GM tweaks health plans

October 22, 2009 http://detnews.com/article/20091022/AUTO01/910220369

GM tweaks health plans

Retirees, most salaried workers to make switch

DAVID SHEPARDSON
Detroit News Washington Bureau

General Motors Co. is moving most of its 24,000 salaried workers away from traditional health care programs and into so-called Consumer Driven Health Plans starting Jan. 1.

The employees are being offered two options, said GM spokeswoman Brenda Rios.

One plan has a maximum of $2,200 in yearly out-of-pocket costs for a single salaried employee, and $5,000 for a family. The other plan, with a higher monthly premium, has a $1,300 out-of-pocket maximum for an individual and $3,100 for a family.

GM says those monthly payments should, on average, be lower than what workers are paying for traditional health coverage.

GM has previously offered a version of the consumer driven plan for salaried workers, but starting in January all such employees must switch.

GM’s 120,000 retirees and dependents will make a similar move, but their deductibles will be higher than those paid by active white-collar workers.

The automaker says it will deposit $1,300 per salaried employee into a health savings account, to help them make the transition and pay out-of-pocket expenses.

"For the average employee, this should be pretty cost neutral," Rios said, adding that "every circumstance is different."

According to recently released details, the monthly contributions, deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums paid by these retirees will be substantially higher than they pay now.

Like the plan for active salaried workers, some prescription drugs such as cholesterol medications are covered for retirees.

Most, however, aren’t covered until retirees reach their out-of-pocket maximum, which is $3,500 for a single person and $7,000 for a couple or family.

Retirees will pay 20 percent of eligible expenses after their deductible is met, up to the out-of-pocket maximum; that rises to 40 percent if they use out-of-network providers. GM will pay all expenses after the out-of-pocket maximum is met.

GM is giving salaried retirees $260 a month until they turn 65 and qualify for Medicare. That money can be used for health expenses.

The automaker said last year that it would end health care coverage for Medicare-eligible retirees in 2009, and replaced it with a $300 monthly pension increase. Those under 65 were allowed to keep their coverage, with costs capped at 2007 levels.

No health care coverage is provided for salaried retirees who joined GM after 1993.

The new approach is intended, in part, to have people take greater responsibility for their own care.

"These plans require you to do more to manage your health care," Rios said.

Rios said she didn’t know how much the changes would save GM in its annual medical costs.

Detroit’s three automakers have sought to cut an annual tab for health care coverage that once topped $10 billion. In 2007, all three companies convinced the United Auto Workers to accept cash and company stock to fund a trust to pay for hourly retiree health care.

dshepardson@detnews.com">dshepardson@detnews.com (202) 662-8735

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