OPERS rolls out Connector Readiness Kits

The Ohio Public Employees Retirement System will spend much of this year transitioning eligible retirees to the OPERS Medicare Connector, which begins operations in 2016. The preparation gets started this week, with the mailing of our Connector Readiness Kit.

We’re sending the kit to Medicare-eligible retirees. In it they’ll find:

  • A personal allowance statement: This is the amount that OPERS will give you to purchase your medical and prescription drug coverage on a reimbursement basis.
  • A calendar of key dates during 2015
  • An activities page that will test your knowledge of Medicare
  • A brochure that defines key Medicare terms
  • A refrigerator magnet with tips for avoiding Medicare fraud

Remember that in order to enroll in a medical plan through the Connector, retirees must be enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B. They’ll need to select a plan through the Connector to receive their allowance, but they can still choose to enroll in dental and vision coverage through OPERS.

More information on the Connector can be found on our website.

Michael Pramik

Michael Pramik is communication strategist for the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System and editor of the PERSpective blog. As an experienced business journalist, he clarifies complex pension policies and helps members make smart choices to secure their retirement.

Michael Pramik

Communication Strategist

  • When will these be mailed out?

    We called to register for one of the sessions and were told it would be sent out “today”. All we got was confirmation of the session.

  • Am in the group of people who don’t have enough quarters for Medicare part A. Are there going to be instructions for us? Like when we should go sign up. How we get reimbursed,etc?

    • Gretchen,

      Yes, we will be communicating with you much more during 2015 in preparation for the 2016 debut of the Connector.

      –Ohio PERS

  • I received my connector kit, I noticed my allowance goes down each year until 2017 I was wondering why that is?

    • Ben,

      That’s because we are transitioning to a new allowance over a three-year period.

      –Ohio PERS

  • I am concerned as to how my monthly HRA premium will be dealt with in regards to the monthly payment to the provider of my chosen Connector Medicare Plan? I’ve read what appears to be conflictions, please set me, and possibly others straight wondering about this same question: I’ve broken this down into three questions:

    #1 On a monthly basis will an individual first be billed from their Medicare Plan through the mail to cover the cost of their monthly Connector Medicare Plan payment?

    #2 If this is fact, then how will a retiree claim reimbursement from their HRA?

    #3 Or, if once a retirees Connector Medicare Plan has been established will their monthly premium be “automatically” be deducted from their OPERS Retirees HRA? Hopefully this would be the way as it would certainly create far less hardship on a retiree, especially those up in years.

    Thank you in advance for your response.

    • Dennis,

      We think most Connector participants will choose auto reimbursement, which certainly will be available. There will be more details coming on this later in the year. But to be clear, participants need to pay their premiums and then be reimbursed. So premiums will not be automatically deducted from the HRA.

      –Ohio PERS

  • I do not have Part A coverage except through the OPERS Humana Plan. Will I be sent the Connector Readiness Kit too? I understand that OPERS will eventually reimburse me for Part A coverage sometime in the future. I do not want to be forgotten by OPERS. I need all the information I can get on the connector and allowance. I do not have many people to talk to about the situation and want things to get resolved as quickly as possible.

    • Gilbert,

      If you have not yet received the Connector Readiness Kit, give us a call at 800-222-7377 to request one.

      –Ohio PERS

  • I received my Connector Kit,I noticed that my allowance goes down each year until 2018,I was wondering why that is.

    • Ben,

      That’s because we are transitioning to a new allowance based on age and service. It will go into full effect in 2018.

      –Ohio PERS

  • Send me what I need to know to make my insurance choice in writing, please. Like I said, not all the retirees even have compouters or know how to use them. Not all of us drive long distances any more, either. Neither should be a requirement for purchasing our insurance wisely.

    Make accommodations, please, for those of us who just barely get by with our computers.
    JA.

    • John,

      OPERS will continue to offer health care coverage for non-Medicare retirees. For 2016, the premium allowance will begin transitioning from the current amount to one based on age and service.

      –Ohio PERS

  • Since Opers is phasing out the part b reimbursement starting this year and ending the reimbursement in 2017, can the HRA be used to pay part b? If so , we must of well say our HRA is 100 dollars less. If there are any money left in the HRA account ( which I doubt) can it be applied to our spouses health insurance premium that we are losing?

    • Dwr,

      Yes, you will be able to apply the HRA to both spousal insurance and the Medicare Part B premium.

      –Ohio PERS

  • Is it true if an employee over age 65 is a “rehire” and works under 15 hours per week that after December 31, 2015 they can no longer be employed by a OPERS employer? (The rehired employee does not have access to the employer’s health care benefit since they work very few hours per week)

    • Judith,

      OPERS staff is working with the OPERS Board of Trustees on this matter. We will report any changes when they happen.

      –Ohio PERS

  • Just received package. Well put together and great planning info. Question: Funds in a Health Savings Account (HSA) may be used to pay for Medicare Part B under certain circumstances. Can excess funds in an HRA be used to pay for Medicare Part B premiums?

  • I haven’t received the Connector packet and believe I should as I will be 65 February 8, 2016.
    I would also like to get registered for the readiness seminar in Athens, Ohio 2/11/2015.

    • Mary,

      You can call us at 800-222-7377 to register for that seminar. Or, you can do so yourself through your online account. Once you are logged in, click on “Tools and Resources,” then “Seminars and Counseling.”

      Regarding the Connector packet, we sent them to members who turn 65 as of Feb. 1 and earlier, so you just missed that cutoff. All of the information in the packet is available on our website except, of course, for your HRA allowance estimate. We are planning to have allowance information accessible via our website by midyear.

      –Ohio PERS

  • As I understand the HRA Aacount, we are responsible for the establishment of the account for automatic reimbursement. Is it a specific account at the bank such as a health savings account or can it be a designated checking account only for the auto reimbursement.? Another words does OPERS need to approve the account we set up.

    • Robert,

      A regular checking account will work. You have to pay for the premium first, then you are reimbursed. You can submit receipts on a monthly basis, and then the Connector will reimburse you.

      But we think that most of our members will use auto-reimbursement. About 90 percent of the plans that OneExchange will offer have this feature, which will automatically send the reimbursement to your checking account after the insurer receives the premium and then tells OneExchange that it’s OK to send you your money.

      Ohio PERS

  • For those of us not covered by Medicare part A…can you tell us of the status of our request to the State to be godfathered in ? Approval would really make a difference in costs.

  • My mother does not own a computer, nor does she plan on it. This is not realistic for you to assume that all of the elderly have or use a computer. Paper options MUST be included in order to make these options available to ALL!!! Please be mindful of the generation that you are claiming to represent in your decision-making process.

    • Carrie,

      We realize that not everyone has a computer. That’s why we created a print version of the Connector Readiness kit and sent them to those eligible for the Connector.

      –Ohio PERS

    • James,

      Any OPERS members who would like a Connector Readiness kit can call us at 800-222-7377 and request one.

      –Ohio PERS

  • First, let me thank you and all OPERS employees and board members for the enormous amount of thought and work that has gone into the health care transition. It is much appreciated and most helpful. Second, let me say that I will be purchasing a Medigap insurance policy not a Medicare Advantage Plan during the initial Open Enrollment. The Connector Readiness video indicated that working with OPERS, OneExchange has already established a book of business or a number of companies selling Medigap insurance policies from which OPERS medicare eligible retirees must select their Medigap policy in order to use the Connector and be eligible for guarantee issue and the HRA allowance. Today, OPERS customer service confirmed to me that the Connector can only enroll us with a company and into a policy from the OneExchange already established book of business for OPERS medicare eligible retirees. I understand that OneExchange will not be releasing the names of insurance companies until later in the timeline. I am not asking for that. According to Medicare and the Department of Insurance, insurance companies selling Medigap policies can price their policies in one of three ways: community-rating, issue-age-rating or attained-age rating. So my question is this. Does OneExchange have in its current book of business for OPERS retirees to choose from in the initial Open Enrollment at least one insurance company in which the insurance company has used community-rating for pricing its Medigap policy? And, if OneExchange does not have such a company/product in its book of business for OPERS retirees during the initial Open Enrollment will OPERS revisit OneExchange book of business and require OneExchange to expand their book of business to include such a company/policy? Thank you in advance of researching and answering my question.

    • Jane,

      Medigap pricing policy is determined by state law, and these laws can vary. Community rating policies determine premium rates by combining the experiences of all people covered in the plan. Another policy is age at enrollment, meaning that if you enroll at age 65 you may receive a lower premium than someone who enrolls when they’re older.

      The most-common method is attained age, which means your premium is based on your age. Premiums typically are set by age range, such as 65-69 or 70-74. This is the model we have in Ohio.

      However, some companies still may use community rating. If that’s a concern to you, you should talk to the Connector about it. It’s not prohibited for insurers to offer a community-rating plan.

      You also should know that when the OPERS Board of Trustees looked at the allowance amount that we’re using for the Connector, the trustees did so knowing that Ohio is an attained-age state. We knew that premiums could increase along those age bands, and so the allowance was set higher understanding that it’s not only 65-year-old retirees using the Connector.

      –Ohio PERS

  • How does OPERS determine your connector allowance for each year,mine goes down each year until 2018. I retired 11/2006 at age 56 with 32.2 years of service. What is the formular that is used? Thanks

    • Ben,

      We don’t publish a formula, but the allowances are a percentage of the self-supporting rate. You can read the charts in our Comprehensive Guide for more information. The reason your allowance is decreasing until 2018 is that we are phasing in a new allowance system that considers your service time and the age at which you initiated OPERS health care coverage.

      –Ohio PERS

    • Jim,

      Beginning in 2016 surviving spouses over age 65 and enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B can use the OPERS Medicare Connector and will receive an allowance in 2016 and 2017. By 2018, the allowance will be phased out to $0.

      –Ohio PERS

  • Will our allowance be deposited into our checking account as our pension benefit is, or will we have to set up a separate checking account for that?

    Thanks

  • I am not eligible for Medicare part A. I understand the legislature approved to allow us to use the Medicare Connector (am I wrong?). Will I get a Connector Readiness Kit?

    • Michael,

      It will be during the final quarter of 2015, and it will be over the phone. We will call you in advance to set up the call with OneExchange.

      –Ohio PERS

    • George,

      If you are having trouble logging in and have changed your email, your best bet is to call us at 800-222-7377 and give us that new email address. We will then have it on file. In case you’re unable to log in again, we will send instructions to your email. We can’t change your email address through the blog.

      –Ohio PERS

  • I am one of the 6,000, retirees who does not have Medicare Part A. I have not received my connector kit and am wondering if and when I can expect it. I have called the 800 number and have been told that it is in the mail, but as of yet I have not received it. Finally thank you OPERS and the legislature for such a great outcome.

    • Linda,

      If you are not eligible by the end of January 2016 for the Connector because you will not yet be 65, you might not have been on the list to receive the kit. Please call us at 800-222-7377 and request one.

      –Ohio PERS

  • I’m confused. I’m one of the retirees who never contributed to Medicare. I will turn 65 in June of 2016. The Ohio Persi News for Winter 2015 on page 2 states “Under the new plan, which will take effect in mid-2016, OPERS will reimburse 100 % of the retiree’s Medicare Part A premium as well as any applicable surcharges when the retiree enrolls in Medicare Part A and selects a plan through the OPERS Medicare Connector. Enrolling in Medicare Part A makes these retires eligible to select health care coverage through the connector and receive an applicable allowance.”

    However, the OPERS website states the following:
    Not eligible for Medicare Part A?
    OPERS will continue to offer a coverage plan for our retirees that are eligible for Medicare Part B only. We are working to get a change to our statute that would allow us to reimburse these retirees for their Medicare A premium so they would be able to use the OPERS Medicare Connector; check back often for updates.

    Will I be eligible to participate in the Medicare Connector?

    Also, I am a re-employed retiree working too few hours to qualify for health insurance through my employer. Will I need to retire again before the end of the year to be eligible for the medicare connector?

    • Diana,

      OPERS will reimburse the Medicare Part A premium for certain members who do not qualify for premium-free Medicare Part A coverage.

      Regarding your question about rehired retirees and the Connector, we are aware of the issue and are working with the OPERS Board of Trustees on a solution.

      –Ohio PERS

  • I have a question about medical coverage in 2016 for retirees re-employed PART_TIME in the OPERS- covered position. Do you know what their coverage would be, since part-time employees do not get medical coverage at work. I called twice and was told that this is being decided right now, but your letter says that they would not receive HRA allowance.
    Any information would be really appreciated.

    • R,

      OPERS staff will be working with the OPERS Board of Trustees on this issue in upcoming months. We do not have a definitive answer yet, but we will be working on one.

      –Ohio PERS

  • Being mindful of advice given in my Connector calendar, I went to Medicare.gov and found a list of medigap policies available in my zip code. It is possible that I missed something, but how do I know what will be available through the Connector?

    There are 37 of them and I could go to every website and compare every minute detail in each one of them, but if something which appeals to me isn’t even going to be offered, that is a waste of my valuable time.

    I realize the importance of making the right first-time decision so as not to waste my one and only guarantee issue.

    If the problem is me and I missed something, I humbly apologize.

    I am relying on the print material moreso than the webinars (unless I can watch them for the information when I have free time and not schedule one in advance).

    So, I have taken one of the steps, bookmarked the page, and what is a next logical step for me?

    Thanks in advance! Appreciate your help so far and appreciate the fact that I am getting the connector allowance, too. JA

    • JA,

      We will be distributing lots of information on the Connector this year. The Connector will contact you to go over your options well before you need to decide which coverage to choose.

      Ohio PERS

  • Hi Thanks Michael. Nice presentation for February. I am going to be proactive 9Ms. Steger’s word) and call them. I am not one to wait for phone calls (-: Thanks again. Take care. JA

  • As a retiree living outside the State of Ohio, will there be an issue in picking a Medigap plan? I’ve been doing research (through the Medicare website) on Medigap plans available in my state (NV). Will OneExchange’s help cover this concern? In listening to the video’s I heard Marianne’s mention several possibilities of plans (Medical Mutual, Atnea) and I would like to consider keeping my current MM as the Medigap plan…however I didn’t see MM as an option as a Medigap plan in NV. Any insight?

    In addition, currently I am employed in another PERS position – but a different state – didn’t accept the insurance coverage. Is that an issue I need to be concerned with?

    Thank you for your time. Overall I am very impressed with the the information and methods that OPERS is providing for getting a one ready for the change over (the Kit and the videos).

    • Ellen,

      When you enroll over the phone with OneExchange, they’ll present to you the available plans based on your residence. OneExchange’s website also takes this into consideration if you use it to research plans.

      Regarding your other question, as of now retirees 65 and over who are re-employed would not be able to participate in the Connector because the Health Reimbursement Arrangement (which is how they’d receive their allowances) requires that one be retired. The OPERS Board of Trustees this year is going to consider some plan options for those re-employed retirees. We’ll communicate any new information as it becomes available.

      –Ohio PERS

  • Hi Michael
    Concerning Ohio using the “attained-age” model to determine insurance costs . . . . I believe I understood from one of the seminars or a previous video that our initial Health Care allowance was determined, in part, by our age at the time the Connector goes into effect.
    Am I correct to say that a retiree who is in the 70-74 bracket was allotted more allowance than a similar retiree in the 65-69 bracket because the older retiree will have higher premiums??
    If that is correct, can I assume our allowance will increase as we enter a higher age bracket? (If I’m 67 when the Connector takes effect, will my allowance increase when I turn 70?).
    Also, might there be any consideration to adjusting the allowance annually to compensate for the annual inflationary increases in health care premiums?? (A friend’s premium jumped 23% from 2014 to 2015).
    And . . I don’t want to pass up the opportunity to again thank all the folks at OPERS for the effort you make on our behalf. Considering the many public employee retirement systems in cities, counties, and other states that are seriously underfunded and, apparently, grossly mismanaged, OPERS has been an exemplary example of how the system is supposed to work.

    • Tom,

      The best way to describe the allowances for the Connector is that they were made with the highest age brackets in mind.

      –Ohio PERS

  • How many different insurance companies will we have to pick from, as I know there are lots of them. Will the connector only offer say the 20 best companies for us to pick from?

    • Brenda,

      This will be much clearer in the summer. Beginning in July you’ll be able to call the Connector administrator and ask that very question.

      –Ohio PERS

  • My husband and I are both retired from
    Ohio government jobs. He is 74 and I
    am 72. We have been quite satisfied with
    our current coverage. I know I pay $104.90
    each month to CMS and I do not even know
    what it is for. My husband gets social security.
    I do not get it because I never paid into it.
    Yet I was advised by the social security that
    I was not eligible to collect a share of his because
    I made too much when I was employed in my
    government job. That never made any sense
    To me.
    I am assuming that this Connector is OK.
    However the whole thing seems very confusing
    For us as Senior Citizens there are a lot of
    unanswered questions that I hope will soon
    be answered. Thank You

  • When will OPER’s retirees receive mailed information regarding the insurance companies plans that are to be part of the Connector?

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