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Tennessee Valley Authority Retirees Coalition (TVARC) Executive Committee Members
(click on names for biographical info)
Dan Pitts - danpitts99@gmail.com Les Bayslpbays1@yahoo.com
Bob Taylor - retaylorxtva@gmail.com Barry Gorebarrygore@gmail.com

Members of the Tennessee Valley Authority Retirees Coalition are encouraged to email the NRLN-TVARC sample letter to your U.S. Representative and U.S. Senators to urge them to place the TVA pension plan under the rules of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) to better protect our pensions.

View Archived Communications Here


Messages from the President

December 9, 2018

To: TVA Retirees Coalition Members

Please refer to my December 6, 2018 letter concerning retirees’ Medicare insurance issues and the use of PMEs.

One thing for all retirees to remember is that there are potential disadvantages to purchasing plans directly from insurers instead of purchasing their plans through TVA’s PME. Before changing plans, retirees should always make sure they will not be giving up any significant benefits provided by their former employer (TVA in this case) such as healthcare subsidies, credits, or insurance for their under-age-65 spouses.

Check with TVA about whether you will lose any benefits by not buying a plan through the PME, and then get them to provide an email or letter confirming what you find out. Then you can make an “informed” decision about where you should purchase your Medicare insurance.

For those in Tennessee, I have rates for Medigap (Medicare Supplement) plans and would be happy to look up some quotes. Just let me know with an email to danpitts99@gmail.com .

Regards,

Dan Pitts, President
TVA Retirees Coalition, and Senior Medicare Patrol Volunteer


MEDIGAP

December 6, 2018

To: TVA Retirees Coalition Members

Subject: Sign Petition Requesting Action on Private Medicare Exchanges (PME)

I have agreed to the National Retiree Legislative Network’s request to serve as the President of the TVA Retirees Coalition, an NRLN Retirees Chapter. In addition to this new NRLN role, I have been trained and certified as a member of the Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) empowered to assist Medicare beneficiaries to prevent, detect and report health care fraud, errors and abuse. The SMP program is federally funded and is administered by each state.

As a SMP Volunteer, my goal is to ensure that all seniors receive accurate and complete information about their Medicare choices and to report any cases of impropriety to Medicare. I am gratified that the NRLN has stepped forward to endorse and assist in this very important nationwide effort.

It is critically important that retirees make a fully informed decision when selecting a Medicare health plan. At the end of this message I am going to invite you to sign an online petition that will help achieve this. The petition asks leaders to take action to ensure private Medicare exchanges (PME) truly provide objective and unbiased advice to not only Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) retirees, but all seniors across the nation.

First, allow me to provide you with some background information important to TVA retirees. As you may know, TVA terminated retirees’ health coverage effective January 1, 2017 and contracted with a PME to help retirees find new Medicare insurance. In Fall of 2016, TVA retirees started looking at the Medicare Supplement (Medigap) plans offered during transition to the PME and realized that the most popular Medigap plan (Plan G) was 35-67% more expensive than buying it directly from the insurers. The PME offered only 2 insurers for Plan G while there were at least 30 different insurers in the local market offering Plan G at lower rates (some were substantially lower rates) than the PME.

Retirees continued to complain to TVA about the PME’s higher rates. In July 2017, TVA executives challenged the PME about its high rates. The PME eventually admitted to TVA that many of its high-priced plans may carry the look and brand of major, well-established insurers, but the plans are really "separate legal entities" with rates based on different cost structures, resulting in much higher rates. It is important to note that the names of those insurers, their logos, plan descriptors, and plan benefits were used in the marketing and promotions material presented to retirees.

TVA executives, just like retirees, were surprised and very concerned to learn about the PME’s use of “separate legal entities” and the significantly higher prices of those plans.

The chart accompanying this message shows updated rates, effective January 1, 2019, for Medigap Plan G plans offered through the PME versus several others now available in the local Nashville market example. The plans and rates available in your area may differ. The TVA-Humana and TVA-Cigna rates were obtained from the TVA/PME website. The other rates were obtained from an actuarial consultant that provides information about Medigap plans and rates.

Clearly, the PME’s rates continue to be, in many cases, substantially more expensive than purchasing directly from the insurers.

Another issue relates to a very basic, but a very important option available to retirees who have no serious pre-existing conditions. Those healthier retirees had absolutely no need for the PME's high-priced "guaranteed issue" plans. Because of their better health, they would have qualified to purchase any plan (not just guaranteed issue plans) from any insurer in their local market, many at very low rates (check out Aetna's rate in the chart). Again, It is unclear why the PME chose not to disclose this information to TVA retirees. Also, it is troubling that the PME restricted its offerings for the highly popular Medigap Plan G to just two insurers and did not bring more competition into the offerings.

The good news is that some insurers may allow you to purchase a Medigap plan at any time. Do not be afraid to inquire about changing plans, especially if you have no serious pre-existing conditions. For example, even if you have been treated for cancer and the disease has been in remission for a certain period, some insurers may be willing to provide you a new Medigap plan without imposing higher rates or waiting periods.

For more information about Medicare and Medigap plans go to: https://www.medicare.gov/supplements-other-insurance/when-can-i-buy-medigap/switching-medigap-policies

Another excellent source for advice on Medicare plans is from the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) that provides local, in-depth, and objective insurance counseling and assistance to Medicare-eligible individuals, their families, and caregivers. TVA retirees living in the seven states served by TVA may contact SHIP at:

Alabama 1-800-243-5463; http://www.alabamaageline.gov/
Georgia 1-866-552-4464; http://www.mygeorgiacares.org/
Kentucky1-877-293-7447; https://chfs.ky.gov/agencies/dail/Pages/ship.aspx
Mississippi1-844-822-4622; http://www.mdhs.ms.gov/adults-seniors/services-for-seniors/state-health-insurance-assistance-program/
North Carolina 1-855-408-1212; http://www.ncshiip.com/
Tennessee 1-877-801-0044; http://tnmedicarehelp.com/
Virginia1-800-552-3402; https://www.vda.virginia.gov/vicap.htm

TVA retirees living in other states should go to https://www.shiptacenter.org/ and click on the SHIP Locator button to find the contact information for your state.

Now, for my request to sign the online petition that I created that has already been signed by over 200 retirees and other seniors. The petition and names and email addresses will be sent to the members of the U.S. Senate’s Special Committee on Aging; Daniel Levinson, Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services, Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander, Chairman, Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and Seema Verma, Administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

To sign the petition, please click here.

Regards,

Dan Pitts, President, TVA Retiree Coalition, and Senior Medicare Patrol Volunteer


TVA IN THE NEWS...

TVA delivers strong financial results in fiscal year 2018
Press Release; The Manchester Times ~ Dec 08, 2018

Tennessee Valley Authority names 3 top executives
By Jim Gaines; Knoxville News Sentinel ~ Oct 02, 2018

TVA to build $300 million power control center in Meigs County
By Dave Flessner; Times Free Press ~ Aug 28, 2018

TVA reports higher revenue, lower costs
By Jim Gaines; Knoxville News Sentinel ~ Aug 03, 2018


Concerns About Private Medicare Exchanges

Dan Pitts, the new President of the Tennessee Valley Authority Retirees Coalition (TVARC), an NRLN Chapter, has brought to my attention an issue that has affected TVA retirees’ selection of their Medigap (Medicare supplement) plans offered through a Private Medicare Exchange (PME). Companies use PMEs to move retirees from their group plan and into the individual Medicare market. This has caused me to wonder whether other NRLN grassroots advocates many have been similarly impacted by a PME.

Dan is requesting that you sign his online petition on this issue that will be sent to Congressional leaders and the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The NRLN has a brief survey for anyone who has had dealings with a PME to purchase their Medicare coverage and/or has a Medicare Advantage plan.

The petition is located here.

The NRLN survey is at: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/NRLNMED. Your input will help the NRLN determine whether there is a need to take action.

Dan has been trained and certified as a member of the Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP), a federally funded program administered by each state. Dan is empowered to assist Medicare beneficiaries to prevent, detect and report health care fraud, errors and abuse. Because Dan’s goal as a SMP volunteer is to ensure that all seniors receive accurate and complete information to make their Medicare choices and to report any cases of impropriety to Medicare, I take seriously his concerns about PMEs.

First, a little background about the PME situation with TVA retirees. TVA terminated retirees’ health coverage effective January 1, 2017 and contracted with a PME to help retirees find new Medicare insurance. In the fall of 2016, TVA retirees started looking at the Medicare Supplement (Medigap) plans offered during transition to the PME. It turned out the most popular Medigap plan (Plan G) and the two insurers offered by the PME were 35-67% more expensive than buying coverage directly the insurers.

Retirees complained to TVA about the PME’s higher rates and TVA executives were surprised about the higher rates and challenged the PME about its high rates. The PME eventually admitted to TVA that many of its high-priced plans may carry the look and brand of major, well-established insurers, but the plans are really "separate legal entities" with rates based on different cost structures, resulting in much higher rates. The names of those insurers, their logos, plan descriptors, and plan benefits were used in the marketing and promotions material presented to TVA retirees.

Dan sent an email on December 6 to TVARC members whose email addresses are in the NRLN’s database. He cited an example of how much more expensive the two Medicare Plan G offerings were versus eight other plans

Dan noted that another issue relates to a very basic, but a very important, option available to retirees who have no serious pre-existing conditions. Healthier retirees have absolutely no need for the PME's high-priced "guaranteed issue" plans. Because of their better health, they would qualify to purchase any plan, not just guaranteed issue plans, from any insurer in their local market, many at very low rates. Some insurers will allow switching to a Medigap plan at any time, not just during open enrollment. Before changing plans, retirees should always make sure they will not be giving up any significant benefits such as healthcare subsidies or insurance for their under 65 spouses.

He said it is unclear why the PME chose not to disclose this information to TVA retirees. Also, it is troubling that the PME restricted its offerings for the highly popular Medigap Plan G to just two insurers and did not bring more competition into the offerings.

Dan made other good points that apply to anyone age 65 and older.

Medicare eligible seniors should not be afraid to inquire about changing plans, especially if they have no serious pre-existing condition,” Pitts said. For example, even if you have been treated for cancer and the disease has been in remission for a certain period, some insurers may be willing to provide you a new Medigap plan without imposing higher rates or waiting periods. As always, before changing plans, retirees should make sure they will not be giving up any benefits such as healthcare subsidies or insurance for their under age 65 spouses.

Dan pointed out the Medicare website at https://www.medicare.gov/supplements-other-insurance/when-can-i-buy-medigap/switching-medigap-policies provides information about Medigap plans. Another excellent source for advice on Medicare plans is offered by the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) that provides local, in-depth, and objective insurance counseling and assistance to Medicare-eligible individuals, their families, and caregivers. The national SHIP website can be accessed at https://www.shiptacenter.org/.

Please take a few minutes to review and sign Dan’s petition. Also, please respond to the NRLN’s brief survey if you have had experience dealing with a PME and/or have a Medicare Advantage plan. It is voluntary whether you submit your name, email address and home address on the NRLN survey.

Bill Kadereit, President
National Retiree Legislative Network


Please make your annual Individual Membership contribution of $25, $50, $75 or more. Any amount you can contribute will be appreciated.

For your convenience you may make your contribution online with your credit card on the NRLN website by clicking here. Be sure to scroll down and select your affiliation as NRLN TVA Retirees Chapter. The transaction is through PayPal but you are not required to have a PayPal account to use your credit card. credit cards

You also have the option to send a check or money order payable to NRLN, Inc. and mail it to NRLN, Inc., P.O. Box 18757, Washington, D.C. 20036-8757 with the Contribution Form below. Click here to print the Contribution Form.

NRLN TVA Retirees Chapter

Individual Membership Contribution Form

Tennessee Valley Authority Retirees Coalition and National Retiree Legislative Network
The NRLN is a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization. Contributions are not tax deductible.

Name: ______________________________________________

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Mail this form with your check or money order (no cash please) for $25, $50, $75 or more (any amount will be appreciated) payable to NRLN, Inc., P.O. Box 18757, Washington, D.C. 20036-8757

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  Copyright 2012 December 14, 2018