Tuesday, October 1, 2013

IBM Medicare Extend Health Medigap Offerings Complaint to Dr. Rhee

I just sent an email to Dr. Rhee and copied Ginni.  I doubt it will do much good but thought I at least had to try -----

Dear Dr. Rhee,

I signed on to the Extend Health website this morning to look at the medigap plan choices Extend Health offers in my zip code and I am extremely disappointed by the selection they are offering. It is very limited and the associated prices for the plans are significantly higher than those offered by other insurance companies in the Medicare open marketplace. For many reasons, not the least of which is the ability to go to any specialty clinic in the United States such as the City of Hope or Sloan Kettering, I must stay on Original Medicare.

I specifically looked at the Extend Health medigap F high deductible offering in my zip code and there is only one plan available. It is also the lowest priced medigap plan that Extend Health is offering in my zip code so it is the cheapest medigap plan I am able to buy. It is priced at $115.86/ month and is offered by Humana.

I can get EXACTLY THE SAME insurance policy (as you know by law they must be the same) from THREE other insurance companies who sell medigap insurance in my zip code for as much as HALF that premium price if I were able to buy it in the open market. This is really onerous as you have made it a requirement that I MUST BUY A MEDICAL plan through Extend Health to be able to access my subsidy. I will now be forced to spend substantially more of my subsidy on premiums to get medigap coverage. WHY IS THAT A REQUIREMENT?
I thought you said we would be offered BETTER choices through Extend Health and you were doing this transition to help us contain our insurance costs. Given what I have seen so far what you are saying is not true as Extend Health is restricting our options because of your requirement to use their offerings.

Please reconsider how you have structured this transition and REMOVE the requirement that we MUST purchase a medical plan from Extend Health to be able to use our subsidy money. It is an unnecessary restriction that will cause many retirees to pay MORE to get the EXACT same coverage as can be purchased in the Medicare open market and thereby puts an unnecessary additional burden on retirees already reeling from this dramatic shift to Extend Health.


  1. Those are just the complaints that I had. I asked IBM to pass my comments on to the 'powers that be', and call me back. We'll see what happens.

  2. On Sept. 30, I received an envelope from Extend Health. The enclosed letter on IBM letterhead was from Kyu Rhee, M.D. I was surprised by the funds to be made available for my HRA,

    It was my understanding that IBM had set up a pool of money for retiree health benefits. For my cohort, it was supposed to support health insurance averaging $3000 per year per employee, to cover health insurance for the retiree and spouse. If the retiree died first, the spouse coverage was to continue until death of the spouse.

    This Rhee letter does not interpret our retiree and spouse benefit that way. It says that IBM will deposit $3000 per year into a retiree HRA only if the retiree relinquishes the survivor benefit. Otherwise, IBM will only deposit $2374 per year into the HRA, which may be used by the retiree and spouse in that year to buy health insurance through Extend Health. If the retiree dies first, the spouse gets half of that.

    That’s not how I understood our health insurance benefit from when we retired. The way I understood what we were promised, we should get $3000 per year in an HRA for use by retiree and spouse; then the survivor should continue to be covered.

    Does anyone else have a similar problem with this?

    1. You are right. Sadly, IBM has changed the deal. There is no ERISA regulation that prevents them from doing it. It was merely a promise - a big promise to retirees who worked hard to make the company what it is. A moral and ethical company would keep that promise as long as they were in business because they'd care about people. IBM is none of that.

    2. The plight of surviving spouses is impossible. We go from having access to all plans at the same prices as our husbands to receiving $1100 a year in our HRA accounts. This is one thirdmofmwhat we should be entitled to and raises our premium out of pocket costs bynficemtomseven times. I wrote to IBM, but of course received the usual stupid platitudes. Is there any recourse here?

    3. I don't see a way to urge the company to rethink this situation. There is no legal recourse. The media seems uninterested because there is not hint of scandal. It just hurts a bunch of old people. Besides, who would risk losing IBM ad dollars by doing an expose. What IBM save bys all this old people squeezing is probably how they will pay some exec bonuses in 2014. The top wins again.

  3. I agree with your analysis 100%. I also plan to write to Rhee and copy our CEO Ginny Rometty (grometty@us.ibm.com)