In a YouTube video, Dr. Kyu Rhee, IBM chief health director, said nearly all Medicare-eligible retirees can use the Extend Health exchange to choose plans “equal or better than IBM can currently offer.”
Chat boards used by IBM retirees have been busy with posts by people trying to get details. Rhee said enrollment starts Oct. 1 and ends Dec. 31. Extend Health advisers at 855-359-7380 can help participants with options, he said.
Some retirees are skeptical. “Believe me, Monday morning the phones are going to start ringing,” said Bruce Williams, 74, of Red Hook.
“Obviously it’s going to be cheaper for them if they’re doing this,” he said.
Selected reader comments follow:
It’s about to get 697 jobs worse. That is the count of workers the county’s largest employer, IBM Corp., will drop starting Tuesday from its two Dutchess sites, Poughkeepsie and East Fishkill.
Dutchess’ high-tech sector has always been predominantly IBM or companies that supplied Big Blue. While there are still other high-tech companies in the category of manufacturing computers and electronic equipment, they are not nearly so large. ...
IBM’s latest headcount of employees in Dutchess is 7,768 as of the end of April. That was down 248 from the same point a year earlier, and down 2,436 from April 2006.
Those numbers come from reports IBM must make to the Dutchess County Industrial Development Agency under a deal that gives IBM a sales tax break on internal transfers of computers.
Other than that, IBM no longer makes the annual update that was once its tradition, stating how many people work for it, site by site. They don’t say how many work in the United States, either.
This has become a sore point for many. Assemblyman Kieran Michael Lalor, R-Fishkill, blasted IBM’s one-week furlough at one-third pay imposed on most workers in the Systems and Technology Group in August.
“In this battered economy, families can’t afford another hit,” Lalor stated. “IBM owes the Hudson Valley answers about its long-term commitment to the region. IBM has been a critical part of our local economy for decades. In return, Dutchess County and New York state have provided IBM with valuable, sometimes controversial, tax benefits. We deserve answers.”
In addition to the downsizings, IBM’s East Fishkill plant, known as the Hudson Valley Research Park, sits with 1.1 million square feet of empty space in five buildings offered for lease.
In a statement, IBM spokesman Douglas Shelton said IBM remains strong throughout New York state and that its facilities in East Fishkill, Poughkeepsie, Yorktown and elsewhere in the state are world class. He said IBM had invested more than $10 billion in the Albany NanoTech center upstate. ...
But for about half a century, the money mantra here has been, “So goes IBM, so goes the Dutchess economy.” And for now, IBM is still the top employer in Dutchess. For now.
“A couple of them basically did away with all subsidies and stipends and said to the retirees, ‘You’re on your own.’” Greenberg, a former director of billing and contracts, said in a phone interview. “Given the trends in the industry, I am concerned.”
Despite that, many Americans remain in the dark about how health exchanges work. "Right now, I'm completely in the dark," said IBM retiree Don Parry, 80. "I don't know what the hell to think about it." ...
Thompson said the potentially seismic move from traditional company health benefits to exchanges mirrors the move from company-funded pensions to 401(k) plans, in which employees choose their retirement investments, often with a company subsidy.
"And we know how rapidly retirement plans have shifted from a defined benefit plan (a pension) to a defined contribution," he said. ...
IBM retiree, Allen Felstead, 75, said that although he recently received literature about the move to Extend Health's exchange from IBM, he still has many questions about how the switch will affect him and his wife, who live in Rochester, Minn.
"You know how it is. You start reading it, but you don't have the slightest idea what they're talking about," said Felstead. ...
Extend Health, the Towers Watson private exchange that now will be handling Medicare plan options for 110,000 IBM retirees, estimates it can save clients "3 to 10 percent per year" in costs, said Bryce Williams, who leads Extend Health. ...
"I really think that within five years, the vast majority, I think 70 to 90 percent of companies, will be using exchanges for their active population and their retired population, and it will be the normal course of business," Cohen said.
The latest indication: Media-company Time Warner Inc. plans to move its U.S. retirees from company-administered health plans to private exchanges, according to a person familiar with the matter. The company will allocate funds in special accounts that retirees can use to go shop for coverage, the person said.
The news comes as International Business Machines Corp. also plans to move about 110,000 of its own retirees off its company-sponsored health plan to a Medicare insurance exchange.
President Barack Obama's health-care overhaul calls for such exchanges, which will go live next month, and employers are looking at similar, privately administered exchanges as an alternative to offering their own health plans. ...
Extend Health, the Utah-based exchange owned by Towers Watson & Co. that IBM picked for its retirees, was founded in 2004 but has grown quickly recently as more employers have signed up.
Extend Health has signed up around 300 companies, and the pace is quickening. It had just three corporate customers at the end of 2007 and just 76 at the end of 2010. About a third have joined in this year alone.
Bryce Williams, managing director of Towers Watson Exchange Solutions, which runs Extend Health, said the exchange has moved more than 500,000 retirees over to its service. IBM will add to that total when it starts moving retirees over next year. Mr. Williams said the technology company will be one of the five biggest participants in the program. ...
Instead of subsidizing retiree health premiums directly, IBM will give retirees an annual contribution through a health-retirement account that they can use to buy Medicare Advantage plans and supplemental Medicare policies on the exchange, as well as to pay for other medical expenses.
IBM retirees have a big incentive to pick insurance through plans offered by Extend Health: Retirees who are eligible but don't enroll in a plan through Extend Health won't receive the company contribution.
Selected reader comments follow:
Eventually, Americans will wake up some day and realize how they have been royally raked over the coals. Maybe sooner than we realize, single payer will become more attractive as the only real winners here are Extend Health and the CEOs of IBM and TW.
While retiree health benefits have been shrinking for years, the newest cutbacks may quickly become the norm. About 44 percent of companies plan to stop administering health plans for their former workers over the next two years, a survey last month by consultant Towers Watson & Co. (TW) found. Retirees are concerned their costs may rise, while analysts predict benefits will decline in some cases. ...
Companies argue that many retirees can find more choice and a better deal on the exchanges, said John Grosso, head of the retiree health task force at Aon Hewitt LLC, a Chicago-based consultant. Instead of taking a one-size-fits-all company plan, a healthier retiree might find a less expensive policy with a higher deductible, or one that saved money by favoring generic drugs, he said in a telephone interview.
Less healthy workers or those who need more comprehensive coverage may not fare as well, Grosso said. ...
At the same time, retirees have expressed concern that subsidies provided by companies in private exchanges may not keep up with rising medical costs, potentially putting them at financial risk in the future. And an influx of retirees could put added pressure on public exchanges that provide taxpayer-supported subsidies. ...
IBM capped its subsidies to retirees in the 1990s and “didn’t make this change to save money,” Doug Shelton, a spokesman, said in an e-mail. “It does not reduce our costs.” Rather, the company is making the change to help former workers, whose premiums and out-of-pocket charges are projected to triple by 2020 under the current plan, Shelton said.
Ted Greenberg, 69, worked for IBM for 39 years and retired in 2007. He said he wasn’t sure what the changes would mean for his family and worried IBM will follow the lead of competitors and eliminate health-care subsidies altogether.
The move impacts only Medicare-eligible retirees – retirees who already have most of their medical needs paid for by Medicare.
And it’s not a cut-off of supplemental retiree benefits.
Instead of going with a chosen-for-them plan, courtesy of IBM, retirees will be able to select a plan that meets their own personal needs, says Williams, who doesn’t like to call it “an exchange.” ...
But it is a big difference for retirees, nonetheless. Specifically? People who have, for their entire working lives, avoided making health insurance decisions, are about to to make some, cautions Paul Fronstin, director of the Health Research & Education Program at the Employee Benefit Research Institute in Washington, D.C. ...
“Some retirees are going to love it,” he says. “Some are going to hate it. If I’m an 85-year-old retiree, my reaction would be, in my 85 years, I’ve never had to shop for health insurance and I don’t want to start now.”
Need I say anymore about this IBM retiree medical insurance ex(change)?
IBM is using the same vendor consultant partner in crime.
So you know as a retiree you are likely getting screwed again benefit-wise by IBM.
Retirees AND employees need to make constructive and unified action NOW to reverse IBM's action! I doubt IBM will backpedal like they did with the pension change in 1999 but you gotta at least try IBMers one and all!
As to what word we use to characterize IBM's responsibility for subsidized health benefit, I would argue that the word commitment is O.K. If it wasn't a commitment, why would IBM still be giving the subsidy to us? After all, we all recognize that IBM top management will do whatever they can to improve the bottom line and make themselves richer. This subsidy is a big target, and here it is, untouched after 20 years, in more than all the time I've been getting it. Obviously, their (lack of) action, through several up and down business cycles, demonstrates that they feel they are committed to this subsidy.
Is it a commitment based on ethical behavior? Hardly. Will the commitment change in October? It could. (I am guessing it doesn't.) Can the commitment be changed with the stroke of a pen? Certainly. But until it is, I would claim it's a commitment.
I think IBM is stuck with the subsidy commitment because of tax consequences. If they don't pay out the subsidies, they then have to pay the government $2,000.00 per employee for the 'dump' of the employee to the marketplace. Better to give $3,000 to the employee than give $2,000 to the government. Giving the 3,000 to the employee might keep them away from law suits over these changes.
The penalty for not providing health insurance is only for active, full time (30 or more hours per week) employees. There is no penalty for not providing retirees with health insurance that I am aware of.
"The penalty for not providing health insurance is only for active, full time (30 or more hours per week) employees. There is no penalty for not providing retirees with health insurance that I am aware of."
In the current IBM environment if you are on the (prior) SPD plan your survivor gets your current subsidy indefinitely; in my case on average $3k/yr.
To qualify for the prior SPD (which I do retiring 2002 with 37 years) you need one of the following:
If you are on the current SPD you get the current subsidy (i.e. in my case $3k/yr) for one year and then IBM will offer your survivor a COBRA support for up to 36 mo.; after that there is no subsidy for the survivor.
When I called EH and asked the same question I got the answer that the survivor would get 1/2 of the current retiree IBM HRA subsidy when the retiree died or in my case $1.5k/yr indefinitely (where is this written in stone, is there a IBM SPD after the transition?) into the HRA.
This is all verbal with some unknown skilled representative (so that is a big caveat in itself ) but if true in my case spousal support will be cut in half after the transition and it seems for IBMers on the current SPD its a benefit after the above fours years expires.
The insurance industry press is full of discussion of the next cost saving thrust for companies and its to end retiree spousal medical support.
I therefore suggest you ask your EH rep at your Oct one on one discussion as yet another question to get as much objective information as possible to prepare for the new environment.
But if you have a balance in the FHA, then your survivors can continue to buy health insurance indefinitely. This is spelled out in sections 1.4.5 and 1.6 of USHR 117.
For those on the prior plan, I will be very surprised if the survivors get cut to 1/2 the subsidy amount in the HRA. I think you may be getting incorrect information from EH about this.
The "fed penalty" is a feature of Obamacare that applies to companies that do not provide medical insurance to active, full time employees who work 30 hours or more a week.
There is no law with or without Obamacare that says an employer has to provide health insurance to retirees. IBM can discontinue all retiree medical coverage tomorrow and not have to pay one cent in penalties.
The only difference in coverage is that G does not cover the Medicare deductible of $147 per YEAR while F covers it. So, G is far less costly on an annual basis. Am I missing anything here?
I just received the package from Aetna on all their plans for 2014. I expect insurers in your area will do the same as they get your name from EH.
EH tells me that insurer detail of their plans will be available on the EH website October 1st.
Aetna's premiums for 2014 for my area (north NJ) are (examples).
Age, Medigap Plan: premium:
65, Plan F, male: $176.82; female: $164.50
65, Plan G, male: $159.77; female: $148.82
65, Plan N, male: $126.06; female: $117.59
66, Plan F, male: $185.10; female: $172.20
66, Plan G, male: $167.44; female: $155.97
66, Plan N, male: $132.26; female: $123.37
70, Plan F, male: $218.10; female: $202.89
70, Plan G, male: $198.01; female: $184.46
70, Plan N, male: $156.97; female: $146.41
89, Plan F, male: $397.78; female: $370.02
89, Plan G, male: $380.51; female: $354.47
89, Plan N, male: $316.44; female: $295.18
In some communities this could be considered property abandonment and sometimes fines are imposed on the owner or landlord.
So IBM can't offer weed killer or a thin topcoat asphalt (even tar and stone) to make this empty lot look maintained?
Cost controls and cost cutting is one thing but not properly maintaining your property is just not a right thing. Do the right thing IBM and maintain the look of your property! The IBM Site Executive should be admonished, if not ashamed. Imagine if one of IBM's customers or potential customers seen this parking lot.
It poses a thought that IBM Poughkeepsie is slowly, but surely, starting to look like Endicott and God forbid the former IBM Kingston site.
As a former IBMer I am ashamed at seeing this.
It looks like all retirees will be put to exchanges by 2015 and most likely for 2014, if the government does not delay the modification of rules for the exchanges.
Some insight. You can always ask for a senior person (who are really busy training, but at least the person answering the phone can ask someone).
What is going on now is a lot of training of new people to handle the huge addition of IBM retirees. They have customer service people mostly answer the phones and they do not have yet any real knowledge of the fine points of IBM documents. They speak well to EH, but the part on IBM gets a bit fuzzy sometimes.
You will speak with the actual certified advisers when you have your appointment.
My EH senior person tells me that IBM has 14 different campaigns/programs for IBM Medicare retirees and it sounds complex and a lot to learn for the senior people, who are just getting the IBM info, and they have to train all the new staff. A huge undertaking. The campaigns/programs vary based on what your current IBM plan is, it seems, like you had medical but not Rx, subsidy or FHA or nothing, these sort of differences.
They have such a big job to do and the individuals have my empathy. And I seem to get to where I'm going without too much side-tracking. I remember when I began a new contract on an IBM account and scrambled to hit the ground running and learn new technologies over the weekend.
Once again, it appears IBM is screwing retirees and future retirees with the advice and help of Towers Watson Wyatt. Make no mistake, IBM is doing this to save money, as Dr. Rhee revealed when he claimed retiree health care costs will triple in the next few years.
I have gleaned a few advantages of the EH conversion for Medicare retirees. The biggest one is that the company yearly subsidy is more transparent, which I believe will make it less likely that it will be taken away in the future. Make no mistake however, the company can discontinue the subsidy at any time they wish for any reason they wish, or no reason at all. There are no legal protections.
I see a big trick with this new plan that will cost retirees beau-coup dollars in the future. This is similar to the trick Towers Watson Wyatt pulled with the cash balance plan where they claim employees wouldn't know they had been screwed until they retired and then found out how small of a pension they would actually receive.
The EH conversion impacts are even more disguised. Fortunately, IBMers are smart enough to catch on to their tricks. The fact is, Medicare retirees will either get older or they will die. That is an undeniable fact of life (and death).
The previous IBM health plan premiums were not age based, that is, everyone paid the same premium for the same coverage regardless of age.
This does not appear to be the case with EH plans. As you get older, you will pay more for the same plan, and every retiree on the EH plans will get older.
When retirees compare the cost of the EH plans to the cost of their current plan, they may find that the costs are not significantly higher, and may even be slightly lower. The exception may be older retirees. This may be why Dr Rhee claims many retirees will see equal or better value in EH plans. But in a few years, when these same retirees are a few years older, then reality will hit, with premiums going up as the retiree gets older. Beware of doctors from IBM bearing gifts.
As usual, your mileage may vary.
Dr. Rhee says (and gestures) that he expects IBM's current plan options to nearly triple in cost by 2020. Actually, I'd be delighted if my Aetna Integration A went from $6/mo now to $18/mo in 2020. I think what he's talking about is that with very few young retirees entering IBM's insured retiree pool any more, the age (& cost) of the group will rise tremendously until all of us retirees and surviving (used) spouses have gone on to their reward. The individual policies thru the exchanges, (rather than thru IBM group coverage) should continue to add "young" baby boomer medicarers which will keep the insureds' age and presumably cost, and presumably premiums, lower. We'll see.
Speaking of age based, could IBM determine the HRA contribution by age, or would that be age based discrimination? They obviously can decide benefits by retirement date, but what about age?
I called the IBM ESC, and was told I am eligible, but perhaps the information hadn't been delivered to EH yet. I was told to wait until the end of next week, and if I still hadn't received my packet, to call EH and request one.
I decided to call EH today and see what they knew. I related to the representative my lack of packet, and failed attempt to register on-line. I remarked that the IBM ESC said I was eligible. The EH rep. couldn't find my info, but created an account for me, and one for my wife. He then asked the pre-appointment questions, and set up the appointment for the interview in October. He even found a time slot for Oct. 16.
So, if you are still waiting for your packet, I would recommend making a call to the IBM ESC to verify your eligibility, then call EH at 855-359-7380, and talk to them to get the ball rolling.
Is it IBM's cost? Is it Health Care Insurance Company's cost? Is it pharmaceutical's cost? Is it employee's cost, Is it retiree's cost? Is it pre-retiree's cost?
The only thing I can think of is that he's talking about the post-Medicare population of pre-FHA retirees. That population is becoming older and older, as we know, and there are *no* younger retirees being added to that pool. Even then, not to be too morbid, but the number of retirees in that pool is decreasing. But, on a per-retiree basis, the costs are likely increasing rapidly.
I think "ibmexe" nailed it in this post: http://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/ibmpension/conversations/messages/77342.
And, I think Dr. Rhee is using selective facts to justify his "triple the cost" argument.
I'm a second choicer so I have a FHA. My wife is 60, not eligible for Medicare I know that IBM currently helps to pay for my health insurance from United Healthcare for both my wife and I. I have not had to use my FHA virtual money account.
In 2014 will IBM contribute to help pay for the insurance I select with Extend Health? Will IBM contribute to help pay for the insurance for my wife that she selects from the non-EH enrollment (that I assume will be similar to the way it's worked from several years)? Will I have one of those new HRAs; will I use my FHA money?
I appreciate any insight on this. As a LTD person I have large and recurring medical expenses and have enough trouble dealing with the existing maze of insurance bureaucracy.
You are eligible for HRA funding if IBM is contributing to your coverage now. [Which means traditional contribution or FHA.] Several questions of “How do I know if IBM is contributing?” [Well, “Duh?”] [Answer was] Ask ESC.
2014 Plan details cannot be legally disclosed until 10/1/2013. Eligible plans will be posted on EH website at that time.
EH speaker didn’t know how the HRA amount was calculated but said it will be based on what you’re paying now [!!!???] and a very complicated formula including your expected cost. EH doesn’t currently know your HRA funding, but the advisor will know at your enrollment appointment. You will be notified with a letter [letter???!!!] in early October with the individual amount.
Direct payment [meaning the doctor bills Medicare; Medicare pays allowable and bills supplement for the balance] continues.
SHAP eligibility continues.
You will need to pay first month’s premium on enrollment [plus your 3 months of Medicare Part B premium]. You will also need to pay in 1/2014 for your 12/2013 IBM coverage [paid in arrears]. Automatic payment of premiums from the HRA can take a few months to set up.
Spouse can use HRA if now covered.
Dental and/or Vision can be added at any time; does not have to be within enrollment period. May be 6-month waiting period if you alternate year’s coverage [as a lot of folks do now].
If the spouse has a history of exceeding that upper limit or near it then go with the Full F plan especially if the cause is chronic in nature not one time events like accidents; conversely go with the HD. Even at the most probable mid point you are still saving significant money using the HD. Although it is possible to be exposed to the max deductible for both spouses in the same month the real world of Medicare billing makes this impossible and you will see bills over a bell shaped curve of several month. Try various age settings in the EH site to determine if the plan is the preferable community based price which is not age based and verify with your adviser.
For those who want a good basic health club, Plant Fitness is great with excellent equipment (view lots of TV choices) and free personal trainers. Only $10 a month, no contract. Very comfortable for and lots of seniors and women among the muscle men.
About access to one EH plan to keep the HRA, it must be medical. Not sure if that is self or spouse.
Cons: Management concentrates on keeping stock prices and dividends stable, instead of employee well being. There is no long term vision for IBM, no 10 years, 20 years, 50 years. Management can barely see beyond the next quarter. The company chisels away at salaries and benefits each year. They demote entire classes of employees, take away shift premiums and overtime, reduce headcount, yet expect continued high levels of productivity. Morale is in the toilet, yet management fails to acknowledge the problem. Employee buying power is eroded due to IBM's no raise policy and inflation. Even 1 performers may go without an increase for years and years.
Advice to Senior Management: Happy people work better. Pick the people right, treat them right, keep out of their way and let them do their jobs. Don't burden them with rules, processes, policies. You, the manager, should prevent upper management, from destroying productivity in their pursuit of stock option profits. No, I would not recommend this company to a friend. I'm not optimistic about the outlook for this company.
Cons: Work/life balance: 90% work, 10% life. If you do an extraordinary job this year, that will be your expected performance next year. You are never good enough. The US work force gets smaller every year, and the workload increases every year. There's a lot of emphasis on getting training, but never time to get away from your work long enough to actually get it. Which counts as a failure, come annual review.
Advice to Senior Management: You cannot increase the workload and shrink the workforce indefinitely. Yes, I would recommend this company to a friend. I'm optimistic about the outlook for this company.
Cons: IBM will not prepare you for the job; it does not want you to move fast. It is a sales corporation, more than IT. You do not get points for doing technical work; you get points for brown nosing and letting everybody know you are the "something" guy (even when you don't know it). Management is bad, catastrophic bad with very few exceptions.
Advice to Senior Management: Tell the truth to employees on where they can get in a time frame, do not build false hopes. People will leave eventually, just make sure they know what they will be given and they may not leave angry. Yes, I would recommend this company to a friend
Cons: Worked as an immigration case manager, contractor position through Manpower. It was absolutely awful. People are unprofessional, employees are treated like 5th graders.
Morale is incredibly low. We would routinely get the most asinine emails about things like packing up our things before exactly 4:30pm. At one point they asked us to clock out for bathroom breaks, but people revolted.
Managers are busybodies that walk around the cubes trying to make chit chat/look over your shoulder while you attempt to get work done. Work from home was promised during hiring, and then delayed indefinitely once you start (although contractors who already had a work from home day were allowed to continue working from home).
Manpower management has NO CLUE what the actual job entails and yet tries to give input as to policy. Manpower HR is unresponsive to complaints about issues in the workplace. It was crappy to begin with, but things have really gone downhill lately. Everyone I knew working there was looking for a new job.
Advice to Senior Management: Start treating people like adults. Use positive reinforcement to motivate workers and recognize those who are performing well rather than micromanaging via email and pointless meetings. No, I would not recommend this company to a friend. I'm not optimistic about the outlook for this company.
A new immigration law, the corporate officers say, "would be a long overdue step toward aligning our nation's immigration policies with its workforce needs at all skill levels to ensure U.S. global competitiveness." The officials cite a publication of their trade group, the HR Policy Association, which calls for immigration reform to "address the reality that there is a global war for talent." The way for the United States to win that war for talent, they say, is more immigration.
Of course, the U.S. unemployment rate is at 7.3 percent, with millions of American workers at all skill levels out of work, and millions more so discouraged that they have left the work force altogether. In addition, at the same time the corporate officers seek higher numbers of immigrants, both low-skill and high-skill, many of their companies are laying off thousands of workers.
For example, Hewlett-Packard, whose Executive Vice President for Human Resources Tracy Keogh signed the letter, laid off 29,000 employees in 2012. In August of this year, Cisco Systems, whose Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer Kathleen Weslock signed the letter, announced plans to lay off 4,000 — in addition to 8,000 cut in the last two years. United Technologies, whose Senior Vice President of Human Resources and Organization Elizabeth B. Amato signed the letter, announced layoffs of 3,000 this year. American Express, whose Chief Human Resources Officer L. Kevin Cox signed the letter, cut 5,400 jobs this year. Procter & Gamble, whose Chief Human Resources Officer Mark F. Biegger signed the letter, announced plans to cut 5,700 jobs in 2012. ...
"It is difficult to understand how these companies can feel justified in demanding the importation of cheap labor with a straight face at a time when tens of millions of Americans are unemployed," writes the Center for Immigration Studies, which strongly opposes the Senate Gang of Eight bill and similar measures. "The companies claim the bill is an 'opportunity to level the playing field for U.S. employers' but it is more of an effort to level the wages of American citizens."
Another factor little talked about that I personally witnessed has been the changing social compact between STEM workers and employers over the past several decades and the impact it has had on convincing students today to pursue a STEM career. When my father, an electro-optical engineer was laid off from his company late in the recession of 1957-1958, he assumed the company would be rehiring him a few months later when the economy got better. His wasn’t an unreasonable assumption, since that was the general practice in the 1950s. When he wasn’t soon rehired, and with a new house mortgage to pay and three children under age 5 to feed, my father left his temporary job of selling Electrolux vacuums door-to-door and found another electro-optical engineering job. He stayed with that company for another 25 years when he retired with the usual gold desk pen-set, which now sits on my desk.
When I graduated with my undergraduate computer systems engineering degree in 1977 after a stint in the military, my expectation of a generally comfortable career working for at most a handful of companies was similar to my father’s. I remember when my friends and I were looking for jobs, our discussions often centered on whether a company we were planning to interview with was one worth spending a career with. IBM, for example, had a commitment to a life time job for its employees while Digital Equipment Corporation had a no lay-off policy. Other companies were offering similar types of inducements as a reason to work for them. Even so, part of our employment equation now included the possibility of layoffs, given that between 1968 and 1970, aerospace employment (which had been up to that point was promoted as the most exciting industry to be a part of) had dropped from 1 418 000 to 1 177 000 workers as the Vietnam War wound down and the Apollo space program's end was coming into view. ...
But mostly throughout the late 1970s and into the mid-to-late 1980s, engineers (and the ever-growing number of IT professionals) identified themselves with their company, and as a member of the upper middle class. Compensation for fully employed electrical engineers, believe it not, was higher than that of the average salaried doctor. The 1979-82 period with recession and high inflation (inflation hit 14.76 percent in 1980) was no fun, but for the most part engineers thought the company they were working for—and were loyal to—would mostly likely be the one they retired with, or if not, then surely the next one. Companies still offered decent pensions (which also helped keep job hopping, which has highly discouraged, down) as well as good educational benefits to keep you current; but you put in a lot of hours in return. ...
Also in 1990, the H-1B visa program was started (pdf) as a way for U.S. employers to hire temporary, foreign workers in specialty occupations, mainly because of a perceived (but as it soon became apparent vastly exaggerated) engineering and IT “skills gap.” Ever since, there have been arguments over whether the program has helped (pdf) or hurt native U.S. engineers and IT professionals’ employment prospects and salaries. Regardless, a “temporary” guestworker program for hard to fill jobs has become a permanent fixture affecting STEM career discussions.
If I were to guess, probably the watershed year for engineers and IT professionals in their realization that they had now become independent, expendable employees was in 1993. That was the year that IBM announced, in the wake of a previously unimaginable US$15 billion in losses racked up in a mere two years, that it was no longer going to honor its 70 year commitment of life time employment to its employees. IBM had 406 000 employees in 1986; it had 207 000 by 1994. Also in the late 1980s and early 1990s saw several major computer companies struggle like Control Data Corporation, Wang Laboratories and Digital Equipment Corporation (IBM's biggest competitor) which had to end its own no-layoff policy in 1990. Each fell to young, aggressive entrepreneurial software and hardware companies led by Apple, Microsoft, Oracle, Intel, Dell, Compaq among others, who radically changed the face of corporate and personal computing. ...
Nor did I face a job market where the occasional tech layoffs turned from an accepted occupational hazard into a way of life, or where human resource managers frankly consider job skills to be nothing more than commodities that should be valued in the same manner. For STEM graduates today, especially in the IT profession, this “skill as a mere commodity” perception means they are increasingly considered technology obsolete and therefore ripe for replacement at the age of 40 or less, little matter the experience in many cases.
When it comes to dealing with IBM, you must be as heartless and ruthless as they, or they win, pure and simple. It is your good little capitalist duty to do the least work and provide the least results for the most returns. That's what they do. You will not survive against them unless you not only do the same, but do it better than them. Sure, it's a very sad state of affairs legitimate people, but perfectly reasonable in the context of pretending that corporations are "people". Congratulations, unbridled capitalism! -capitalist-hal-
So now here is where the smell really takes effect, as we all know the people with the highest medical claims are the senior citizens. SO... if that is the case and IBM is really self insured as they always professed to be, then what they are doing right now is ridding themselves of the highest cost medical group to them that comes directly out of IBM's pockets and transfers those costs to real insurance companies. -Something just doesn't add up-
That gender dynamic may provide fodder for stand-up comics, but it can have serious health implications, especially given the increasing use of high-deductible health insurance plans.
Men, it turns out, are more likely to delay treatment for serious conditions under high-deductible plans, in contrast to women, who tend to be more selective and cut back care for minor ailments only. ...
Such plans generally have lower monthly premiums than traditional health plans but higher out-of-pocket costs — sometimes, $4,000 or $5,000 for a family, or even higher. About a third of workers now have such plans. And that number is likely to grow, since lower-cost plans on the new health care marketplaces created by the Affordable Care Act are likely to have relatively high deductibles. ...
The study compared emergency room visits for about 12,000 people — roughly half men and half women — for a year before, and two years after, they were involuntarily switched by their employers to a high-deductible plan. For the first year after the switch, men’s use of the E.R. dropped across the board, even for severe conditions, like irregular heartbeat. Women cut back too, but mostly for less threatening symptoms, like headache or sore throats. ...
Jim Kiefert, who runs an “Us Too” prostate cancer support group in Olympia, Wash., said men often worry that spending on their own care may lead to economic hardship for their families. “That is a reality with men,” he said, adding that with a costly illness and a high deductible, “You can deplete your savings in a very short period of time.”
Now, your plan has switched, and in addition to premium payments you’re responsible for the first few thousand dollars of bodywork each year. And here’s an extra wrinkle: The mechanic won’t tell you how much you owe until after your car has been serviced.
That pretty much sums up the state of affairs with health insurance today for millions of people in the U.S. What people pay for health care can be all over the map depending on their health care provider, facility and plan type. A study released last week by the Center for Studying Health System Change found that hospital prices for privately insured patients vary widely even within individual communities; and the study also noted that these prices can be tough to obtain in advance. “It’s very hard to find out how much you’re on the hook for until you get the bill,” said Katy Kozhimannil, assistant professor at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. ...
Yet it’s tough for anyone to be a savvy shopper when price info is scant. The rates that insurers negotiate with health-care providers are often closely guarded as proprietary information. Competitive concerns aside, sometimes doctors and hospitals have trouble giving a hypothetical quote because they need to assess the patient’s needs first, according to Chapin White, senior health researcher at the Center for Studying Health System Change and lead author of the Center’s recent study. Other times, the billing office doesn’t know the amount negotiated with the patient’s insurer, or the patient hits a wall due to “plain bad customer service,” White wrote in an email message. ...
Certain preventative services—for example, screening colonoscopies for people 50 through 75 on a certain schedule—are free to members of most plans under the Affordable Care Act. Note, however, that routine screenings can turn into different procedures midway through. For example, if a doctor discovers and removes a polyp during a colonoscopy, that procedure will be billed differently than a preventative screening that turned up nothing, and you might owe something out of pocket. ...
Those with the hardest time researching prices are people considering joining a plan with a new insurer. Since they’re not yet members, they can’t call member services or use estimator tools available only to members. One website that can help is fairhealthconsumer.org, run by FAIR Health, a national, independent nonprofit corporation. It includes a medical and dental cost estimator based on extensive claims data. Consumers can get estimates by ZIP Code, for non-discount prices if they’re uninsured or for discounted rates if they’re insured. The latter estimates are only for out-of-network costs; in other words, they won’t tell you the negotiated rate for in-network care. Experts suggest carefully researching what would happen if you go out of network, since out-of-network charges can be much higher, especially under high-deductible plans.
But there's a new wild card, something that didn't seem so critical when Congress passed the Affordable Care Act back in 2010: where you live.
Entrenched political divisions over "Obamacare," have driven most Republican-led states to turn their backs on the biggest expansion of the social safety net in a half century. If you're uninsured in a state that's opposed, you may not get much help picking the right private health plan for your budget and your family's needs.
The differences will be more glaring if you're poor and your state rejected the law's Medicaid expansion. Unless leaders reverse course, odds are you'll remain uninsured. That's because people below the poverty line do not qualify for subsidies to buy coverage in the markets.
"We are going to have a new environment where consumers may be victims of geography," said Sam Karp of the California HealthCare Foundation, a nonprofit helping states tackle practical problems of implementation. "If I'm a low-wage earner in California, I may qualify for Medicaid. With the exact same income in Texas, I may not qualify." ...
In Texas, Republican Gov. Rick Perry has vowed not to facilitate "Obamacare." But Cecilia Fontenot of Houston is looking forward to the opening of that state's federally run insurance market.
A part-time accountant in her early 60s, Fontenot is uninsured and trying to stay healthy while coping with diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. She walks twice a day, early in the morning before it gets hot, and in the evenings.
Also on her mind is a breast lump detected about a year ago. Her doctor recommended a digital mammogram, but she has not been able to afford the more involved test.
"I try not to worry and just pray on it," said Fontenot.
So, another week, another denunciation of Obamacare. Who cares? But Mr. Barrasso’s remarks were actually interesting, although not in the way he intended. You see, all the recent news on health costs has been good. So Mr. Barrasso is predicting sticker shock precisely when serious fears of such a shock are fading fast. Why would he do that?
Well, one likely answer is that he hasn’t heard any of the good news. Think about it: Who would tell him?
My guess, in other words, was that Mr. Barrasso was inadvertently illustrating the widening “wonk gap” — the G.O.P.’s near-complete lack of expertise on anything substantive. Health care is the most prominent example, but the dumbing down extends across the spectrum, from budget issues to national security to poll analysis. Remember, Mitt Romney and much of his party went into Election Day expecting victory.
About health reform: Mr. Barrasso was wrong about everything, even the “unpopular” bit, as I’ll explain in a minute. Mainly, however, he was completely missing the story on affordability.
For the truth is that the good news on costs just keeps coming in. There has been a striking slowdown in overall health costs since the Affordable Care Act was enacted, with many experts giving the law at least partial credit. And we now have a good idea what insurance premiums will be once the law goes fully into effect; a comprehensive survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation finds that on average premiums will be significantly lower than those predicted by the Congressional Budget Office when the law was passed.
But do Republican politicians know any of this? Not if they’re listening to conservative “experts,” who have been offering a steady stream of misinformation. All those claims about sticker shock, for example, come from obviously misleading comparisons. For example, supposed experts compare average insurance rates under the new system, which will cover everyone, with the rates currently paid by a handful of young, healthy people for bare-bones insurance. And they conveniently ignore the subsidies many Americans will receive. ...
Political conservatism and serious policy analysis can coexist, and there was a time when they did. Back in the 1980s, after all, health experts at Heritage made a good-faith effort to devise a plan for universal health coverage — and what they came up with was the system now known as Obamacare.
But that was then. Modern conservatism has become a sort of cult, very much given to conspiracy theorizing when confronted with inconvenient facts. Liberal policies were supposed to cause hyperinflation, so low measured inflation must reflect statistical fraud; the threat of climate change implies the need for public action, so global warming must be a gigantic scientific hoax. Oh, and Mitt Romney would have won if only he had been a real conservative.
It’s all kind of funny, in a way. Unfortunately, however, this runaway cult controls the House, which gives it immense destructive power — the power, for example, to wreak havoc on the economy by refusing to raise the debt ceiling. And it’s disturbing to realize that this power rests in the hands of men who, thanks to the wonk gap, quite literally have no idea what they’re doing.
Obviously, premium costs will be an important consideration for consumers. But just as important will be a realistic assessment of what kinds of out-of-pocket costs they could expect with different types of policies and what subsidies they will be eligible for.
“Everybody should be factoring in cost sharing along with the premium to try to assess what their total financial exposure is,” says Jennifer Tolbert, director of state health reform at the Kaiser Family Foundadtion. (KHN is an editorially independent program of the foundation.) ...
For people who expect to hit their spending cap, buying a pricier platinum plan may actually result in lower total spending, says Marc Boutin, executive vice president and chief operating officer at the National Health Council, a patient advocacy organization. ...
If only one member of a family has high medical expenses, families may want to consider splitting coverage between different plans. “Many insurers are expecting that savvy families will enroll a sick family member in a platinum plan and the rest in lower level plans,” says Tolbert. ...
In addition to how much the plan costs overall, people with serious medical conditions need to carefully review whether the drugs they take are on the plan formulary, and the specialists and facilities they visit regularly are in the plan';s network, say experts, as well as their out-of-pocket costs to go out of the network.
"But dependency on government has never been bad for the rich. The pretense of the laissez-faire people is that only the poor are dependent on government, while the rich take care of themselves. This argument manages to ignore all of modern history, which shows a consistent record of laissez-faire for the poor, but enormous government intervention for the rich." From Economic Justice: The American Class System, from the book Declarations of Independence by Howard Zinn.
Instead of providing aid for the hungry, House Republicans want to reduce the food stamp program — the most basic part of the social safety net — with $40 billion in cuts across the next decade. A showdown vote over this cruel plan is expected this month. The House majority leader, Eric Cantor, is leading a propaganda drive that invokes reform as its cause while blaming the victims of hunger simply because the food stamp rolls had to double to nearly 48 million people in the crunch of recession. ...
The Cantor plan would force an estimated four to six million people to lose the food stamps that now sustain them. It would invite state governments to ratchet benefits back further because they could use savings wrenched from the pantries of the poor for various other programs, including tax cuts. The measure’s “work requirements” provide no job training funds yet mandate that able-bodied, childless adults who cannot find at least part-time employment will lose their food stamps after 90 days, even if the local unemployment rate is prohibitively high. ...
The falsehood that cutting food stamps is about saving government money is evident when the House plans rich increases in crop insurance subsidies for farmers. Representative Stephen Fincher of Tennessee, a Tea Party favorite who wants food stamps cut, collected nearly $3.5 million in government farm subsidies from 1999 to 2012. Yet he declared in a debate over food stamps, “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”
The Republicans play up a few abusers of the program to mask the central fact of their plan: the tens of millions of Americans who rely on food stamps are children, the disabled, the elderly and low-wage families. For their sake, Congress should reject the Cantor proposal as the national embarrassment it plainly is.
The rule is a result of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reforms of 2010. But little progress has been made, partly because the rule lacked a deadline and partly because big companies lobbied against it. ...
Companies say it's not so easy. Nearly two dozen groups and associations -- including those representing the petroleum, retail and financial services industries -- sent a letter to the SEC in 2012 complaining about the "significant hurdles and burdens " of collecting such information. They also say it's not useful to investors. ...
While median wages aren't known for each company or industry, the average wage for all kinds of U.S. workers was roughly $43,000, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics August data.
That puts Oracle's Ellison's pay at 2,236 times the average worker's pay, Exxon's Tillerson at 936 times the average worker pay and Wal-Mart's Duke at 481 times the average worker pay.
One way to chart the fortunes of capital and labor is to show how much of the nation’s income goes to each. Labor’s share is straightforward. It covers workers’ wages, salaries and fringe benefits. Capital is more complicated. It includes corporate profits, the income of small businesses and professional partnerships, rents from real estate and net interest on bank deposits, bonds and loans.
Since World War II, labor’s and capital’s shares of income have fluctuated within a narrow band, reports the White House Council of Economic Advisers (CEA). Prosperity boosted both groups by roughly equal proportions. In 1947, labor’s share of nonfarm business income was 65 percent; in 2000, it was 63 percent. Everyone benefits when labor and capital work in tandem, not in opposition. But as I reported last week, labor’s share has plunged in the past decade. In 2013, it’s 57 percent. This shifts about $750 billion annually from labor to capital. ...
Corporate America is husbanding its profits. It invests mainly in the safest projects. From 2007 (the previous business cycle peak) to 2012, domestic corporate profits climbed 35 percent while investment in plants and equipment rose only 2.6 percent. U.S. companies have accumulated a huge cash hoard of $1.8 trillion as of the end of 2012.
A well-functioning economy is a circular process by which one person’s spending becomes another person’s income, which is then spent again. Today, there’s a damaging disconnect between capital’s rising share and its subsequent spending. So the economy sputters. ...
What would improve the odds is more exuberance from the custodians of capital. CEOs seem content to sit on their profits and invest only when the needs and the returns are indisputable. Careless capital, which fostered the financial crisis, has given way to ultra-cautious capital, which is making a lackluster economy self-fulfilling.
“You follow this pro-corporate trend to its logical conclusion, and sooner or later you’ll end up with a Supreme Court that functions as a wholly owned subsidiary of Big Business,” said Warren.
The Massachusetts Senator also lashed out at big banks for lobbying against more regulation. “The big banks and their army of lobbyists have fought every step of the way to delay, water down, block or strike down regulations,” she said.
This isn’t new. Throughout our history, powerful interests have tried to capture Washington and rig the system in their favor. But we didn’t roll over. At every turn, in every time of challenge, organized labor has been there, fighting on behalf of the American people. ...
And in 2008, when the economy crashed and it was time to reign in financial predators and Wall Street banks, labor was there—you were there—standing shoulder to shoulder with me, standing with President Obama, and fighting for consumer protection. And thanks to those efforts, we now have a strong Consumer Financial Protection Bureau – with a confirmed Director to lead it. And just so everyone knows, that little agency has already returned half a billion dollars to families who were cheated by big financial institutions and helped tens of thousands of consumers solve their problems with big banks. ...
According to a recent study, the five conservative justices currently sitting on the Supreme Court are in the top ten most pro-corporate justices in a half century – and Justices Alito and Roberts are numbers one and two – the most anti-consumer in this entire time. The Chamber of Commerce is now a major player in the Supreme Court, and its win rate has risen to 70% of all cases it supports. Follow this pro-corporate trend to its logical conclusion, and sooner or later you’ll end up with a Supreme Court that functions as a wholly owned subsidiary of big business. ...
Five years ago, experts said the banks had to be bailed out because there was too much concentration in banking and one failure would bring down the entire economy. Now the four biggest banks are 30% larger than they were five years ago. The five largest banks now hold more than half of all banking assets in the country. Because investors know they are too big to fail, those big banks get cheaper borrowing, which, according to one study, adds up to an annual $83 billion subsidy from taxpayers—another benefit of being Too Big to Fail.
Five years ago this September, Lehman Brothers went bankrupt, and the Street hurtled toward the worst financial crisis in eighty years. Yet the biggest Wall Street banks are far larger now than they were then. And the Dodd-Frank rules designed to stop them from betting with the insured deposits of ordinary savers are still on the drawing boards -- courtesy of the banks' lobbying prowess. The so-called Volcker Rule has yet to see the light of day. ...
Consider JPMorgan Chase, the largest of the bunch. Last year it lost $6.2 billion by betting on credit default swaps tied to corporate debt -- and then lied about it. Evidence shows the bank paid bribes to get certain counties to buy the swaps. The Justice Department is investigating the bank over improper energy trading. That follows the news that the anti-bribery unit of the Security and Exchange Commission is looking into whether JPMorgan hired the children of Chinese officials to help win business. The bank has also allegedly committed fraud in collecting credit card debt, used false and misleading means of foreclosing on mortgages, and misled credit-card customers in seeking to sell them identity-theft products. The list goes on. ...
No company, least of all a giant Wall Street bank, will eschew a chance to make a tidy profit unless the probability of getting caught and prosecuted, multiplied times the amount of any potential penalty, is greater than the expected profits.
Have we learned nothing since September, 2008? Five years ago this month Wall Street almost went under. We bailed it out. Millions of Americans are still suffering the consequences of the Street's excesses. Yet the Street's top guns and fat cats are still treating the economy as their own private casino, and raking in even more than before.
The fact is, the giant Wall Street banks are ungovernable -- too big to fail, too big to jail, too big to curtail. They should be split up, and their size capped. There's no need to wait for Congress to do it; the nation's antitrust laws are adequate to the job. There is ample precedent. In 1911 we split up Standard Oil. In 1982 we split up Ma Bell. The Federal Reserve has authority to do it on its own in any event. (Would Larry Summers take such an initiative?)
Consider the case of Bob Corker, the Republican senator from Tennessee, and Volkswagen, the German automaker that employs 2,000 workers at a plant in Chattanooga. As my colleague Steven Greenhouse reported last week, the company is working with the United Auto Workers on a plan to unionize its factory so it can establish what is known as a “works council” in Germany. These councils are essentially committees of workers that meet with management to discuss how to improve conditions and productivity. Some studies have found that plants with such committees have higher productivity and wages than factories without them, which is why both workers and management might want them.
But Mr. Corker appears to have never seen a union he liked. In an interview with the Associated Press, he called Volkswagen’s decision to engage in these talks “incomprehensible” and said the company would become a “laughingstock in the business world” if it went ahead with the plan. His criticism is particularly strange because he is reported to have played a big role in bringing Volkswagen to Chattanooga, where he was once mayor. To be fair, Mr. Corker is not alone; the governor of his state, the Republican Bill Haslam, is also opposed to the Volkswagen-U.A.W. plan. ...
The strangest thing about Mr. Corker’s and Mr. Haslam’s criticism of Volkswagen is that Republicans are usually on the ones telling everybody else in government not to meddle in the affairs of profit-making businesses. After all, it’s their mantra that businesses, not lawmakers, create jobs. But I guess none of that matters in this case because even a company as successful and profitable as Volkswagen, which is competing with Toyota and General Motors to be the world’s largest automaker, must be deluded if it’s entertaining the possibility of working with a dreaded union.
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