Monday, January 30, 2012

Retirement Questions

I got this e-mail from a retired teacher and reader.  she has lots of good points and questions I can't help her with so I am posting in hope of getting her some answers. 
Hi Ms. PO’ed,

I wanted to vent and didn’t know to whom to vent (sorry, I am an old English teacher). All the blogs are concerned with Bloomberg’s attempts to destroy education in New York as we know it and I can’t seem to find any that deal with the day-to-day complaints of our retired brethren. In fact, one of my formerly favorite bloggers seems threatened (his column this past week) by the retired teachers chapter members, afraid that if we vote in mass we will somehow make things worse both in the union itself and in the system.

I know you are (somewhat newly) retired and several of your followers are too. Do you know of any blogs that are specific to our needs?

My vents: 1) I paid into the 25/55 retirement plan for many years, confident that I would make it past the 25 years, even expecting to work beyond. But the sudden targeting of older teachers, the Principals Academy no-nothing principal I worked for, the lack of protection from the union, made all my plans go up in smoke. I went out after only 23 years. That means that the retirement figures bounce back to the 32 years model and the money I paid in goes for nothing. Why can’t we get that back? Since so many of us older teachers are going out early, being forced out by the Bloomberg policies, where is all that money going? Since I am now on a small fixed pension, smaller than I had ever dreamed because I went out early, I could so use that money. I emailed the retired teachers chapter leader, Tom Murphy, and got an email back saying he would look into it. I can’t possibly be the only retiree who has asked about it, can I?

2) I know that all the teachers are now being told they must use express scripts. I hate express scripts. I hate the idea that it is a monopoly and I have no choice. I hate that this badly affects neighborhood pharmacies trying to survive in this awful economy. I hate that even though I can get discount coupons from the drug companies that reduce my costs, express scripts will not honor them (the neighborhood pharmacies always did). I hate it taking up to 30 days to get my meds. I hate that I have to rely on the post office, which is on the verge of bankruptcy and is cutting services, to get me my much needed medicines.

3) Where did the deductible suddenly come from for lab tests? I thought the medical coverage (GHI) stayed exactly the same after retirement. I just received a denial letter on routine blood tests my husband and I got two weeks ago, saying I was responsible for the entire amount because my deductible had not yet been met. WTF? I have never, in all my years as a City employee, had a lab bill denied. And what does this mean when I go in later this year for some surgery? Will there suddenly be bills that wouldn’t have been there if I were still working? If so, why, if it is the same plan??????? And why does no one explain this? Nowhere is it written – all I find is that the medical coverage is the same after retirement.

4) Can anyone explain SHIP to me in laymen’s terms? Do I save all my doctors’ and lab bills and then submit them? Why? I am confused about the purpose of SHIP and what to do about it.

5) And finally but perhaps more important than the rest, why should it, in this era of computers, take 5 full months for them to get me my actual pension? I retired in the off-season, not at the end of a school year when so many others were putting in their papers. And, more to the point, why did they “tide me over” with less than half of my projected pension – I figured that my twenty-something daughter who works for little more than minimum wage was earning more than I was getting, certainly not enough for a person to live on! I know, I know, they give you interest on the monies, as the person at the pension office kept saying, but I had to take out loans to get through these five months! That is a sin! Why can’t they err on the side of the newly retired teacher?

Thanks so much for letting me vent. You know I am such a big big fan of your blog. If you want to use any of this in your blog, of course, feel free.



ed notes online said...

Wish I can answer all your questions but really don't pay much attention. I do know that SHIP reimburses you $700 each year for something or other which makes it worth it. I never had to submit anything to SHIP. The check just arrives and I hand it to my wife who having worked in the med field finds all the info i need.
Express scripts has worked for me but i only have one prescription.
Everyone has to wait to get their money. unfair but the union is the only force that can influence that -- ask our pension reps for an answer.

As for the retiree influence in the uft the problem is unity uses them to control the union. there will never be change in the uft until the retiree vote is curbed.

Schoolgal said...

I can only answer some of these questions, but the majority of these questions were answered at the time of my final pension consult.

My friend went to one this month and was told if she leaves early she like you will go back to the old pension method like you did. So of course she will continue to work the extra 2and 1/2 years rather than lose pension money and get the penalty.

As a retiree, you do NOT have to use Express for your daily meds--that law I believe is for in-service only. But if you use your own druggist, you need to meet a deductible. I know, because I continued to use my own pharmacist for my daily drugs until last week. Express is sending me a 60-day supply for $10 and if your doctor faxes or uses the new computer model, it's much quicker than mailing it in yourself. I have NEVER waited 30 days. You get either or phone call or email mail confirmation when your order is processed.

SHIPP refunds us for many services. I missed out on getting money back that I paid to my pharmacist last year by a few dollars. This is why I am going back to Express for my daily meds. (forgot the term that applies to this type of drug). I did get back my money for the podiatrist. Ask the UFT for a copy of Mulgrew's letter describing the new SHIPP coverages.

My blood tests are covered.

I do know that the first 3 months of my pension were covered as if I were in-service. I paid SHIPP immediately and they answered all my questions as well.

You also have to make sure anything else you cover--like catastrophic is attached to your pension, and to do that you need to call the AFT for the forms. Until then you pay directly.

Any questions I had, I called the UFT Retirement Services. They should be able to answer many of your questions.

Your drugs now go through GHI if that's what you use rather than your old card. Again, call the UFT Retirement Services.

Anonymous said...

Is it possible that you retired without a pension consult? Friends of mine who are close to retirement make sure to have a consult every year (the UFT recommends this), and the one final consult the year you are going. I also know that there are private (I.e.: not connected with the UFT, and whom you have to pay), who are known to be quite knowledgeable about our union benefits. Even though you are already retired, and not eligible for any more UFT consults, you may want to pay someone (I think it runs about $150, but that's just a guess) to help you.

I also have heard that, unfortunately, our medical benefits are NOT the same as when we are in-service. In the fall, in the union paper, there is always a pull-out section that delineates the different medical plans, and what services are covered, what deductibles are, etc. Maybe that's available online or somewhere else, or maybe you have a very organized friend who may keep such things.

By the way, the 25/55 legislation was only passed about four years ago, so I wouldn't say anyone has paid into it for "many" years. Still, I remember very clearly being told that if you do not make it to 25 years, you have lost that money. I also vaguely remember something about if you make it to 30 years (I only heard of a 30 year model, not a 32 year one), you then DO recoup what you paid in. I very well may be wrong on this point, as there is no way in the world I'll be sticking around to 30 years, so I only really paid attention to the 25 year info.

burntoutteacher said...

Thank you so much for posting my queries on your blog, Ms. PO'ed. And thank you for the responses. Some of them, however, have some erroneous info and I wanted to address some of it.
First of all, to Ed Notes, an otherwise incredible blogger and activist in his own right, please don't repeat the divisive nonsense that retirees are only fodder for Unity votes. For the last many years, thanks in large part to the horrible 2005 contract, many retirees are as angry and frustrated with Unity and its people and policies as a good portion of working teachers. And, because so much pressure has been placed on teachers recently to get out early, I know that I am not alone in thinking that we new retirees were as screwed by the union as by the DoE. Ed Notes and other bloggers have been featuring rhetoric that is creating as divisive an attitude between retirees and working teachers as already exists between the newbie Teaching Fellows (and their ilk) and the older, traditional-route educators.Instead of negating the retiree voters and accusing them or being shills for Unity, let's work to get other groups access to the retiree mailing lists.
On to the other comments: I understand that I had to wait. But five months is a long time. More to the point, why, are newly retired teachers only given such a small amount to start?
Schoolgal -- I had to retire early. I was being targeted. I wish I could have held out but I could not. I knew I was going to get a much reduced pension but it is often a lesser of evils. No I can use my local pharmacy but I was just quoted $88 for a month supply of a medication that will cost only $60 for a two month if I mail it away. The pharmacist was incredibly apologetic and also incredibly upset. His prices are set for him and he can not compete with the huge monopoly of express scripts which merged with its only competition, Medco, last year. So, SHIP does reimburse for expenses. I was unsure of that one. Thanks, Schoolgal.
No, Anonymous, I did not retire without a consult. In fact, I had a consult about 8 months before the final consult. And I am a fairly bright person. If I am confused by a lot of this, others must be too. The 25/55 was passed in 2007, before the real targeting and harassment of older teachers became as rampant as it is now. I am sure all of us who signed up thought that we would easily make it or go further. That so many of us have retired early, making the 25/55 plan useless, means that a lot of funds are sitting somewhere in the pension system. They were specificially earmarked to offset the expenses of 25/55. Surely that money should go back, at least in part, to the people who paid in in good faith. If you can get your money back because you retire early due to illness (one of the contingencies in the 25/55 program), why can't some of the funds go back to us?

Schoolgal said...

I would also recommend getting a financial adviser. For me I have my TDA in fixed which I started before my retirement because I get over a 7% return. But that's because I am in a position where I want to sleep at night.

From everything you stated, I too wondered if you went for your consults and took notes. In fact did you go for a consult before buying into the new plan. Many teachers told me it was not for them based on their years of service. For others, it made perfect sense.

I believe in-service teachers no longer use Express, but retirees do and you are NOT required to get all your meds through them. But you should call UFT Retirement Services just the same.

Here is a bit of advice. If you use your own pharmacists, you have to reach a deductible. But ask what the payment would be if you DID NOT go through the insurance. I just found out if was cheaper!!

We also get a check each year from the UFT to help offset our medical premiums. And AFT legal services are now free.

Anonymous said...

Why is UFTWF Executive Director Arthur Pepper SCREWING Midicare Part D enrolles out of their Catstrophic Coverage benefit because he doesn't like that Brand name drug purchasers are getting
the brand name discounts given to us through Obama's discount program arrangements with the drug manufactures? He has given HIS staff orders to reduce all claims by the amount of of the "Other Payments" that count towards the threshold limit contrary to benefit

Anonymous said...

I am a UFT pension consultant. Many of the information disseminated here is incorrect. Please call the UFT to get the correct information.