Thursday, July 31, 2008

Chrysler health care changing


Chrysler's UAW retirees and surviving spouses need to pay close attention to some paperwork that could be sitting on the kitchen counter.The papers apply to your health care coverage.

If seniors miss the July 31 deadline, you could be socked with extra fees that add up to 20% or 45% more each month for coverage.

Direct billing

Thousands of UAW-Chrysler retirees and surviving spouses soon will be required to pay $11 a month for single coverage and $22 a month for family coverage.

You would need to authorize deductions from your pension check by July 31.

It also is very important to sign and date the back of the form.

Yet if UAW-Chrysler retirees do not respond, they'll automatically be enrolled in what's called the "direct billing payment option."

How much will that cost?

Direct billing -- the second box listed on the form -- has a $5 monthly service fee.

So instead of paying $11 a month, you'd pay $16 a month. Or instead of $22 a month, you're looking at $27 a month.

$5 service fee for a bill

I realize $5 extra per month doesn't sound like much, yet I can't imagine anyone wanting to pay a service fee to get a monthly bill.

And $5 a month does add up to an extra $60 a year -- enough to cover nearly six months of coverage for a single retiree.

If you do end up getting stuck with the monthly fee, though, the letter states that it's possible to later authorize deductions from the pension check by providing 45 days' notice to Benefits Express.

The form also includes a box for opting out of the UAW Amended Plan to enroll in a catastrophic plan only. There are no monthly premiums, but the catastrophic plan has higher deductibles, out-of-pocket maximums and co-payments.

And someone can elect to waive Chrysler-provided health coverage.

A group of UAW protected retirees will not have new cost-sharing requirements. They are entitled to an annual pension benefit of $8,000 or less -- excluding lump-sum payments and others -- and their pension benefit rate is calculated on a specific formula per year of service.

David Elshoff, a spokesman for Chrysler in Auburn Hills, said the company is doing what it can, including using phone blasts or recorded messages, to remind retirees and surviving spouses to take some action to avoid extra fees.

Retirees also can learn more at

Or if Chrysler retirees lost their pension election form, they can call Benefits Express: 888-409-3300.

No such July 31 deadline applies to UAW-GM or UAW-Ford retirees.

What's difficult for many retirees, of course, is that it can become overwhelming to read all the new rules.

The UAW-Chrysler health care coverage letter gets bogged down by discussing legal notices and the like.

That's because health care coverage would be amended as part of a still pending settlement.

Chrysler LLC said a judge will decide in August whether to grant approval for the automaker to establish a $9.75-billion retiree health care trust fund negotiated with the UAW last year.

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