The Justice Department hit IBM for allegedly violating the anti-discrimination provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act, when it posted online job openings for software and apps developers.
In the job postings, IBM allegedly stated a preference for F-1 and H-1B visa holders. F-1 visas are issued to foreign students and H-1B visas to foreign nationals with technical experience in a specialized field. ...
IBM Case Doesn’t Help H-1B Reform Efforts. The IBM settlement comes at a time when the nation is locked in political debate over immigration reform, which has also drawn in legislative efforts to increase the statutory cap for H-1B visa petitions beyond their current 65,000 visas a year.
Selected reader comments follow:
Over a three month period, Khan got six calls on my phone, and twelve emails from IBM. They wanted HIM, and not ME. Like I said, I changed only the ethnicity of the applicant, and the skills were the same. So, when it comes to me applying for IBM again, I just have to say “Beam me up Scotty, there’s no intelligent life at IBM”
Anyone who claims there is a shortage of IT professionals of US descent is lying, outright lying, to us. It’s all about the money. Experienced American IT folks expect to earn between $60K – $90K for most positions; H1-B visa holders will do the same jobs for about $35K – $55K. Companies know this, then lobby the pols to loosen the restrictions so that they can save even more in payroll expenses. This is treason in my opinion.
Back in 2009, I saw a posting for a job that was completely perfect for me. I had everything in the job description and it was even located right in my town. I sent my resume and never even got a response. The job posting had that little notice about how it was a mandatory posting because of having an H1B they wanted to hire. By law, they should have at least brought me in for an interview. This goes on all the time.
I always find it strange that the only contract agencies I ever hear from with regards to IBM are Indian agencies. It’s kind of funny, because I get a lot of calls from these guys because my first name is actually quite similar to Indian names. It’s kind of funny how those guys always have that weird pause when they first speak to me and realize I’m not Indian.
The H1B program needs to be severely restricted. We have high unemployment here – granted, not as high in the IT fields as in others – but we still don’t need to be bringing in foreign workers when US citizens are unemployed. The fine for IBM here is laughable. Nothing will change the practices at these companies until the penalties for doing so are substantial enough. I guess all we can do is keep reporting incidents and pushing our politicians to actually help us citizens for a change.
The ruling by Judge Thomas Wheeler was published on Pacer on Monday, and could torpedo IBM's attempt to knock the Amazon Web Services technology out of consideration for a $600m contract to build a spy cloud for the CIA.
Wheeler's ruling is the culmination of a dispute that has been going on since February, this year, and has big implications for Amazon, and poses a major cause for concern to the folks that run IBM's cloud business.
Though Amazon's original bid came in over 50 per cent higher in price that IBM's original bid ($148m a year, versus IBM's $94m), Federal evaluators thought Bezos & Co's cloud was far superior to the IBM offering, classing it as a "superior technical solution".
Selected reader comments follow:
Or they could have said "IBM has for decades supplied the government with seats on it's board for people who backed our bids. The company remains committed to provide secure, reliable and robust board positions to federal agencies heads when they retire."
Unfortunately, in places like IBM where the bean counters are entrenched—they're often the last ones to go after all the useful people have been fired/rebalanced /off-shored.
Analysts are mixed on whether IBM’s built out a difference-maker from the new buys. In an update Thurs., Trefis said it expected the company to improve on its 3% decline in year-to-year revenue last quarter due in large part to its Smarter Planet and Cloud units, the two seeing major investment. And in June, Jefferies put faith in IBM’s shift in focus away from its hardware and server business. ...
Some parts of the company’s refocus will also be less positive, like the “workforce rebalancing” that has led to some layoffs and the recent furloughing of many U.S. employees. The company’s also offloaded some legacy units piecemeal. ...
IBM’s got plenty more cash though, with about half its $20 billion budget remaining to add to the $6 billion its spent on cloud and the $3.5 billion for Smarter Commerce tools. It had about $18 billion in cash on hand throughout last year, finishing the year with $11.1 billion.
That means more acquisitions are coming down the pipeline. IBM’s cloud and commerce unit chiefs say SoftLayer is one of the “largest building blocks” to come in, but that more steps will come to maintain the momentum toward 2015. To those who wonder if IBM has a coherent plan, Quan and Henderson say that the road map is real, on schedule, and the position for a while has been “very clear.”
New York’s labor markets are in convulsions as American employers ship more well-paid jobs to lower-cost countries like Mexico, the Philippines, China and India — where IBM, culling 747 jobs from the Empire State, has achieved landmark status. It now employs more workers in India than in the US, according to a leaked IBM document reviewed by The Post. The average IBM pay in India is $17,000, compared with $100,000 for a senior IT specialist in the US.
Big Blue’s eradication of these New York jobs in the Hudson Valley — part of a brutal package of 3,300 IBM cuts in North America — is the latest sign by US employers of growing their bottom line by replacing higher-cost labor with cheaper workers abroad, labor analysts say. ...
Lee Conrad, national coordinator in New York for a small group of union-affiliated IBM workers, said his group uncovered the latest local IBM cuts. IBM has stopped reporting head count by location in recent years.
The reason? “Frankly,” Conrad told The Post, “IBM doesn’t want the governors of the states that have given them handouts and tax breaks to know IBM has pretty much dismantled their local workforces.” IBM has outsourced jobs not only to India but also to Mexico, the Philippines and other lower-cost locations.
IBM's move is not surprising considering the magnitude of the CIA's effort to develop an internal private cloud infrastructure for the entire intelligence community. It's a major deal in financial scope – up to $600 million over four years – and clout in cloud computing.
The key question is: When may an individual change from COBRA coverage to marketplace coverage, and how might the individual’s eligibility for a subsidy (which will help defray the cost of marketplace coverage) be affected? In other words, once COBRA coverage is elected, may the individual drop COBRA at any time and enroll in subsidized coverage through a marketplace, or must the individual either exhaust COBRA or wait for a marketplace open enrollment period? The answer is not entirely clear.
Consumer-directed health plans, or CDHPs, could become the most common form of coverage offered by companies with 500 or more workers in the next three to five years, Aon Hewitt said Wednesday, as companies continue trying to cut health-care costs.
Under these plans, a smaller amount is usually taken out of employees' paychecks for insurance. But the plans come with a deductible that can top $2,000 and must be paid before most coverage starts. That means a bill for more than $100 could replace the $20 co-payment the worker is used to after a doctor's office visit.
Although the colonoscopy might be free, any biopsies/treatment if something is found would not be free. http://kff.org/health-costs/report/coverage-of-colonoscopies-under-the-affordable-care/
Let’s put you at ease right up front. The new health exchange has nothing to do with the open enrollment period that comes along every year at this time for Medicare managed care and drug plans. ...
Yet health reform is, in fact, lurking behind the scenes to shape Medicare health coverage and rates.
Thanks to the Affordable Care Act of 2010, Medicare benefits will be slightly enhanced in 2014. You’ll pay less for mental health visits and slightly less for generic drugs in the so-called donut hole.
Monthly premiums for Medicare Advantage plans are rising only modestly this year, for most. And insurers increasingly appear to be pushing free, preventive wellness visits, partly because they stand to gain financially in the very near future, experts say. ...
Yet some Medicare Advantage providers are coping with rising costs – some they say are imposed by health reform – by boosting out-of-pocket maximums and co-pays. There could be other changes in your plan, too, such as fewer covered medications. ...
Seniors with stand-alone drug plans, called Part D, stand to see the most significant cost increases. Half of the 10 largest plans nationwide are imposing double-digit percent increases in monthly premiums, according to Avalere Health, a consulting firm in Washington, D.C.
It is also my understanding that to make use of the HRA subsidy, $3000 or $3500, the plans must be purchased through ExtendHealth; go outside of EH and you are out of luck. Just like today, if you go outside to buy Part D Rx, because Aetna Integration Plan A & B does not include Rx, you don't expect reimbursement for the monthly premium, deductibles, co-pays.
As for the $3000 subsidy, and the reduced amount, if you opt for the joint and survivor coverage (somewhere between $2300-$2400), wherein spouse can use the subsidy at 50%, ($1150-$1200), that would seem not worth it since you are giving up $600-$700 up front every year, and that is money saved by IBM!! So it is a gamble, as to who outlives whom. If you live say 20 years more, the spouse would have to live 10 years beyond that, just to break even!
With EH, as with Medicare, all plans are individual, so make sure you cover the spouse! The prior IBM plans were group plans, not individual. Anyway, I do not believe IBM ever covered the spouse (or dependent), for the subsidy under the old plans; Just look at the difference in rates, for self, vs. self + 1, and you will find the +1 had a significant multiplier when compared to self.
One interesting thing, for those who retired on Jan. 1, 1997, or later, you could apply to get reimbursed for the Part B medical, monthly premium. So that becomes a 'benefit'; of course the $3000 subsidy, does not go too far. For those retired before Jan. 1, 1997, there was the SHAP reimbursement of up to $900; but the way the Rhee lettered; "it will continue for 2014"; it could very well disappear after that. Originally, the $900 was almost sufficient for self + spouse; now it is not even sufficient for self ($104.90x12).
REMEMBER this statement from the About Your Company book way back when: IBM reserves the right to change, amend, terminate, any plan or benefit without prior notice.
In my case, I do not see an AARP option in my selection. When I called EH, I was advised to wait until October 15, as NOT everything is loaded onto the EH website, so EH rescheduled my appointment to November.
As I see it, the only way retirees, etc. can benefit from the changes, is to stay healthy, go to a Medicare Advantage Part C plan, with no monthly premiums, use doctors that have little or minimal co-pays, don't get sick and wind up in a hospital.
When you add up the Part B medical of $104.90 minimum, Medigap premiums, the deductibles, the co-pays, and Dental and Vision coverage, and multiply by 2, if there is a spouse to cover, that $3000 subsidy or less, does NOT go too far.
But, of course, IBM would say, "it was never their intent to pay for and cover all the costs." Remember the comment back when IBM started the 401k: "It is a shared responsibility" with Social Security, defined-benefit plan, and savings was a three-legged stool and thus the 401k became the 4th leg.
Of course, the 4-legged stool comment doesn't apply anymore, with defined benefit plan, history since year end 2007. Now, it is YOUR RESPONSIBILITY to manage your affairs, whether money, health, retirement, etc. Such is change.
The IBM we all knew is history, and went out the door when full employment disappeared, and Respect for the Individual is no longer a precept!
The basis of this recommendation is that I had an interview with EH 10/2 and signed up for an Anthem HD F plan. The plan disappeared from their site soon after so I called EH and the rep did not know why and I suggested he call Anthem and he refused and stated it was in progress and would be resolved. I subsequently called them myself and verified that the plan would not be offered in 2014.
I then checked on my online status and it continued to show information forwarded to carrier. I waited to see the resolution status and over this weekend all indications of my sign up disappeared with zero plan in play. I therefore called EH once again this am and after some delay they verified the plan was canceled for 2014 and for some unknown reason the status was deleted.
I then asked what is the status of a mix of 2013 and 2014 plans and why it was not flagged on the EH site and got some evasive answer so I helped the adviser with the fact that the government shutdown is delaying the government sign off for 2014 and since no end is in site we really don't know when all the 2014 plans will finally be visible on the EH site.
Since EH is commission based by signing us up its a simple follow the money reason and they really only care about that not the quality of the advice they are giving us. Given my experience and knowing many others are getting the same level of service I suggest you adopt the above attitude to this company that we have forced to use.
If you add the fact that many more plans are available on medicare.gov we have been shortchanged once again by IBM to be forced to use this company just to access the HRA funds IBM delegated them to perform so it can wash its hands of the entire process...nuff said.
For those that retired after that date the average subsidy from IBM is capped at $7000 for pre-Medicare retirees and $3000 for Medicare retirees.
Then there are the FHA retirees, who do not get either subsidy, but instead have a FHA account, which may contain as little as $0 (i.e. they are not eligible to use the funds, or never had any to start with) or as much as $50,000 or so. The FHA retirees are those that were not within 5 years of retirement eligibility on July 1, 1999 when IBM rolled out the Cash Balance pension plan.
Since the providers offered are the highest priced, if you are on FHA that money will run out faster and then you will be left with the highest priced options when you are paying on your own.
In most of our cases, we as IBM retirees 65 and over are losing our IBM in-house insurance at the end of 2013. Losing your insurance, through no fault of your own, is a special consideration so in most states you are then free to choose another plan without underwriting or probationary periods.
But in the specific scenario we are talking about there are the retirees over 65 who do not have an in-house medical plan with IBM (but may have their drug/vision/dental in house with IBM) and they're happy with their medical plan. So now they're wondering if in 2014 EH offers the same Medical plan they've been on for 2013. Can their plan be purchased through EH in 2014 seamlessly in order to get the subsidy, and not be subject to underwriting?
There are many different regional combinations of insurance scenarios, and it's confusing (especially when EH reps can't answer these questions).
I know there are rules regarding when Medigap can be purchased. I know we can all qualify to buy now because we are losing credible coverage from the Ibm plan, but I have yet to be able to determine how existing Medigap customers are handled.
It had never occurred to me that during my actual enrollment I would be advised (1) to cancel my current policy, or (2) be subject to underwriting.
I'm sure there are others in this same situation. Looks like I have to make another call to EH and hope someone there can shed light on how existing Medigap customers are handled.
I don't think they have a logical and legal plan for those of us with Medigap already. They in fact did recommend that I cancel my existing policy-- which seemed both absurd and high risk on many levels.
It is not even clear who to go to to understand the alternatives here-- it does not seem to be EH. I am about to compose a letter to IBM and shoot that off to our all of the folks who told us what a great deal this is.
"You are guaranteed coverage in one of the medical plans available to you, regardless of your current medical conditions, provided you enroll by December 31, 2013. Your health status will not affect the rate you pay."
You might want to include this in your letter. It appears that the EH/IBM guarantee conflicts with state law.
Otherwise, you need to obtain a NEW Medigap policy. Once that this confirmed to be issued, you can then notify the original provider that you are canceling on the effective date of the new policy. Part D plans automatically get changed by CMS so no explicit action to cancel is required on your part.
You can then use your HRA money to pay your Medigap premiums and/or submit bills for your wife's premiums and get reimbursed. My guess is the HRA money won't cover the total amount, but how far it goes will depend on what plans are available in your area and which of those you chose.
Mad, see underlined phrase above starting with 'submit'. This was in the context of a non-Medicare wife/spouse. Where did you find this statement, I have been looking for this from IBM and EH and have been unsuccessful. thanks.
Other valid medical expenses can also be submitted. This includes premiums for insurance that you don't buy through EH. Presumably, the premiums for a non-Medicare spouse qualify as valid medical expenses.
The process for submitting claims was shown in the presentation material that EH used at various IBM locations. You can download a copy here: https://www.extendhealth.com/documents/ibm%20deck%20website%20version%2023aug2013.pdf.
See page 27 for the process and page 28 for a copy of the claim form.
I received a letter that indicated those of us that are not on Medicare will receive our packages in November. This is a real issue as my wife's open enrollment is Oct 1 through Oct 31 and IBM's delay means I can't include my wife's plan when comparing IBM and ACA exchanges. When I called Fidelity they claim we will see it in October so keeping my fingers crossed.
Guess I should call E/H and present this scenario to them to see where it will all fall. Fortunately she too will become Medicare eligible this year.
So we will be paying whatever IBM charges for the group policy for our spouses until they are eligible for Medicare
At that time the $3000 will be used for both of us under Extend Care. Gary.
You can use your HRA to reimburse yourself and your eligible dependents (as long as they also elect coverage in a medical plan through Extend Health)...
Since a non-Medicare eligible spouse does not use Extend Health I don't see how I can get reimbursed for her costs and therefore I need to use the full $3000 for me.
Your IRS quote says an HRA “can” be used for spouse expense reimbursement. Same publication says year-end HRA balance “can” be rolled over to following year, but we know IBM decided not to.
This is probably defined in the SPD and Plan Documents, but as far as I know, they haven’t been released yet, and may not have even been finalized.
A SHIP volunteer counselor suggested Plan K to meet our needs, offered by AARP at a reasonable cost.
Benefits of email: Once you answer the same question several times, add it to an online IBM Retiree FAQ at their site to help lessen phone call workload. I learned that back in Call Centers in the early 90s.
Poor site design and I'm stumped how they have signed up the other companies, prior to IBM.
I really feel everyone has to take a deep breath and wait a few weeks before talking to EH. The insurance companies are also real busy too, sorting out some bad or incomplete applications from ACA: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-10-08/insurers-getting-faulty-data-from-u-s-health-exchanges.html
For example, we have been told that our Medicare Part B premium can be reimbursed through the HRA. I have been told that I can enroll in a dental plan that is NOT obtained through EH and that will also be reimbursed. Same with Vision plans.
Out of pocket medical expenses will also be reimbursed, provided the Med plan was obtained through EH.
Unknown to me right now is whether my Part D Humana Walmart plan which I already have is reimbursable. If not are at least the drug costs that I pay covered and reimbursable? Or are they and the premiums and deductible not reimbursable?
None of this is in writing. Seems like we need a written set of rules of what is eligible for HRA funding and what isn't, don't we?
Question is are we going to get this...or simply be surprised when we ask that our Medicare Part B premiums be reimbursed; only to be told that only the Medicare Part B deductible is so eligible?
This latter statement already begs the question "Is the Medicare Part B deductible eligible for reimbursement? You tell me...
Your comment about "can be reimbursed" is not helpful at all is it, when the obvious question is WHAT can be reimbursed and WHAT can't be. Are you trying to tell me that if I obtain a Medigap plan through EH and a dental plan outside EH, YOU KNOW that my dental expenses will be reimbursed?
The question that has to be answered is what subset of those two publications will apply to the IBM HRAs.
For example,the IRS says "Amounts that remain at the end of the year can generally be carried over to the next year". I guess the "generally" allows IBM to say "no".
The IRS also gives a list of people whose expenses can be reimbursed which includes all of the persons dependents even if IBM doesn't recognize them as such. Can EH say no to them?
That really is the most important thing. All the rest of it unfortunately is over qualified by the fact these expenses appear to be only eligible "for plans you enroll in through EH". That part was always obvious and still is. So leaves it leaves in doubt whether Dental or Vision expenses obtained outside EH are eligible. Same thing for Part D. Since I already have Part D through Humana-Walmart and want it again, do I have to figure out get it through EH?
Still leaves a lot of things unclear. However if Medicare Part B premium is reimbursed, I believe that at about $2400/year for self + 1, and the $1200/year for Plan F HD, will consume my $3K HRA. Without the former premium being eligible, I don't see how my medical expenses would consume my HRA unless I chose Plan F ND...which I would consider extremely undesirable.
So thanks again.
The reimbursements described in the other three bullets do not require enrollment through EH (beyond the requirement of enrolling in a medical plan through them).
One word of caution since you apparently have the Humana-Walmart Preferred plan this year. Do not just "do nothing" and let that plan automatically re-enroll you. You will not be getting the Humana-Walmart plan you think you're getting.
But also on page 7 (right side) we find "You can use your HRA to reimburse yourself...for the following expenses in a given year: Premiums for…Medigap and Prescription drug plans that you enroll in through EH. Unreimbursed premiums for Medicare Part B. Premiums for dental and vision plans. Out of pocket expenses, including deductibles, coinsurance and copays for medical prescription drug, dental and vision plans."
The part that is really confusing is the one that pertains to premiums for dental and vision plans. On the left side eligibility for these latter premiums is qualified by "plans you enroll in through Extend Health." But on the right side it is not so qualified. But wouldn't the qualification on the left side supersede the right side?
On the other hand, both sides DO seem to agree that premiums for Part D will only be reimbursed if the plan is obtained through EH. Since self +1 are already enrolled in Humana Walmart Preferred plan this year, I called Humana and asked them how we could avoid the automatic enrollment and get this plan through EH. I was told I would have to write Humana a signed letter telling them what plan I was in and the date I wanted to be dis-enrolled (I will pick late December 2013) and then I could avoid the 60 day absence of coverage period and enroll again in the same plan with EH. I will need to verify this EH however.
Hopefully EH will confirm that this works. As a further source of confusion, I was informed by Humana that the "OPEN ENROLLMENT" period ends on DEC 7. When I asked EH about this they were not concerned because "we were in a special enrollment period because our group coverage had ended". However I along with many others do NOT have group coverage for Part D. So what does that mean? Should I cancel Part D before Dec 7 and make sure I enroll through EH before then? (My appointment currently is Dec 6).
Any insight into these sources of confusion would be appreciated.
ALSO, those who retired and on Aetna, their records will be released to Aetna and Extended Health in NOVEMBER...so if you are having meetings with Extended Health this month, delay until middle of November. The roll out, and change over, without proper documentation on details has been pathetic to say the least.
I have seen nothing in writing, so don't take may word on this. You may want to call to confirm.
The plan worked amazingly well for us but YMMDefinitelyV. Part of our calculations in choosing this plan was the included pharmacy plan which was so much less expensive for our known costs with so much better coverage for unknowns that it made the overall plan choice easy for us.
Shortly after the IBM/Rhee/EH letters we received an Aetna letter saying they are changing the pharmacy plan. It will become a Medicare Part D plan. "More details to follow soon." Whatever they offer in place of our current plan may turn out to be a game changer for us. Patience is called for. Wish I had more...
Besides this change I will need to find out if I can freely choose any EH plan without "penalty" if I wait a year or two before leaving the Aetna plan.
There don't seem to be many of us in this Aetna boat so please keep posting (as I will) as information trickles out. Thanks.
There are so many laws/regs in play, I'd just be happy if I were you that you can stay with the plan you like. Who knows what will be offered in 2015.
I don't know how many people are in your boat- but those people would have received the same separate letter you have.
I wish they would have sent out all of the information at one time, rather than first sending out the info on Extend Health, leaving us wondering what the subsidy would be, then finally sending out THAT information, but now leaving us wondering about non-Medicare dependents. It is very frustrating!
By the way, my impression, and that's all it is, is that we will submit the cost for the dependents plan to Extend Health for the FHA just as we would submit any other medical cost like the Part B premium, and that would all come out of the $3,000/$3,500 subsidy, so that we probably would pay the full cost.
Do IBM and Extend Health realize that not only could we navigate through the options EH purports to be helping us with, but in fact we know about all the other stuff they don't want to talk about?
IBMers have generally worked with complex things, and in complex environments. Why treat us like mushrooms?
(2) By going with a system in which only a subset of the available plans are visible through EH, IBM has put us at a disadvantage as shoppers. This is not consistent with making the market efficient for us.
(3) It seems to me that IBM could offer EH for those who want hand holding, and open market for those who think they can handle it. It would be up to Extend Health, then, to demonstrate that they offer a value add.
Beyond that, I think many of us would like to make our own assessments, and decide our own risks.
It appears IBM is treating the $3000 a year as an annuity, where you can either choose a single-life annuity for the full amount, or a dual-life annuity with a reduced amount for each annuitant.
Everyone had to go through this decision when they chose their pension payments. With our pensions, we knew payments would be made and could not be discontinued at the discretion of the company. They are protected by the PBGC.
Legally, the $3000 subsidy can be discontinued at any time at the discretion of the company. Regardless, IBM wants you to make an irrevocable one-time decision without the benefit of knowing for how many years the subsidy will continue. It is impossible to make an informed decision unless you have some commitment from the company committing to subsidy for a certain number of years.
Someone affected may want to write to the plan administrator to get a clarification so they can make an informed choice.
In a perverse way, this letter from IBM may be a good thing. It may imply that the company is committing to continue these subsidy payments for some time into the future. I am not a lawyer, and do not play one on TV, so I cannot give legal advice or tell you the legal ramifications of such a letter, if any.
But there is a way for you, and others, to deal with the uncertainty, beyond the binary choice of choosing the base amount (e.g. $3k) or the joint survivor's payout. Take the base subsidy and invest the difference ($3000-$2374 = $626) in a separate, additional insurance policy. That would reduce your joint risk (though not as much as you would like) but would probably come at a high price. As an individual, your ability to negotiate a custom insurance policy is limited and customizations tend to be pricey.
I'm no longer married, but if I was, I'd take the $3K and save that $626 difference in a joint account.
My wife and I have been with Kaiser for 11 years now and Kaiser was not as part of the original plans being offered by Extend Health, who we were told was our only choice for a medical plan. Then a couple of weeks later, all of us who were currently with Kaiser, got a letter from IBM, saying that not only could me remain with them if we choose to do so, we were also told that an HRA would be set up for us. This was good news to me, since there are no doctors locally who will take a new Medicare patient.
Now let me get to my main point. Two of my retired IBM friends here in Salem, Oregon have been with Aetna for some time and want to stay with them. But the only available Medigap plan on Extend Health's list are Humana, Blue Cross and AARP/United Healthcare. Both of these individuals have had bad experiences with all three of these companies and don't want to go with them.
What it looks like to me, is that by IBM making an exception and letting those of us with Kaiser stay with them and setting up an HRA for us, they have created a precedent for others to stay with the company they have been with and also have an HRA.
Now any of us are free to get our healthcare from any company that we want. But IBM is telling us that if we don't go with Extend Health and now are able to remain with Kaiser, they won't set up an HRA for us. This smells to high heaven and looks like grounds for a class action lawsuit.
Like other poster said, I am not a legal professional either, but it sure doesn't sound right.
The key to these surprising profits is an arcane accounting rule introduced in the early 1990s. The rule required companies for the first time to report their total anticipated costs for retiree-health coverage. Many companies used the rule to justify cutting that coverage, or shifting its cost to retirees. As a result, a lot of older Americans are struggling to pay their medical bills.
The rule also offered companies a way to arrange their financial statements so that retiree-benefit programs actually became new profit centers.
I don't profess to be an expert in FAS106 accounting (which is what the article is about), but it appears to me that companies record the present value of ALL future retiree obligations for medical on their books as a liability. If a company can reduce a future liability for retirees and/or surviving spouses, the company creates income.
So, IBM currently has a liability recorded on their books for Medicare-eligible employees and spouses If IBM can reduce that future liability (by say, reducing what a surviving spouse will get), IBM creates income.
It looks to me that IBM has this "pot" of money recorded on their books for the present value of their future liability. As the article states, there are assumptions (such as medical inflation rate) that go into the computation of this liability.
So, since IBM is on the Roadkill 2015 path, IBM can draw upon this "kitty" between now and 2015. By getting people to refuse the HRA subsidy, reducing the HRA subsidy in future years, or by working the numbers that the future liability for spousal coverage is reduced, IBM can use the retiree plan to meet its EPS.
Any change between now and the end of 2015 to the retiree plan that reduces IBM's future liability will help IBM meet its 2015 EPS target. IBM could announce a future change that would take effect in say, 2020, and it could still book income the year the change was announced.
That is my understanding of FAS 106. As I said, I don't profess to be an expert.
The seeds of the retiree-health windfall for many companies were planted in the late 1980s, when the Financial Accounting Standards Board, the accounting industry's rule-making body, began to develop standards for reporting retiree-health obligations. Major companies, such as General Electric Co. GE and International Business Machines Corp., played an active role in the process, suggesting ideas to the accounting board. Companies showed the board computer simulations of how various proposals would affect corporate bottom lines...
IMO, it can be summed up quite simply—the hose job y'all got back then is just a precursor to the coming game in fall of 2014—a 90-day notice so as to make Dec 31, 2014 the end of any subsidy for employees and retirees (except the anointed ones of course.)
After throwing you under the bus back then, they now have the chance to back over you several times. First the retirees, then the grunt employees.
Moreover, given that IBM Employees do NOT have a Labor Contract (as most IBM Senior Managers do), there is absolutely NOTHING preventing IBM Management from making this change anytime they wish. Also, forcing Medicare-eligible IBM retirees into a commercial healthcare exchange is probably only the first step in moving ALL IBM retirees to an exchange. So, what will probably come down from on High next year is something like: "Retire from IBM by the end of 2014, or you will lose your Defined Benefit pension, and your FHA scrip account." -Ginni Madoff with my Pension-
Those plans are for those already on a Medicare D plan. That's not in writing anywhere either, other than a federal guideline that one of the Advantage plan providers was nice enough to educate me on when the Extend Health rep had NO CLUE! I can go on and on with info I have learned from either the plans themselves or Medicare.gov that Extend Health could not help with and/or there are not enough FAQS published to help. I have spend hours on the phone educating myself on info that should be readily available, but is not. -long_retired-
A message to young employees who will never have to worry about Health Net be very aware. Just because you are working 60 hours a week, required to be on the road 5 days a week and have no personal life does not guarantee you continued employment. Watch for my next lecture after I meet with my health care advisor next week. -Ex Senior IBM HR manager-
The arsenal of medicines in the Hayeses’ kitchen helps explain why. Pulmicort, a steroid inhaler, generally retails for over $175 in the United States, while pharmacists in Britain buy the identical product for about $20 and dispense it free of charge to asthma patients. Albuterol, one of the oldest asthma medicines, typically costs $50 to $100 per inhaler in the United States, but it was less than $15 a decade ago, before it was repatented.
“The one that really blew my mind was the nasal spray,” said Robin Levi, Hannah and Abby’s mother, referring to her $80 co-payment for Rhinocort Aqua, a prescription drug that was selling for more than $250 a month in Oakland pharmacies last year but costs under $7 in Europe, where it is available over the counter. ...
With its high prescription prices, the United States spends far more per capita on medicines than other developed countries. Drugs account for 10 percent of the country’s $2.7 trillion annual health bill, even though the average American takes fewer prescription medicines than people in France or Canada, said Gerard Anderson, who studies medical pricing at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University. ...
While the United States is famous for break-the-bank cancer drugs, the high price of many commonly used medications contributes heavily to health care costs and certainly causes more widespread anguish, since many insurance policies offer only partial coverage for medicines. ...
Unlike other countries, where the government directly or indirectly sets an allowed national wholesale price for each drug, the United States leaves prices to market competition among pharmaceutical companies, including generic drug makers. But competition is often a mirage in today’s health care arena — a surprising number of lifesaving drugs are made by only one manufacturer — and businesses often successfully blunt market forces. ...
Pharmaceutical companies also buttress high prices by choosing to sell a medicine by prescription, rather than over the counter, so that insurers cover a price tag that would be unacceptable to consumers paying full freight. They even pay generic drug makers not to produce cut-rate competitors in a controversial scheme called pay for delay.
Thanks in part to the $250 million last year spent on lobbying for pharmaceutical and health products — more than even the defense industry — the government allows such practices. Lawmakers in Washington have forbidden Medicare, the largest government purchaser of health care, to negotiate drug prices. Unlike its counterparts in other countries, the United States Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, which evaluates treatments for coverage by federal programs, is not allowed to consider cost comparisons or cost-effectiveness in its recommendations. And importation of prescription medicines from abroad is illegal, even personal purchases from mail-order pharmacies. ...
Dr. Dana Goldman, the director of the Leonard D. Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics at the University of Southern California, said: “Producing these drugs is cheap. And yet we are paying very high prices.” He added that because inhalers were so effective at keeping patients out of hospitals, most national health systems made sure they were free or inexpensive.
But in the United States, even people with insurance coverage struggle. Lisa Solod, 57, a freelance writer in Georgia, uses her inhaler once a day, instead of twice, as usually prescribed, since her insurance does not cover her asthma medicines. John Aravosis, 49, a political blogger in Washington, buys a few Advair inhalers at $45 each during vacations in Paris, since his insurance caps prescription coverage at $1,500 per year. Sharon Bondroff, 68, an antiques dealer in Maine on Medicare, scrounges samples of Advair from local doctors. Ms. Bondroff remembers a time, not so long ago, when inhalers “were really cheap.” The sticker shock for asthma patients began several years back when the federal government announced that it would require manufacturers of spray products to remove chlorofluorocarbon propellants because they harmed the environment. That meant new inhaler designs. And new patents. And skyrocketing prices. ...
Twenty years ago, drugs that could safely be sold directly to patients typically moved off the prescription model as their patent life ended. That brought valuable medicines like nondrowsy antihistamines and acid reducers to drugstore shelves. But with profitable prescription products now selling for $100 per tiny bottle, there is little incentive to make the switch, since over-the-counter drugs rarely succeed if they cost more than $20.
As a result, a number of products that are sold directly to patients in other countries remain available only by prescription in the United States. That includes a version of the popular but expensive steroid nasal spray used by Abby Hayes, which is available over the counter in London for under $15 at the Boots pharmacy chain.
As usual with Obamacare, it’s not that there isn’t something to be concerned about. But Republicans have blown the law’s potential problems so far out of proportion that their attacks sound like a “Saturday Night Live” parody.
“Americans all over this country are suffering because of Obamacare,”Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) said last month. “It is the single biggest job killer in America.”
Well, here’s what the law requires: All firms that employ 50 or more full-time workers — or the equivalent in part-time workers — must provide health-care coverage to all of their full-time employees. If they do not, starting in 2015 the government will assess a fine based on the number of employees the businesses have. The fear is that companies on the cusp of hiring their 50th full-time employee might hold back. Other businesses might try to cut their employees’ hours.
The potential for some reduction in the availability of low-wage work is real. But mainstream economists aren’t seeing anything like the catastrophe Republicans have foretold, and they don’t anticipate a calamity, either.
That is because only 3 percent of small businesses — those with fewer than 500 employees — have more than 50 workers, so 97 percent of small employers are exempt from the law’s mandates. Meanwhile, virtually all large companies already offer health insurance to their employees. Aside from things such as reporting requirements, Obamacare’s mandates will directly obligate only about 1 percent of American businesses to do anything different.
Mason spent most of eighth grade in the hospital. In the six months he was hospitalized, he spent 65 days in the pediatric intensive care unit. He underwent four brain surgeries. Halfway through his hospitalization, the Affordable Care Act was passed, alleviating lifetime limits on coverage and saving us from the financial abyss. Mason moved to a rehabilitation hospital where he was retaught the most basic skills — sitting up, eating and standing. We faithfully paid the premiums on the employer-sponsored plan through which our family is covered, along with the rest of our bills, thanking God and whoever else would listen for our good fortune to have coverage.
The biggest fear for families such as mine is that we will lose our health insurance and be rendered uninsurable because one of us has been sick. The Affordable Care Act does away with dreaded clauses barring preexisting conditions. It also enables us to keep Mason on our insurance until he is 26; then, he will be able to purchase his own coverage on an insurance exchange. At least, that was the plan until last Tuesday, when the government was shut down in protest of such excesses. ...
As far as the brain tumor goes, our family might have drawn the short straw. Maybe our story lacks a certain universal appeal. People might thinking to themselves, “I’m so sorry that happened to you, but odds are it won’t happen to me.” I hope it doesn’t, really.
But having lived in hospitals with Mason for months, I have seen that bad things — accidents, freak illnesses — happen to smart, cautious and otherwise undeserving people. It’s one thing we all have in common. We are fragile beings. So what is wrong with allowing us to purchase a financial safety net? What’s so un-American about that?
If I could get John Boehner and Ted Cruz on a conference call, I would explain this to them. I would tell them that, while they were busy trying to derail the Affordable Care Act over the past two years, Mason has again learned to walk, talk, eat and shoot a three-point basket.
The truth is the law will have limited impact on how most Americans receive medical care and pay for it. Far from a radical change, the ACA (or “Obamacare”) builds on parts of our health care system that have evolved over the last half-century.
As the law was being debated, approximately 47 million Americans were uninsured, with millions more having limited coverage against the high costs of care. It was expected that the ACA would reduce the numbers of uninsured by over 30 million. The Supreme Court ruling that allows states to opt out of expanding their respective Medicaid programs will reduce the number obtaining coverage to 23 million. That millions of Americans will now have access to good and comprehensive health care is something we should all be proud of. ...
The US has embarked on a unique experiment in how to create a universal health insurance system while preserving a dominant employer-supported private insurance system. Obamacare will reduce the numbers of uninsured and underinsured by half. It will require some to pay more for expanded coverage, and it will add a mandate for individuals and large firms to obtain and pay for insurance. Far from a revolution, under Obamacare most Americans will not experience any change in their health insurance; they will continue to receive coverage through their job and visit a physician or hospital as they have in the past.
"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.
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