Clarifying Open Enrollment options for retirees

Open Enrollment for 2022 medical and dental benefits available to University of Minnesota retirees is November 1-30. To clarify the bewildering array of insurance options facing us, UMRA and the U’s Office of Human Resources (OHR) co-hosted our October 19 workshop. First, representatives from the international consulting firm Willis Towers Watson portrayed the current marketplace in Minnesota for Medicare-eligible seniors. Key points from their presentation were:

    • Most Minnesota seniors get their health insurance in the individual market. Less than a third of larger Minnesota employers offer health insurance plans to their retirees.
    • Of those that do, only a fraction subsidize the premiums; retirees usually pay the full cost of the plans.
    • There are many companies offering Medicare supplement plans in Minnesota, ranging from regional non-profits like UCare to national, for-profit corporations like Aetna.
    • Policies offered include both Medigap plans that supplement traditional Medicare and Advantage plans that take the place of Medicare.
    • Premium costs vary from zero to several hundred dollars.
    • The cost of plans purchased on the individual market is generally lower than for those offered by group plans from employers (such as those from the University). The reason: employer plans have a risk pool of thousands, while the individual marketplace has a risk pool of millions.
    • Plan costs also vary because of differences in drug coverage, copays and coinsurance, breadth of coverage, the restrictiveness of physician networks, and other factors.
    • More expensive, high-end plans offer more extensive drug coverage, lower copays, broader networks, and more coverage of things not covered by Medicare, including vision, dental, and travel benefits.
    • Understanding all the options is a daunting task.
    • Insurance brokers are generally well versed in the choices available and can help us think through our individual situations and find a policy that fits. They usually do not charge for their services; they get paid by whichever company you choose.
    • If you don’t have a referral for a broker from someone you trust, a good place to start is the Senior LinkAge Line at 800-333-2433, a free, statewide service of the Minnesota Board on Aging in partnership with Minnesota’s area agencies on aging.

View a video recording of the entire workshop, including Q&A, and the slides from the Willis Towers Watson and OHR presentations.

The workshop then turned to Ryan Reisdorfer and Katie Kolodge from OHR for a presentation of the University’s plans, beginning with a brief history of the U’s plans and what makes them distinctive.

      • In the Board of Regents Policy on Employee Health Benefits, a guiding principle is that the University is committed to providing employees, retirees, and their families a health plan that offers choice and high quality, comprehensive, and cost-effective care.
      • Of the more than 11,000 retirees currently with retirement funds managed by the U, only about 3,200 have health insurance plans from the University.
      • The U has chosen to offer high- and medium-end plans. OHR is looking at the possibility of expanding coverage options in the future.
      • One key difference between the high-end (Plan 1) plans and medium-end (Plan 2) plans is the extent of drug coverage.
      • The U plans are tailored to some of the particular needs of retirees, like travel coverage.
      • The U plans offer distinctive combinations of features that are unlikely to be found in plans on the individual market.
      • The companies and the plans used by the U are thoroughly vetted.
      • The U plans offer the possibility of simplifying your choices. This can be appealing if you start your retirement planning late or simply don’t want to face sorting through all the choices available.
      • OHR offers pre-retirement counseling, and those preparing for retirement should seek counseling a few months before their retirement date.
      • Each year during Open Enrollment, you can move from one U plan to another. However, if you leave you cannot later return to a U plan.

By November 1, you will receive the 2022 Benefit Enrollment Guide from OHR. It is also available online. The Guide includes tools that are intended to help you systematically assess the factors affecting your choice of plans. The cost of most of the U’s plans will go up for 2022, with increases varying from zero to seven percent.

Video presentations by the U’s plan vendors will be available at the Virtual Benefits Fair on the OHR website during Open Enrollment for University plans, November 1-30.

—Ron Matross, UMRA president-elect and Program Committee chair

Publication date: 
October 25, 2021
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