1st Quarter 2006 Benefits Corner

by Ken Smith, CRA's Benefits Chairperson

An update on medical plan rates, Medicare D and recent Open Enrollment

In September, CRA officers met in San Ramon with corporate representatives, including Human Resources. Areas discussed that are of interest to our retirees included medical health care Open Enrollment, Hurricane Katrina and Rita updates, and Medicare Part D. Since the meeting, Open Enrollment has occurred and I am happy to say it appears to have been the smoothest in history. I received very few questions and it seems the corporation listened and responded to the expressed CRA concerns regarding the handling of Open Enrollment for our retirees living in the hurricane affected areas.

One subject about which I continue to receive inquiries involves Chevron's contribution to medical plan rates for 2006 as compared with retiree premium contributions. As you recall, the corporation capped its contributions to premium costs at a maximum 4 percent per year beginning in 2005. For 2006, the corporation also will contribute the maximum of 4 percent. While the corporation's contribution last year was capped at 4 percent, some plans saw total increases of as much as 25 percent.

Reasons for these significant increases are numerous. They include available plans in your area, the plan experience or claim history with the Chevron Group, and rapidly increasing drug costs. Keep in mind that plans offered through Chevron do not correspond with the "low cost" plans offered by many HMO's. Our plans provide many options and advantages not found in the "off the shelf" plans which on first blush appear to be much less costly. Medicare D is now upon us. And if you have been trying to keep up with the multitude of plans along with their options and coverage, you are undoubtedly as confused as I. Due to the complexity of Medicare D, and the uncertainty of its implementation, Chevron decided to continue offering prescription drug coverage within all its retiree medical plans, including Senior Care, Medicare Plus and HMO plans. In my opinion, we can be very thankful it did. The corporation will evaluate Medicare D and its implementation during 2006. The corporation will communicate additional Medicare D information with retirees as it becomes available.

CRA has been able to provide input and feedback to corporate HR on several fronts regarding improvement of service from groups such as UHC and MEDCO. UHC has bettered its phone service for Medicare eligible retirees through its Senior Care. Both UHC and MEDCO continue improving online products and services for those with internet accessibility.

If you haven't availed yourself of these products and services, I encourage you to do so. In addition to your personal history and information, you will find a lot of helpful articles and suggestions for maintaining a healthy lifestyle as well has helping to reduce the cost of medical service. Access United Health at myuhc.com and MEDCO at customercare@medco.com.

As we enter 2006 your CRA will continue bringing your issues and concerns to our corporation. Among the many things you can look forward to is the distribution of a very informative booklet, "What Your Survivor Needs to Know".

As always, if you are unable to resolve any matter through the corporation's Human Resources Service Center at 1-888-TALK2HR (1-888-825-5247), or have suggestions as to how CRA can be more responsive or helpful with regard to benefits or our communications, feel free to contact me. You can reach me at kennethgsmiith@aol.com or by phone at 1-303-805-5162.

I wish you all a wonderful holiday season.