3rd Quarter 2015 Benefits Corner


By Al Horan

Al Horan Captioned Q2 2015I would like to begin by sharing with you highlights from the Benefits Committee presentation made to the Delegates who attended the Annual Meeting. Then, I would like to provide highlights of a presentation that was made by Dr. David Wiechers of United Healthcare to the Delegates. Finally, I would like to update you on medical statistics effecting senior citizens and also share with you a revolutionary medical procedure that can change blood testing.

The primary objective of the Benefits Committee is to add value to CRA membership by: (a) assisting members with benefits problems; (b) being an advocate for CRA members with Chevron; and (c) being proactive by educating and informing members about benefits and related topics. We employ various communication techniques to get the word out – this column, email messages that are sent to Chapters for dissemination to their members, Chapter presentations, the Annual CRA Meeting, booklets, brochures, the CRA website, etc.

Probably one of the most important roles we play is assisting members with problems. These issues can take the form of an easy question or a complex issue. The inquiries primarily deal with medical coverage. However, sometimes surviving spouses and children reach out for help following the death of the retiree. It’s unfortunate, but not all retirees are open to sharing with their loved ones and caregivers their final wishes as well as information about death benefits and continuing benefits coverage for their surviving spouses. Just the other day, I was contacted by the daughter of a recently deceased retiree about any possible benefits for her mother. Unfortunately, neither the daughter nor mother were aware that there was a Chevron Life Insurance benefit and continuing Chevron Medical Plan coverage for the Mom. I cannot emphasize how important it is for each of us to look out for our loved ones by educating them about financial and estate matters that will affect the survivors. As part of the education process we should be sure that our wills, beneficiary designations and similar documents reflect our final wishes.

In addition to the above, I also: (a) reviewed participation levels in the Chevron and CRA benefits plans; (b) provided updates on the acceptance of the Verizon Wireless Discount and the HIA Discount Hearing Aid Program; and (c) future endeavors by the Committee. The participation levels in the various benefits plans are good, with the exception of the CRA Auto & Home Insurance Program with MetLife. The low participation in the Auto & Home Insurance Program is mainly caused by underwriting limitations on homeowners insurance in many of the areas where our members live. The Verizon Wireless Discount was fully embraced by more than 250 of our members. If you haven’t already taken advantage of the discount you should look into it. (To apply for the discount please visit the Chevron Recreation website, chevrec.mybigcommerce.com, and click on “Cell Phones” which is located under “Corporate Purchase Programs.”)  Likewise, the Discount Hearing Aid Program is receiving a fair amount of interest by our members. As part of our future endeavors we will be: (a) working with Chevron on offering other discounts; (b) issuing a supplement to the survivor’s guide; and (c) issuing a compendium which will contain information about CRA’s products and services. Finally, we looked at a more comprehensive Vision Care Program to supplement Chevron’s Basic Vision Coverage. However, at this time, the level of benefits offered and the cost of the coverage were not favorable.

Next, I would like to turn to Dr. Wiechers’ presentation – “Eat, Pray, Exercise – Live to be 100 or Die Trying.” One of the largest growing groups is centenarians who comprise 100,000 individuals in the United States. What are the key factors to attaining longevity? Based on interviews with centenarians, they attribute their longevity to: (a) staying close to friends and family; (b) physical activity such as walking, strengthening exercises, etc.; (c) diet and food intake; (d) rest and sleep; and (e) having a purpose in life. By being connected with family and friends we help fulfill the basic human need for social contact which helps avoid depression. (As you will see from the statistics below, depression is a “killer.”) Physical activity is quite important since it helps with maintaining our ability to remain mobile plus the endorphins that are released during exercise are beneficial to our psyches. The longest-lived people eat mostly a plant-based diet and they typically cut their caloric intake by 20% - less is more. It’s important that we find time each day to meditate, nap or pray plus get 8 hours sleep each night. Finally, we should have a purpose for rising each day. We should get connected with our families, friends and communities by reaching out and helping. There are plenty of organizations, like CRA, that would gladly welcome a helping hand. Remember that there are many activities that can be performed from your home – you do not need to travel. We have posted Dr. Wiechers’ full presentation on the CRA website, www.chevronretirees.com. So be sure to check it out.

I was shocked to learn from a USA Today article that 2.5 million senior citizens are struggling with alcohol and prescription drug problems. Further, between 6% and 10% of elderly hospital admissions are for alcohol and drug problems that cost Medicare more than $230 million annually. Surprisingly, the frequency of hospital admissions for substance abuse is roughly equivalent to admissions for heart attacks. The leading causes of substance abuse are feeling isolated, depressed, bored, experiencing chronic pain, and misusing prescription medications. Drug addiction is becoming prevalent because the number of seniors on prescription medications has tripled. In the case of alcohol abuse, the problem can stem from a change in an individual’s metabolism. As we age, our metabolism changes. Finally, up to 50% of seniors in assisted living and skilled nursing facilities have a substance abuse problem.

In our fast paced society, we have grown to experience many changes in our lives. These changes can include retiring from work before we are prepared. Being prepared not only includes financial security but it also includes being prepared psychologically. Between 40% and 50% of people retire before they intended to. Since a lot of people feel that their identities are tied up in titles and careers they have difficulty transitioning to retired life. The key to successful retirement is to have clear goals. As Dr. Wiechers points out, one of the major factors for longevity is to have a purpose in life. If we are not already connected, we should reach out and offer help to our families, friends and communities.

Lastly, I recently came across a newspaper article that reported on a relatively new method for testing blood that can revolutionize the medical field. Elizabeth Holmes, a young entrepreneur, developed a way of quickly diagnosing a few drops of blood from a minimal draw at a mere fraction of normal commercial prices. Unlike the usual requirement of drawing three or four vials of blood for testing by diagnostic labs like Quest Diagnostics or Lab Corp., the company founded by Holmes, Theranos, only requires a pinprick of blood for most tests. From this minimal amount of blood, they use proprietary hardware and software to produce lab results. Their cost for a CBC is approximately $5 while Medicare’s national allowance is approximately $25. Obviously, the cost savings are potentially dramatic. Theranos claims that the savings to Medicare and Medicaid could be as much as $20 billion annually. Theranos is in the process of opening Wellness Centers in Walgreens stores in Palo Alto and Phoenix. The plan is to expand to the 8,200 Walgreens nationwide. The changes introduced have the potential to revolutionize one aspect of medical care. However, we’ll need to stay tuned to see if they can stand the test of time and the intensive scrutiny they will probably experience from the medical profession. Be sure to check with your health plan administrator to understand your coverage level for this service prior to seeking care.

If you have any questions please let me know. I also welcome your feedback.

Al Horan, Benefits Chair:
Phone: 972-964-1787
Email: awhoran@verizon.net