IBM would subsidize both plans.

    Regarding your 'surviving spouse' reference I assume the above also applies if you are deceased and she is still non eligible...she continues use IBM (Fidelity).

    I have yet received any documentation as I was just RA'ed, so I have been calling IBM, Fidelity, and EH to figure this out as best I can. Bob.

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension, Retirement Issues & Extend Health message board: "RE: Dependent who is not on Medicare" by "madinpok". Full excerpt: There is nothing out on Fidelity about 2014. That's because the enrollment for non-Medicare retirees for 2014 hasn't started yet. Look for something around the end of October.
  • Yahoo! IBM Pension, Retirement Issues & Extend Health message board: "RHA for Medicare retiree and spouse" by "redrock_5432". Full excerpt: Question for a Medicare retiree and spouse who receives the $3k RHA. How are the amounts showing on the EH site? All $3k with retiree or split between the 2 of you? Asking as this will be a future case for me. Please be specific. Thank you.
  • Yahoo! IBM Pension, Retirement Issues & Extend Health message board: "RE: RHA for Medicare retiree and spouse" by "stevejm1935". Full excerpt: Question for a Medicare retiree and spouse who receives the $3k RHA. How are the amounts showing on the EH site? All 3k with retiree or split between the 2 of you? Asking as this will be a future case for me. Please be specific. Thank you. You must ELECT in writing to receive EITHER the $3K for you OR a reduced amount for you and half that amount for your wife if you predecease her. The choice is irrevocable.
  • Yahoo! IBM Pension, Retirement Issues & Extend Health message board: "RHA for Medicare retiree and spouse" by "namremf". Full excerpt: It shows $3,000. I am a 2000 retiree. It's a bucket of $ I can spend through EH. Most of mine will go for my wife's insurance. I see nothing that says it has to be $1500 each or anything similar.

    (My healthcare is all free through Veterans Affairs. Their business model doesn't have any staff or hospitals filing claims. Everyone gets paid and they are not hassled with the bureaucracy the civilians have. My care is phenomenal and it's all paperless.)

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension, Retirement Issues & Extend Health message board: "RE: RHA for Medicare retiree and spouse" by Kathi Cooper. Full excerpt: VA medical is single payer. No bills. No claims. No hassle. No insurance companies trying to fill their pockets. Drug prices are negotiated. I hope we get there at some point in our future.
  • Yahoo! IBM Pension, Retirement Issues & Extend Health message board: "RE: RHA for Medicare retiree and spouse" by "alwaysontheroad4bigblue". Full excerpt: VA medical is single payer. No bills. No claims. No hassle. No insurance companies trying to fill their pockets. Drug prices are negotiated. I hope we get there at some point in our future.

    My son lives in British Columbia. He, along with everyone else in the province regardless of age, pays around $60 a month for single-payer insurance. (Low income people pay less or nothing.)

    He can go to any doctor he wants. He shows his provincial health insurance card, and that's it. No copays, no explanation of benefits, no deductibles, no paper work.

    We could have had a similar system in the U.S. but the insurance companies in this country have too much power...they own both parties. The rest of the world thinks we're crazy. They're right.

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension, Retirement Issues & Extend Health message board: "Re: Plans Dropped Off" by Bob Sutton. Full excerpt: Anthem just canceled its HD F plans for 2014 (after I signed up for it, BTW) and I had to call Anthem because EH would not. Yes it appears it's still very much in flux and therefore it's prudent to wait for the end of the month to finally sign up. Also the $2110 HD F deductible is a 2013 figure and has yet to clarified. EH's goal is always to get you to sign up, but your's are obviously different. Slow down and wait for the dust to settle.
  • Yahoo! IBM Pension, Retirement Issues & Extend Health message board: "RE: Insurance Companies (for Medigap)?" by "chz_whiz". Full excerpt: Interesting article about trends in the Medicare Advantage world: http://www.benefitspro.com/2013/09/25/medicare-advantage-plans-to-drop-next-year.

    Same edition has an article about a 32 year IBM veteran who now has IBM insurance and a Medicare Advantage, and is concerned about going to the EH (to be TW) Exchange. http://www.benefitspro.com/2013/09/25/retirees-fear-shift-into-exchanges

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension, Retirement Issues & Extend Health message board: "Spouse/family member under 65?" by "dafc94596". Full excerpt: Talked to several reps from EH (seriously unimpressed, for the first time in my life I realized I'd prefer an Indian call center) about why my wife doesn't show as a "family member". Well, they state they are only handling Medicare eligible participants. If the family member is not Medicare eligible, they are not covered through EH.

    I called Fidelity/IBM employee service center (as per Rhee's Sept 2013 memo) and asked them the same question and got a vague response about how "non-Medicare eligible dependents are being handled by a different process/company".

    Then asked how I would claim HRA reimbursement for "non-Medicare eligible dependents being handled by a different process/company" given, as I understand it, EH is responsible for managing the HRA. Looks like nobody has thought about this; maybe "a company called BUDCO can provide answers in November"

    Anyone got a goof answer about this?

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension, Retirement Issues & Extend Health message board: "RE: Spouse/family member under 65?" by "kindtr". Full excerpt: To dafc94596. You said "looks like nobody has thought about this" (HRA reimbursement for non Medicare dependents). When I asked an IBM executive at the Poughkeepsie presentation she did not have an answer and wrote something in her notebook. The EH person did not know either and when I called a Fidelity medical advisor she did not know. I was just told by all parties not to worry about it, that everything will be taken care of.

    So when the dependent purchases a medical/dental/vision plan from Fidelity is the subsidy sent to Fidelity from the HRA? It has to come from somewhere when the Medicare retiree goes to HR since that is where we are told IBM is sending the money. Scary that EH is not even aware that you have a wife since that would make this more confusing.

    So yes, it appears to me this was not thought out, as hard as that is to believe. Unless they think we will not like the answer. Also appears that will take time to train all the proper people to inform us of the answer.

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension, Retirement Issues & Extend Health message board: "Kaiser Senior Advantage (HMO) Individual plans setup went pretty well" by "bobrentfro". Full excerpt: My wife and I have been Kaiser Senior Medicare Advantage members for about 3 years and we wanted to keep that plan. Fortunately a method to do that has emerged.

    After calling Kaiser and enrolling in the Individual plan for next year, then calling Extend Health (who incidentally aren't as proficient as Kaiser yet) I was told that the HRA had been activated. The Individual Kaiser plan costs $95.00 monthly each for the Advantage Plus coverage ($75 plus $20) each. My HAS will be a maximum of $2,374 annually and will probably cover most of the Kaiser costs, although the co-pays are slightly higher than the IBM Group plan. But -- I had been having about $280 per month withheld from my pension to pay for my Kaiser coverage.

    I called IBM HR (at Fidelity) and asked if I understood that the withholding now in effect would stop and therefore my pension payments would increase by that amount? They told me yes!

    That means, if I understand it correctly, I will have very similar healthcare coverage at essentially no cost to my pension. I told the HR rep, that it sounds too good to be true. She said I was essentially in for a raise in this case. If true, I am very pleased with this change that IBM is making. Anybody see something here I don't see?

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension, Retirement Issues & Extend Health message board: "RE: Kaiser Senior Advantage (HMO) Individual plans setup went pretty well" by "egroups1bp". Full excerpt: Earlier on, when I asked if I could buy a plan not listed on EH, and have the subsidy pay for premiums- I was told no , unless I was already on certain plans from Kaiser—so you must fall into that bucket.

New on the Alliance@IBM Site

Job Cut Reports

  • Comment 09/27/13: What do people think about the big RA and then getting pulled back in same role as a contractor for more money in only 3 months? I'm happy to be back but what a dumb plan. The morale of those still there is just lovely, they should try to find a replacement in this area. Serious wake up call for me, and hate the lack of "respect for the individual" this whole ordeal just reinforced. -xbeemer2soon-
  • Comment 09/29/13: Just because IBM settled with the Justice Department and agreed to change its practices doesn't mean it will. The practice will now go 'underground'. Oh sure, IBM will be able to produce records to show adherence to the policy...There will be 'lots of interviews, and lots of Americans interviewed'. However, in the end, the cheaper labor source will still be hired. It will likely backfire on the government as well. IBM will now have records they interviewed Americans but they 'just didn't have the skills'. Give us more H1B applicants! -Now Gone Underground-
  • Comment 09/29/13: Ginni has made a change in IBM's approach to business partners such that IBM account teams are now encouraged to work with business partners to close business quicker by providing needed skills. Someone forgot to tell Ginni that IBM has RA'ed the skilled technical sellers that the business partners are looking to leverage. Additionally, the business partners are inundated by IBM account teams looking for sales updates. Ginni, here is a clue about business partners; they too have cut back on head count because their executives want to make more money and the margins from IBM have shrunk. Business partners are in no position to increase sales with their reduced head counts. Ginni, it looks like the business partners are following IBM's lead and only looking for the easy money tactical deals that can be had with lower skilled people and reduced head counts. -Anonymous-
  • Comment 09/29/13: The latest trick is to announce a Market Rate Pay package. Giving hope to some. It then turns out that Managers only have the budget for to hand out a tiny sum which if divided equally to the people under Market rate (i.e. nearly everyone) would not even buy a daily newspaper. This must be an IBM trick to raise hope by announcing Market Rate Pay rises and then dashing everyones hopes. -Sarge-
  • Comment 09/30/13: 44,400 to settle the Federal civil case of job postings being discriminatory. Why so low a penalty and fine? IBM will easily pay for it by a sniper RA of one or two workers or just increase the cost cuts at those sites named in the suit (East Fishkill/Poughkeepsie, Essex Jct. VT, upstate NY). -sby_willie-
  • Comment 10/01/13: 2014 will be the year the old-timers (30 yrs) are finally forced out of IBM. IBM will make it financially painful to stick around next year due to benefit reduction. Apparently, a company wide benefits restructuring plan is coming next year. An option will be made available to those with 30 years of service time to keep benefits if you leave the company in 2014.

    The details I have are vague on specifics. A plan will be announced and targeted employees will receive an email detailing the plan. (i.e. something along the lines of how IBM asked for volunteers to ease themselves into retirement by reducing work hours and pay. In return, IBM promised not to lay you off).

    I do not know what IBM is planning in terms of the degree of the benefits changes. All I know is it will be the employees choice to leave, and they will not receive the separation package that is given to people who are RA-ed. IT'S COMING...you have been warned. -more pain to come-

  • Comment 10/02/13: Manager held meeting and said basically that there won't be any raises this year due to non-funding and promised about some "new" compensation plan going to start in the spring of 2014. Yet "manager" knew little to nothing about it. -VanishingCash- Alliance reply: What division/business unit are you in?
  • Comment 10/03/13: To -VanishingCash-: Yes, There is something BIG coming next year. What you say falls in line with how IBM is going to push the old-timers out. The managers don't have very specific details. Only vague plans as to what is coming. The less they know, the less leaks out. -more pain to come-
  • Comment 10/04/13: The message from more pain to come does not make sense. There are employees with 30 years of service that are on the new plan. A lot of employees for that matter. There is nothing to "take away" from the 30 year employees. The old retirement plan was frozen years ago. Medical benefits are definitely going to change with the new affordable health care act. Everyone can see that coming. -Mike-
  • Comment 10/04/13: -more pain to come -: Putting aside the FHA (which is bogus and doesn't factor into my thinking at all), benefit leverage by IBM would have to be vacation (we have 5 weeks + personal choice), maybe by combining sick time with vacation; or pension. However, anyone on the old pension plan is frozen, and the value is protected by law (your earned benefit cannot go down). Anyone with a PPA also has that protected; by calling it a pension, IBM can't reduce the value. As for the 401K, they already proved that we shouldn't count on the match, and everything in that account belongs to us by law. So while I don't doubt what you're saying, I'm not sure I see where IBM has any substantial (financial) leverage left with this age group. -BTVer-
  • Comment 10/04/13: In SSO transition and transformation. 2nd line basically told us that India will be performing T&T now. Become an architect because India doesn't have any. Writing is on the wall. I am and will remain an Alliance member but will be leaving IBM as soon as I can find a new job. -BOHICA- Alliance Reply: We appreciate your support, information and contribution to this web site. Thank you.
  • 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 10/01/13: Received a letter from ibm yesterday that talks about the subsidy. For those who retired before 1992, it's $3500. Those who retired after 1992 get $3000. A retiree can opt to get the full amount for him/her self and none for the surviving spouse. Or you can opt to have your surviving spouse get the subsidy. If that's done, its permanent and irrevocable, and the amount while the retiree is alive drops to $2600 for pre1992 retirees and $2374 for post 1992 retirees. A surviving spouse will receive $1300 or $1187 based on retirement date. -Dave-
  • Comment 10/01/13: If you retired on or after January 1, 1992 you get 3000 to spend on Medicare Exchange benefits - before that date you get 3500 to spend. However if you are a spouse of a retired IBM who has passed on, you only get 1187/1300 which based on my estimation is far worse than the credits one was getting as a retired spouse under an IBM Managed Plan up to 2013. Actually it's pretty pathetic and a huge takeaway. -long_retired-
  • Comment 10/01/13: First - uninstall that hijacked Firefox browser that IBM forced onto you laptop. God only knows what it is tracking. Second, pay for Malwarebytes.com and delete any suspicious IBM tracking malware. -Raul-
  • Comment 10/02/13: I'm hearing reports from the recently retired (30 years+ in IBM) that IBM is taking upwards of 90 to 180 days to start pension payments. I was told by one woman that her recently retired daughter had to hire an attorney and file suit to get her pension payments started. Any truth to these reports? Typically, how long does it take IBM to start paying out a pension to its retirees today? -anonymous-
  • Comment 10/03/13: I also had an unsolicited encounter with Extend Health. I've been retired from IBM for 5 years and chose not to continue with my IBM health care benefits. Each year I receive a letter regarding my next year's health benefits under the IBM plan. I've since gone onto Medicare

    I just received a letter on IBM letterhead, sent to my current address (where we've been for two years) saying I had to call Fidelity NetBenefits "because a recent piece of mail was returned to our office". . . .so I called. An hour and a half later after being transferred to nine different people and being put on hold for several minutes each time, I ended up with an Extend Health representative who tried to get me to go over my health care options. When I refused to continue with the conversation, he tried to get me to set up an appointment to discuss at some other time. No thanks! -Jane-

  • Comment 10/04/13: My wife and I spent about 2 1/2 hours with extend health this past Tuesday. We had to continually provide the same information over and over to Application Data Processor. There were not a lot of plan choices once you had determined the way you wanted to go. Very disappointing! -Ron-
  • Comment 10/04/13: In regards to "hearing reports taking 90 - 180 days to start pension payments." There is a distinct difference between reading a news report and just "hearing things". A lot of people "hear things" but hearing these things are not the facts. -Claude-
  • Comment 10/05/13: I was RA'd on 7/12, and I'm retired as of 7/31. I received my first pension payment (for August and September) at the beginning of September, and I received my 401K match on 8/30. Both payments arrived slightly sooner than my ESC rep had promised. -newly retired-
News and Opinion Concerning Health Savings Accounts, Medical Costs and Health Care Reform
Minimize
  • Kitches.com's Nerd's Eye View: Understanding The New Premium Assistance Tax Credit. By Michael Kitces. Excerpts: The premium assistance tax credit, established under IRC Section 36B as a part of the Affordable Care Act (also known as "Obamacare"), takes effect in 2014, and is intended to help make health insurance more affordable by providing a tax credit to subsidize the cost of insurance for “lower” income individuals.

    In practice, though, the introduction of the premium assistance tax credit creates a new series of rules that financial planners must be aware of, for a wide range of clients who may potentially be eligible for the credit, which can apply for individuals with income up to $45,960 and a family of four earning $94,200 (in 2013, and adjusted annually for inflation). And given the dollar amounts involved for the credit itself (which can be worth several thousand dollars to a family), the ramifications of effective health insurance tax credit planning can be significant. ...

    “Income” for the purposes of the premium assistance tax credit and the FPL is based on modified Adjusted Gross Income (AGI), which means AGI increased by any income not reported due to the foreign earned income or housing cost assistance exclusions, any tax-exempt interest (i.e., municipal bond income), and any Social Security benefits that were otherwise excluded from income. In other words, household income for the purposes of the credit will include Adjusted Gross Income plus all bond interest (taxable or tax-exempt to the extent not already included), and plus all Social Security benefits (taxable or tax-exempt to the extent not already included). ...

    Notably, individuals are only eligible for the premium assistance tax credit if they are enrolled in a qualifying health plan (QHP), which means coverage that is offered through an exchange, provides essential health benefits, and meets actuarial requirements. In addition, the premium assistance tax credit is available only if the individual is not already receiving "affordable" minimum essential health coverage elsewhere (e.g., from a government program, employer-sponsored plan, etc., that meets the minimum value and affordability requirements). Thus, in practice the premium assistance tax credits are primarily for those who don't otherwise already have access to health insurance, and/or for whom their other (e.g., employer) health insurance is unaffordable after the employer's contribution. ...

    As a result, the new health insurance rules would essentially break clients into three groups: those above 400% of the Federal poverty level, who pay the full cost of their insurance (and may or may not be able to deduct any of it); those below 400% of the Federal poverty level, who will pay for coverage but receive a premium assistance tax credit to partially ameliorate the cost (and might also partially deduct); and those below 133% of the Federal poverty level, who will potentially owe no premiums at all and will simply be covered by Medicaid. On the other hand, because not all states are adopting the new 133%-of-FPL Medicaid thresholds, some lower income individuals below this threshold but above 100% of FPL will still be expected to purchase insurance through an exchange (albeit subject to the 2%-of-income maximum limit on the cost of coverage).

  • NBC News: Quitting for Obamacare: Trapped workers may seek relief in new health exchanges. By JoNel Aleccia. Excerpts: As millions of Americans wait to see how the federal health exchanges shake out, some who’ve been hanging onto their jobs just for the insurance say Obamacare gives them a new reason to bid their old employers goodbye.

    One Arizona couple, Claudia and Joseph Schulz, just quit their jobs, in fact, and launched a husband-and-wife real estate team, largely because they can sign up this week for health insurance not tethered to any position.

    “That was the fear before. We felt too much on our own,” says Claudia Schulz, 33, of Phoenix. “Now, if we’re able to make our dream come true of owning our own business, or at least giving it a shot, it’s worth it.”

    Starting a business or retiring early will suddenly become an option under the new exchanges, experts say, especially for the many employees who have felt trapped by so-called “job lock” -- being stuck in a position because of the benefits, usually health insurance, it provides. ...

    It may be particularly attractive for older workers -- those in their late 50s and early 60s still too young for Medicare -- who will find they can get affordable insurance despite health problems. That will free them from the trap of needing to work, but being too sick to stay on the job, experts say. ...

    “The idea is that when people have employer-sponsored insurance, even if they would like to start their own business, they might be reluctant to leave that job that provides them insurance coverage if they’re not confident they would be able to access affordable health coverage some other way,” Carole Gresenz, a health economist at Georgetown, told NBC News. ...

    And one 35-year-old Austin, Texas, man tells NBC News he plans use Obamacare to leave his “not exactly fulfilling” corporate job to become an independent consultant for a favorite food product. But he doesn’t want to share his name because he hasn’t told his boss – and he still needs insurance to cover his wife’s rheumatoid arthritis, a pre-existing health condition.

  • Fox News: Five reasons Americans already love ObamaCare — plus one reason why they’re gonna love it even more, soon. By Sally Kohn. Excerpts: There’s a reason Republicans have been rushing to try and defund the Affordable Care Act before October 1, when major sections of the law take effect.

    Republicans know what polls show — that most Americans don’t know what’s in ObamaCare, but when told what the law actually includes, a strong majority support the law.

    Once state health insurance exchanges take effect, and premiums for all Americans go down, Republicans know the law will only become more popular and harder to repeal. ...

    Because just like Republicans railed against Social Security and Medicaid and Medicare when they were first proposed, those programs are now highly effective and broadly popular parts of our social safety net — supported even by strong majorities of Republican voters.

    So, for those of you who have been too busy criticizing ObamaCare for partisan reasons to actually look at what’s in the law — and see what Americans like about it — here is a handy-dandy review:

    • ACA allows young Americans to stay on their parents’ insurance plans...
    • ACA bans insurance companies from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions...
    • ACA offers tax credits to small businesses to buy insurance...
    • ACA requires companies with more than 50 employees to provide health insurance...
    • ACA provides subsidies to help individuals afford coverage...
    • State-based health insurance exchanges...

    Personally, as someone who pays through the nose for individual insurance in New York State — a state where, historically, few individual insurance options have even been available — I can’t wait to enroll in ObamaCare and see my premiums plummet, as they are expected to by at least 50%. ...

    Republicans who are throwing temper tantrums over sour grapes need to grow up. Congress passed the Affordable Care Act, President Obama signed it into law and the Supreme Court upheld its constitutionality. ...

    The cost of doing nothing on health care reform was too great and the cost of repeatedly refighting the political battles of the past is obscene. But then again, it makes perfect sense why Republicans refuse to just give up and shut up — because the minute they do, there will be no more distractions from all the good things about ObamaCare.

  • Christian Science Monitor: Obamacare 101: What to know if you already have health insurance. As Obamacare rolls out, the president's frequent assertion – that 'if you like your health-care plan, you can keep your health-care plan' – is proving to be not quite true for some people. By Linda Feldmann. Excerpts: Most Americans already have health insurance, either through work, a family member, or a government program like Medicaid or Medicare But that doesn’t mean they won’t have anything to do with the online marketplaces, or “exchanges,” that go live on Oct. 1.

    In fact, some Americans will discover – or may already have – that their employer is opting out of providing insurance to their employees and is instead sending them to the exchanges to buy insurance. Others who already buy their coverage on the individual market may find that their old venue for purchasing insurance is no longer selling plans.

    For example, AARP – the powerful interest group for older Americans – is no longer offering health insurance plans. Many AARP members are under age 65 and therefore don’t qualify yet for Medicare So those in the 50-to-64 age bracket who are self-employed or not working, and are able to afford insurance, are buying it on the individual market. ...

    But on the bright side for the already-insured, there are plenty of aspects of the ACA that make a lot of people happy. Under the law, insurers can no longer reject someone with a preexisting condition, kick someone off their insurance if they become ill, or put an annual or lifetime cap on their coverage. The law also requires plans to provide a range of preventive screenings with no co-pays and allows people up to age 26 to be covered on their parents’ plan.

  • The New Yorker: States of Health. By Atul Gawande. Excerpts: Ours can be an unforgiving country. Paul Sullivan was in his fifties, college-educated, and ran a successful small business in the Houston area. He owned a house and three cars. Then the local economy fell apart. Business dried up. He had savings, but, like more than a million people today in Harris County, Texas, he didn’t have health insurance. “I should have known better,” he says. When an illness put him in the hospital and his doctor found a precancerous lesion that required treatment, the unaffordable medical bills arrived. He had to sell his cars and, eventually, his house. To his shock, he had to move into a homeless shelter, carrying his belongings in a suitcase wherever he went.

    This week, the centerpiece of the Affordable Care Act, which provides health-insurance coverage to millions of people like Sullivan, is slated to go into effect. Republican leaders have described the event in apocalyptic terms, as Republican leaders have described proposals to expand health coverage for three-quarters of a century. In 1946, Senator Robert Taft denounced President Harry Truman’s plan for national health insurance as “the most socialistic measure this Congress has ever had before it.” Fifteen years later, Ronald Reagan argued that, if Medicare were to be enacted, “one of these days you and I are going to spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it once was like in America when men were free.” And now comes Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell describing the Affordable Care Act as a “monstrosity,” “a disaster,” and the “single worst piece of legislation passed in the last fifty years.” Lacking the votes to repeal the law, Republican hard-liners want to shut down the federal government unless Democrats agree to halt its implementation. ...

    So far, the health-care-reform law has allowed more than three million people under the age of twenty-six to stay on their parents’ insurance policy. The seventeen million children with preëxisting medical conditions cannot be excluded from insurance eligibility or forced to pay inflated rates. And more than twenty million uninsured will gain protection they didn’t have. It won’t be the thirty-two million hoped for, and it’s becoming clear that the meaning of the plan’s legacy will be fought over not for a few months but for years. Still, state by state, a new norm is coming into being: if you’re a freelancer, or between jobs, or want to start your own business but have a family member with a serious health issue, or if you become injured or ill, you are entitled to basic protection.

    Conservatives keep hoping that they can drive the system to collapse. That won’t happen. Enough people, states, and health-care interests are committed to making it work, just as the Massachusetts version has for the past seven years. And people now have a straightforward way to resist the forces of obstruction: sign up for coverage, if they don’t have it, and help others do so as well.

  • Washington Post: Kentucky promotion of health insurance law draws interest among uninsured. By Phil Galewitz. Excerpts: Behind the Jim Beam American Stillhouse and the Wild Turkey Sit N’ Sip Saloon at the Kentucky Bourbon Festival, a sales team pitches the Affordable Care Act.

    But potential buyers are wary. On a late-September night — days before the launch Tuesday of the state’s online health insurance marketplace, called Kynect — most passersby are unaware of their new insurance options under the law, confused by the political sniping and doubtful the law will help them.

    “I thought this was defunded,” said Carolyn Richards, 53, of Mount Sherman, who has been uninsured for a decade. She had heard that the Republican-controlled House had voted to cut off the funding for President Obama’s signature health-care law this month but was unaware that Senate Democrats and the White House were refusing to go along. ...

    Sharon Omstead, 46, who works at a factory labeling bourbon bottles and who calls Obama “the devil” for his economic policies, was surprised to learn that she’ll qualify for Medicaid and have to pay little or nothing for health coverage under the law.

    “I’d heard a lot of bad things about the law and how it will make prices for health insurance go up, and how everyone will have to buy insurance even if they can’t afford it,” she said.

    Pam Lux, 59, of Edgewood complained about insurers turning her away because of her diabetes and assumed that that would happen again until a Kynect worker informed her that such exclusions are prohibited under the law starting next year. “I’m glad to hear that,” she said. ...

    To get around the political stigma burdening the law, Gordon tells the staff assisting consumers — called navigators — that the Obamacare label is poisonous and to avoid it. “For a lot of people in Kentucky . . . Obamacare has a negative connotation and if you say Obamacare, people pretty much shut down and won’t listen to anything beyond that,” she said. ...

    Beshear acknowledged in an interview that the public debate is confusing, “and obviously that’s the intent.” “But I think opponents of the law are scared to death of being in position a year from now, where people look at them and wonder what all the noise was about as they sit here with an insurance policy that they can afford,” he said.

  • New York Times: U.S. Plans to Unveil New Insurance Options. By Robert Pear. Excerpts: The Obama administration plans on Monday to announce scores of new health insurance options to be offered to consumers around the country by the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association and the United States Office of Personnel Management, the agency that arranges health benefits for federal employees, according to administration officials. ...

    Federal officials said they had signed a contract with the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association to offer health insurance next year in the marketplaces, or exchanges, of 30 states and the District of Columbia. In later years, the officials said, they hoped to see at least two multistate plans in every state, as Congress envisioned. ...

    In negotiating with insurers, the Office of Personnel Management leveraged more than 50 years of experience in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, the nation’s largest employer-sponsored health insurance program, covering more than eight million federal employees, retirees and dependents. Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans are, by far, the most popular among federal employees, with more than 60 percent of the enrollment. ...

    When Congress was debating the health care legislation in 2009, many Democrats wanted the federal government to offer an insurance plan like Medicare, to compete directly with private insurers in the exchanges. In a letter to Congress in June 2009, Mr. Obama said: “I strongly believe that Americans should have the choice of a public health insurance option operating alongside private plans. This will give them a better range of choices, make the health care market more competitive and keep insurance companies honest.”

    Republicans resisted the idea, as did the American Medical Association and many drug companies, which feared that a government-run insurance program could set prices and drive private insurers from the market.

    Supporters of the multistate plans authorized by Congress say the plans will increase competition in local health insurance markets, many of which are dominated by one or two carriers. The multistate plan will, for example, be available next year in New Hampshire and West Virginia, which would otherwise have just one carrier in their exchanges.

  • Wall Street Journal MarketWatch: 10 things Obamacare won’t tell you. The health exchanges, central to the law, are also its biggest mystery. By Jen Wieczner. Excerpts:
    • “You might want to avoid signing up on Day One.” ...
    • “Yes, some workers are being required to use exchanges — but not these exchanges.” Three of the country’s biggest companies — IBM, Time Warner and Walgreen — announced in recent weeks that instead of offering traditional health benefits, they would send some of their current or retired workers to purchase coverage on insurance exchanges. That caused a panic among some Americans who believed major corporations were ending job benefits and turning them over to the government. But health-care experts say it was all a big misunderstanding: The corporate exchanges are completely separate from the exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act. ...
    • “Expect to be confused.” ...
    • “Don’t bother asking our staff for recommendations.” ...
    • “Blue states do it better.” ...
    • “Abuse our honor system at your peril.” ...
    • “You’ll still pay for this, even if you don’t use it.” ...
    • “We’re a magnet for hackers and con artists.” ...
    • “You might not be able to keep your doctor.”“Competition is for the greater good — except when there aren’t any competitors.” ...
  • New York Times: Locked Out of the Insurance Marketplace. By Ann Carrns. Excerpts: You’ve probably been hearing about the new health insurance marketplaces, which open for business on Oct. 1. Millions who were previously uninsured or underinsured can seek coverage through the marketplaces, also known as exchanges, created by the Affordable Care Act.

    But if you are a low-income resident of one of 25 states, including Louisiana and South Carolina, you may miss out on financial help offered by the exchanges. That’s because those states haven’t expanded their offerings under Medicaid, the federal-state health program for low-income people, as the law envisioned. A list showing the expansion status of all 50 states and the District of Columbia is available on the Kaiser Family Foundation Web site.

    A result is the frustrating situation in which you could qualify for financial help to buy coverage on the marketplaces — if only you made more money. ...

    Coverage for people earning below the poverty level was supposed to be handled by a federally funded expansion of Medicaid. But the Supreme Court ruled in June that expanding Medicaid was optional — and half the states chose not to do it, contending that the added costs would be too burdensome for taxpayers. The law didn’t anticipate the lack of Medicaid expansion, so there is a gap in coverage for those who don’t qualify for their state’s existing Medicaid plan, and who earn too little to qualify for financial help on the exchanges. ...

    If you fall into the income gap, you can buy a policy on the exchanges — but you’ll pay the full premium. That’s “unrealistic” for someone making less than poverty income, said Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, which advocates for broader health care coverage. According to the Kaiser Foundation’s premium calculator, a 40-year-old man or woman who doesn’t smoke and earns $10,500 a year — below the poverty level — wouldn’t qualify for subsidies and would pay nearly $3,200 a year, or roughly a third of his or her income, for a “bronze” plan on the exchanges.

    “The irony is that people with higher incomes can and will get help,” said Mr. Pollack.

  • New York Times commentary: Good Glitches. By Paul Krugman. Full excerpt: So, very early reports are that Obamacare exchanges are, as expected, having some technical glitches on the first day — maybe even a bit worse than expected, because it appears that volume has been much bigger than predicted.

    Here’s what you need to know: this is good, not bad, news for the program. The glitches will get fixed; remember the calamitous rollout of Medicare Part D? What matters is whether enough people — especially, of course, young, healthy people — actually do sign up for insurance. If they do, health reform will be a success, and will become irreversible.

    The big fear has been that a combination of ignorance and misinformation would keep people away, that they wouldn’t sign up either because they didn’t know that insurance was now available, or because Republicans had convinced them that the program was the spawn of the devil, or something. Lots of people logging on and signing up on the very first day — a day when the Kamikaze Kongress is dominating the headlines — is an early indication that it’s going to be fine, that plenty of people will sign up for the first year of health reform.

    Yes, there may be some negative news stories about the glitches. But Obamacare is not up for a revote. As Jonathan Bernstein says, the only thing that matters is whether it works. And today’s heavy volume is yet another sign — along with abating health costs and below-expected premiums — that it will.

  • The Boston Globe: States’ Medicaid decisions leave millions uninsured. By Sabrina Tavernise and Robert Gebeloff. Excerpts: A sweeping national effort to extend health coverage to millions of Americans will leave out two-thirds of the poor blacks and single mothers and more than half of the low-wage workers who do not have insurance, the very kinds of people that the program was intended to help, according to an analysis of census data by The New York Times.

    Because they live in states largely controlled by Republicans that have declined to participate in a vast expansion of Medicaid, the medical insurance program for the poor, they are among the 8 million Americans who are impoverished, uninsured, and ineligible for help. The federal government will pay for the expansion through 2016 and no less than 90 percent of costs in later years.

    Those excluded will be stranded without insurance, stuck between people with slightly higher incomes who will qualify for federal subsidies on the new health exchanges that began operating this week, and those who are poor enough to qualify for Medicaid in its current form, which has income ceilings as low as $11 a day in some states. ...

    The 26 states that have rejected the Medicaid expansion are home to about half of the country’s population, but about two-thirds of poor, uninsured blacks and single mothers. About 60 percent of the country’s uninsured working poor are in those states.

    “The irony is that these states that are rejecting Medicaid expansion — many of them Southern — are the very places where the concentration of poverty and lack of health insurance are the most acute,” said Dr. H. Jack Geiger, a founder of the community health center model. “It is their populations that have the highest burden of illness and costs to the entire health care system.” ...

    Mississippi has the largest percentage of poor and uninsured people in the country at 13 percent. Willie Charles Carter, an unemployed 53-year-old whose most recent job was as a maintenance worker at a public school, has had problems with his leg since surgery last year.

    His income is below Mississippi’s ceiling for Medicaid — which is about $3,300 a year — but he has no dependent children, so he does not qualify. And his income is too low to make him eligible for subsidies on the federal health exchange.

    “You got to be almost dead before you can get Medicaid in Mississippi,” he said.

  • New York Times editorial: A Population Betrayed. Excerpts: It is outrageous that millions of the poorest people in the country will be denied health insurance because of decisions made mostly by Republican governors and legislators. These people will neither qualify for their state’s Medicaid program for the poor nor for subsidized coverage on new insurance exchanges that are being established in every state by the health care reform law.

    Their plight is a result of the Supreme Court’s decision last year that struck down the reform law’s mandatory expansion of Medicaid and made expansion optional. Every state in the Deep South except Arkansas has rejected expansion, as have Republican-led states elsewhere. These 26 states would rather turn down incredibly generous federal funds that would finance 100 percent of the expansion costs for three years and at least 90 percent thereafter than offer a helping hand to their most vulnerable residents.

    As Sabrina Tavernise and Robert Gebeloff reported in The Times on Thursday, two-thirds of the country’s poor, uninsured blacks and single mothers and more than half of the uninsured low-wage workers live in those states. The reform law originally sought to help poor and middle-income people through two parallel mechanisms. One was a mandatory expansion of Medicaid (which in most states cover primarily children and their parents with incomes well below the poverty level) to cover childless adults and to help people with income levels above the poverty line. Those with slightly higher incomes would be eligible for federal subsidies to buy private policies on the new insurance exchanges. ...

    The Times report, based on an analysis of census data, found that eight million Americans who are impoverished and uninsured will be ineligible for help of either kind. To add to the insanity, people whose incomes initially qualify them for subsidies on the exchanges could — if their income fell because they lost a job — end up with no coverage at all.

  • Huffington Post: Health Care for All. By Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT). Excerpts: It is unconscionable that in one of the most advanced nations in the world, there are nearly 50 million people who lack health insurance and millions more who have burdensome copayments and deductibles. In fact, some 45,000 Americans die each year because they do not get to a doctor when they should. In terms of life expectancy, infant mortality and other health outcomes, the United States lags behind almost every other advanced country.

    Despite this unimpressive record, the U.S. spends almost twice as much per person on health care as any other nation. As a result of an incredibly wasteful, bureaucratic, profit-making and complicated system, the U.S. spends 17 percent of its gross domestic product --approximately $2.7 trillion annually -- on health care. While insurance companies, drug companies, private hospitals and medical equipment suppliers make huge profits, Americans spend more and get less for their health care dollars than people from any other nation.

    What should the United States be doing to improve this abysmal situation? President Obama's Affordable Care Act is a start. It prevents insurance companies from denying patients coverage for pre-existing conditions, allows people up to age 26 to stay on their parents' insurance, sets minimum standards for what insurance must cover and helps lower-income Americans afford health insurance. When the marketplace exchanges open for enrollment on Tuesday, many Americans will find the premiums will be lower than the ones they're paying now. Others will find the coverage is much more comprehensive than their current plans. Most importantly, another 20 million Americans will receive health insurance. This is a modest step forward. But, if we are serious about providing quality care for all, much more needs to be done.

    The only long-term solution to America's health care crisis is a single-payer national health care program. The good news is that, in fact, a large scale single-payer system already exists in the United States and its enrollees love it. It is called Medicare Open to all Americans over 65 years of age, the program has been a resounding success since its introduction 48 years ago. Medicare should be expanded to cover all Americans.

    Such a single-payer system would address one of the major deficiencies in the current system: the huge amount of money wasted on billing and administration. Hospitals and independent medical practices routinely employ more billing specialists than doctors, and that's not the end of it. Patients and their families spend an enormous amount of time and effort arguing with insurance companies and bill collectors over what is covered and what they owe. Drug companies and hospitals spend billions advertising their products and services. Creating a simple system with one payer covering all Americans would result in an enormous reduction in administrative expenses. We will be spending our money on health care and disease prevention, not on paper pushing and debt collection.

  • Salt Lake Tribune: Obamacare defunders don’t want to hear this story. By Paul Rolly. Excerpts: We’ve all been treated lately to the circus-like antics from self-serving politicians chest-thumping about defunding Obamacare, Republicans like Sen. Mike Lee using that battle cry as a punch line for his constant stream of fundraising emails and the governor and Legislature waiting to decide whether to accept federal money for Medicaid expansion.

    But here is the story of a real person with real needs who, through no fault of his own, has no job, no income, no health insurance and a severely challenging medical condition who the Mike Lees, Ted Cruzes and other tea party bloviators don’t want to hear about.

    Bart Combe is a 53-year-old single man with no children living in his household who has multiple sclerosis and lost his job as an industrial electrician last year because of his deteriorating condition.

    "I have been employed and have paid taxes since the age of 15," he wrote in a letter to Gov. Gary Herbert last month. "I have always had medical insurance and have paid my share of the premiums through my employer."

    After he was laid off in August, 2012 due to his worsening medical condition, he received unemployment assistance for six months, while applying for many jobs and attending several job fairs, only to be turned down once his medical condition was revealed.

    He was able to use his unemployment benefits to pay for his $486-per month Cobra insurance, but he didn’t make enough to meet his $920 mortgage payments and lost his home.

    He applied for other financial assistance and medical coverage through Medicaid, but he was denied because he made too much on unemployment.

    When his unemployment ran out after six months, he applied again for financial assistance through the Utah Department of Workforce Services because of a policy that requires an applicant to wait six months after a denial before he or she can be reevaluated.

    He applied again for Medicaid, but was denied because he is not "totally or permanently disabled.

    He applied for a hearing in May but was denied because he had applied for disability payments through Social Security and a final determination of that application had not been made. After that denial, Social Security turned him down, too. ...

    So now he has no medical insurance and no prescription coverage and the retail cost of his daily injections of Copaxone, an MS drug, is $3,200 a month. ...

    The governor’s spokesperson, Ally Isom, said Herbert appointed a working group to study the Medicaid expansion issue and he is waiting to get all the facts to make "the right decision." Meanwhile, Mike Lee distributed yet another email Friday asking for campaign contributions to help him defund Obamacare.

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