3rd Quarter 2016 Benefits Corner


By Al Horan

Al Horan Captioned Q2 2015

In this article, I would like to update you on activities during the second quarter. I would also like to make available tips and helpful information as well as other items that you may find interesting or useful.


I would like to share with you a personal experience I recently had with our medical system. While visiting my son and family I decided to go for a walk around a lake that is adjacent to their property. On the walk I was bitten by a dog that belonged to a gardener who was working on a neighbor’s property. Unfortunately, the dog was not inoculated for rabies. As a result, my doctor recommended that I undertake a series of rabies injections. Here is where I learned first-hand how out of control our medical system really is. On my initial visit to the emergency room in my local hospital, I spent five hours at the facility and I received eight injections. (The serum, where I live, is only available through hospitals or public health facilities.) The cost of the initial visit was $15,500. In addition to the initial visit I also had three follow up visits which involved additional injections. Bottom line, I spent twenty hours in the emergency room and the total cost, before Medicare’s adjustment, was approximately $20,000. My share of this cost was about $500. (Thank goodness for Medicare and Chevron’s Medical Plan.)

It’s interesting to note that if I had not been covered by Medicare my share of the cost would have been materially more because United Healthcare would not have been able to achieve the same level of discount that is available to Medicare. Probably, my share of the cost under Chevron’s Medical Plan (Option 1) would have been about $2,000. This difference is caused by a substantial difference in Medicare and UHC allowable fees. The fees UHC allows are negotiated with medical facilities while the Medicare fees are set by law.

At the CRA Annual Meeting in May, Chevron shared with us that they are undertaking a review of health and welfare benefits that are offered and the vendors/administrators that provide them.  This is part of their normal annual benefit review process; vendor reviews are conducted every three years. Benefit reviews involve internal Chevron teams from various disciplines, e.g. Procurement, Legal, Finance, etc.  They may also engage an external benefits consulting firm. In selecting a vendor, Chevron considers criteria such as: adherence to plan design and services, customer service, account management, performance guarantees, cost, quality of network providers, and the location of network providers in relationship to Chevron employees and retirees. Any changes in the plan benefits and/or vendors/administrators are approved by Chevron’s Senior Management/Executive Committee.  Any changes will be effective January 1, 2017. Members are advised of benefit changes in advance of the Open Enrollment period, usually held in October.

Life Insurance
Many retirees are covered for Life Insurance through legacy plans that are offered by Chevron. These plans include the Life Insurance Plan for former Chevron employees, the Term Life Insurance Plan of Texaco, Inc. for former Texaco and Caltex employees, and Unocal Life Insurance Plan for former Unocal employees. These Plans allow retirees to name a beneficiary (ies) and to irrevocably assign coverage. To name a beneficiary, the retiree must either: complete a Designation of Beneficiary for Benefit Plans for Former Employees form (F – 73) which is available from the Chevron HR Service Center; or they can update a beneficiary designation online through the Benefits Connection website (http://hr2.chevron.com/retiree/BenefitsConnectionPopup.asp). A change in beneficiary can be made at any time.

The life insurance plans also allow the retiree to irrevocably assign benefits to one or more individuals or to an organization like a trust. Once the assignment is made it may not be changed by the retiree. The assignee becomes the owner of the coverage and they have the right to change the beneficiary and to convert all or any portion of the coverage to an individual whole life policy if the coverage ends or if it is reduced. It should be noted that the plans do not allow the assignment of the coverage as collateral for a loan. To assign coverage, please contact the Chevron HR Service Center for more information or to request the necessary forms. Their phone number is 888-825-5247.

Pension Supplementation
At the Annual Meeting, Chevron also shared with us the process and criteria used to determine if Pension Supplementation increases are necessary. First, each year Chevron reviews pension supplementation globally. The criteria to assess if a supplementation is needed/required are: adherence to laws and pension plan provisions; and alignment with local customs and common practice. The review takes into consideration: costs, the history of previous supplementations, the market practice and the business/economic justification for an increase (e.g. inflation).

Tips & Helpful Information
Audit Medical Bills:
Steve Vizner, Member, Texaco Retirees Club of Connecticut, reminds us to audit bills received from medical providers because you could save money. In Steve’s case he saved $1,000. Be sure to download your explanation of benefits statements from Medicare and United Healthcare and compare the information shown on a bill to the statements before paying it. The explanation of benefits statements are available on Medicare’s website, www.medicare.gov, and the UHC website, www.myuhc.com.

Your Medical History: Peter Gilbert, President, North Central Texas Chapter, reminds us that Apple iPhones allow individuals to enter their medical history. I understand that emergency rooms are trained to check iPhones for medical history. (A password is not required to access the data.) Sometimes having one’s medical history can mean the difference between life and death. If you don’t have an iPhone, don’t worry, I can send you an Excel template that will allow you to record your history, medications and medical contacts. Just send me an email – awhoran@verizon.net. Whenever I travel I carry with me a copy of my history. It can also generally be given to a new medical provider in lieu of completing lengthy medical questionnaires.

Nursing Home Abuse: Paul Skakun, President, Hill Country Chapter, wishes to share with us a source for learning more about nursing home abuse and what the telltale signs of abuse are. We’ve all heard of or experienced nightmarish stories about nursing homes. Here’s a way of learning more about nursing homes, laws and other helpful information. Just visit www.nursinghomeabuseguide.org. Also remember to check CRA’s Advanced Care Planning booklet for additional guidance and resources which can be found on CRA’s website, www.chevronretirees.org. Finally, don’t forget to check the Medicare website, www.medicare.gov, to obtain specific information about nursing homes in your area.

Summer and Heat Related Illnesses: Mark Engelbrecht, Member, Benefits Committee reminds us that heat-related illnesses can be serious. Common examples are heat rash (prickly heat), sunburn, heat stroke, and heat cramps. Severe problems caused by sun exposure can result in skin damage, including skin cancer. Individuals who are not physically fit, have cardiovascular disease, have diabetes, have excess weight, are over the age of 50, or take certain medications may even be a higher risk to heat-related illnesses.

To avoid problems, here are ways to protect yourself: drink plenty of water or drink sport drinks (electrolyte fluids); wear a hat with a large brim; take frequent breaks (if possible in a shady area); try to be outside during the cooler parts of the day; wear loose fitting, light-colored clothing; and use sunscreen (at least SPF 15).

Be sure to consult your doctor if you see changes in your skin - changes in moles, skin discolorations, etc.  Remember, skin damage from sun exposure can accumulate over a lifetime.  For additional related information, go to the “Public and Patients” tab on the American Academy of Dermatology’s website - www.aad.org.

Did You Know
Studies show that practicing kindness can lead to better health, better relationships, a longer life and success in the workplace. Societies that are civil and caring focus on other people. By having empathy for others, individuals have better relationships and are more productive.

Tiredness: The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults who are age 65 or older should aim for 7 to 8 hours sleep per night. Even with the appropriate amount of sleep we probably will not feel as rested as when we were younger and had a like number of hours sleep because of changes in our brain waves. The amplitude of the waves decrease with age and the results are lighter sleep patterns and restless nights. And as we know this is just one of the causes of broken sleep.

What to Eat and When to Eat It: For more energy eat a protein-packed breakfast. After strenuous activity, try refueling by eating a carbohydrate-protein combo. For weight loss eat your main meal at lunchtime. For an afternoon pick-me-up, grab a handful of nuts. For better sleep, fill up on fiber. For more information, please visit AARP’s website – www.aarp.org and search for “What to Eat and When”.

What’s on the Horizon
Researchers have found a correlation between obesity and the amount of nutrients contained in foods. Generally, there are more nutrients in organic/natural foods than non-organic/non-natural foods of a similar weight. Since the body requires a certain amount of nutrients, we are consuming more non-organic/non-natural foods to obtain the body’s required amount of nutrients. This leads to obesity. They recommend that we eat organic/natural foods.

Cancer: If an individual is suspected of having cancer, their doctor may order certain blood tests as well as other laboratory tests. With the exception of blood cancers, blood tests generally cannot absolutely tell whether an individual has cancer. For most cancers a biopsy is usually necessary to make a definitive diagnosis.

There are experimental blood tests that are being developed to find cells that have broken away from an original cancer site and are now floating in the bloodstream. While more research is necessary, these advanced forms of testing may prove to be helpful in identifying cancers earlier, such as pancreatic cancer.

If you have questions, my contact information can be found below.

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