United Retiree Healthcare
Find your healthcare plan details in “Your Benefits Resources (YBR)” via the “Portal” in “EmployeeServices” on “FlyingTogether”. Open enrollment is usually in late October or November.
United retiree healthcare benefits are a negotiated item in the flight attendant contract. Thankfully, our union (AFA) has stood strong over the years and did not give this precious benefit away (other unions at United have done that to their future retirees). Some of the costs and benefits of YOUR healthcare plan options are determined by the contract in effect when you retired or took an early-out. In general, earlier contracts have more generous terms while retiree healthcare in later contracts is more expensive.
There are big differences in healthcare coverage between retirees who are pre-65 (not on Medicare) versus post-65 retirees (on Medicare). When retirees reach age 65 they must sign up for Medicare; they can no longer be covered by United’s pre-65 plans.
There may also be significant differences in United’s plans versus non-United plans that retirees may choose by “suspending” their United healthcare plan.
United’s healthcare plans and their costs vary markedly from state-to-state and sometimes even by zip code. Some retirees opt-out of United's plans and get their own healthcare (available from private companies to the general public) because it is more affordable where they live. Before doing that, retirees should know:
**Restrictions: Retirees cannot suspend their own United coverage and maintain United’s coverage on their dependents. Certain conditions must be met in order to re-instate United’s plans.
Retirees who are 65 or will be turning 65 soon should read the following Medicare section carefully.
Medicare is the federal health insurance program for people who are 65 or older (and for certain younger people with disabilities and people with End-Stage Renal Disease). Created by Congress in 1965 under the leadership of President Lyndon Johnson, it is mostly funded by payroll taxes of 1.9% paid by both employees and employers. Medicare, like Social Security, will be facing serious financial shortfalls in the coming decades.
Sign up for Medicare during your 7 month enrollment period: 3 months before you turn 65, the month you become 65 or three months after you turn 65. You can enroll in Medicare when signing up for Social Security benefits at https://ssa.gov. If you don’t want to start receiving Social Security benefits at age 65 you should still sign-up for Medicare during your enrollment period.
Before signing up, learn how the different parts of Medicare (Part A, B, C and D) help cover specific services:
Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance)
Part A covers inpatient hospital stays, care in a skilled nursing facility, hospice care, and some home health care. There is usually no charge for this insurance.
Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance)
Part B covers certain doctors' services, outpatient care, medical supplies, and preventive services. There is a monthly premium for this insurance of about $105 (it’s normally deducted from your monthly Social Security benefits). If you make more than $85,000 per year (or $170,000 jointly) then your Medicare Part B premiums will be more expensive. Most people enroll for Part B at the same time as Part A; if you delay signing up for Part B you may pay a penalty later!
Part A and Part B do not pay for everything and there are deductibles and co-pays that can add up fast.
To help pay for those extra expenses, many retirees also enroll in a Medicare Advantage Plan (Medicare Part C)
Medicare Part C (Medicare Advantage Plans)
Part C is a type of Medicare health plan offered by a private company that contracts with Medicare to provide you with all your Part A and Part B benefits. Medicare Advantage Plans include Health Maintenance Organizations, Preferred Provider Organizations, and other plans. Most Medicare Advantage Plans offer prescription drug coverage.
You may pay a monthly premium for your Medicare Advantage Plan (usually in addition to your Medicare Part B premium).
NOTE: United Airlines may offer a Medicare Advantage Plan in your area (administered by Aetna, Kaiser or others). This is a “group plan” that may have better benefits than what the same company offers to the general public; compare the plan details/costs carefully! Open enrollment for United retirees is usually in October or November on FlyingTogether > EmployeeServices > YBR.
If you decide on a private Medicare Advantage Plan (instead of a United group plan), you may want to “suspend” your United health care benefits (that may give you the option to return to the United group plan in the future). Open enrollment for next year's private Medicare Advantage Plans (not thru United) are usually open in November/December. Visit “Find a Plan”: https://www.medicare.gov/find-a-plan/questions/home.aspx or go to healthcare company websites (Aetna, Kaiser, etc…. Search for “Medicare Advantage Plans in your city, your state” on Google).
Medicare Part D (prescription drug coverage)
Part D adds prescription drug coverage to Medicare Part A and B. If you do not have a Medicare Advantage Plan or your Medicare Advantage Plan lacks drug coverage, you should consider getting Part D. These plans are offered by insurance companies and other private companies approved by Medicare; including United’s Part D plans.
Resources and more information:
Official Medicare website: https://www.medicare.gov
What is Medicare? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medicare_(United_States)
Get Free Help with choosing your Medicare Plans:
Select your state: https://www.shiptacenter.org