|Inside this issue: ||Happy National Voter Registration Day! |
Flight Attendant Benefits and Changes for 2017
Make Sure You’re Ready to Vote in the National Election!
Are you registered to vote? Are you sure? Your Government Affairs Committee is working to ensure you have all the information necessary to cast your vote in the 2016 General Election.
Election Day is November 8, but we encourage all Flight Attendants to vote early or absentee. Don’t let your schedule prohibit you from making sure your voice is heard. In addition, National Voter Registration Day is today, Tuesday, Sept. 27, and it's a great time to make sure you, your family and friends, all set to go to the polls.
If you aren't sure if you are registered to vote at your current address, go to www.vote.org to check. You’ll also find useful information and websites on our MEC Website at www.unitedafa.org/vote. If you are not registered to vote you don't have to wait until Tuesday, register now! Let's make sure our voices are heard at the polls and we elect those who will promote aviation safety and our careers as safety professionals and aviation’s first responders.
Flight Attendant Benefits and Changes for 2017
The ratification of a joint Contract for United Flight Attendants means change. No matter which pre-merger airline you were affiliated with, there are new options and changes to benefits. Benefits, in Section 29 of our Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), are effective January 1, 2017. In this article, your United AFA MEC Benefits Committee will highlight some of the benefits in our Contract to help you make informed decisions for 2017 Open Enrollment elections and is intended to familiarize you with some of the benefit provisions of our new Contract.
We stress the importance of going online to the Your Benefits Resources (YBR) site from Flying Together during Open Enrollment to compare plan summaries, their benefit levels, and monthly premium costs. A review of this information is essential in as you make decisions and choose the right plans for you and your family. Having a lower monthly cost up-front doesn’t necessarily translate to a lower overall yearly cost, nor does it mean it is good for you and your family. Co-Pays, co-insurance, deductibles, out-of-pocket maximums, prescription drug provisions, and covered services are all factors that need to be taken into consideration when making your decisions for 2017.
2017 Open Enrollment Dates
United’s annual benefits Open Enrollment for 2017 benefit plans will begin October 10, 2016, and will close on October 28, 2016, for active employees. For Retirees the dates are October 31, 2016 through November 11, 2016.
Benefit Guides and Resources
A Benefit Decision Guide will be mailed to all employees, including Flight Attendants and Retirees, with an overview of 2017 enrollment process. This non-personalized information guide will be mailed to Flight Attendants at the end of September 2016. It is a general overview, directing you to go to YBR for detailed information and costs.
United has also produced, and will be emailing a link to narrated PowerPoint slide presentations that provide employees with an overview of benefit changes. The email with this link will be sent to corporate webmail addresses, and will direct Flight Attendants to United’s Learning Network, “TakeOff” to be able to view them. There are separate presentations targeted to pre-merger United and pre-merger Continental/CMI Flight Attendants to help explain changes for 2017.
Benefits Protected by our Contract
It is extremely important that our benefits are protected by Contract language. Section 29 of the CBA outlines Benefits for all Flight Attendants. This includes Medical, Dental, Vision, Long Term Disability, Life Insurance, and Retirement. There is also a Medical Rate Setting Letter of Agreement in the contract which specifies how United calculates rates for medical and dental plans. The methodology is similar to other employee groups at United who have joint Contracts. AFA’s actuaries review the company’s calculations each year to ensure compliance with the Letter of Agreement.
Domestic Partnerships Expanded
Starting January 1, 2017, United is expanding and extending benefits to all domestic partners (and their children) to enroll in United’s Medical, Dental, and Vision Benefits. This is regardless of the genders for those in the domestic partnership. To qualify for domestic partnership, you must meet United’s guidelines which are available on the YBR website. Be aware that insurance benefits for domestic partners can, and do, produce imputed income for tax purposes.
Our Contract stipulates that United must offer certain benefit plans to Flight Attendants. Medical plans are divided into three categories; Core plans, Select Regional plans, and Optional plans.
Core plans are plans that United must offer Flight Attendants. They include a Core PPO plan, Core EPO plan, Core HDHP and the Traditional Medical PPO (the same medical plan from the pre-merger United Flight Attendant Contract).
PPO plans are Preferred Provider Organization networks which have benefits for both in and out of network services.
EPO plans are Exclusive Provider Organization networks, and only have in-network benefits for medical services.
A HDHP is a High Deductible Health Plan, which comes with an HSA, a U.S. tax sheltered Health Savings Account. If you take the HDPD plan, United makes a contribution to your HSA. The Flight Attendant can also contribute on a tax free basis to the HSA if he or she chooses. Funds in the HSAs are used to pay for medical expenses. These contribution funds are available to use beyond the current plan year if you continue with the HDHP.
The Traditional Medical PPO plan, the default plan from the pre-merger United Flight Attendant contract, continues with its same plan design with no co-pays for medical services, and an in-network 80/20 co-insurance after deductible.
For Flight Attendants with permanent addresses on file with United inside of the 50 U.S. states and Puerto Rico, the address will dictate whether Aetna or Blue Cross Blue Shield will be your plan administrator.
Flight Attendants based in FRA, GUM, HKG, LHR, and NRT, who have an address on file with United outside of the 50 United States and Puerto Rico, will have access to the Core PPO plan and the Traditional Medical PPO plan with Aetna International as the administrator of their plans. Aetna International is a specialized administrator who facilitates a better experience for International claims and services. U.S. based Flight Attendants with an address on file outside the 50 U.S. States and Puerto Rico, and post-age 65 retirees, will have Aetna as their plan administrator.
Select Regional plans are required to be offered by United to Flight Attendants. These plans include Kaiser HMOs, NetCare Guam HMO, NetCare Guam Health Plan Plus, HMO Illinois, HMO Colorado, HMSA Hawaii, and Group Health Washington. Eligibility for these select regional plans is based the zip code of the permanent address you have on file with United. For 2017, you may see s-UA or s-CO designations for some Kaiser HMO plans. The reason for the two plans is that there were two different plan designs for these HMO plans before the UA/CO merger. The plan group number is different with not all co-pays being the same. Due to contractual requirements for some employee groups, United will continue to offer separate pre-merger UA and pre-merger CAL Kaiser plans until no longer required to do so.
Optional plans include BYO (Build Your Own) EPOs, which are build your own plans with an exclusive provider network, the Healthy Rewards PPO, the Bronze EPO plan, PPO plans with varying deductibles, a few select POS (Point of Service) plans, Aetna Select HMO plans, and other plans specific to Guam and Micronesia.
BYO EPO plans allow you to choose varying deductibles, co-insurance, co-pays, and prescription coverage. The level of these components that you choose affects the cost of your monthly premium.
Healthy Rewards PPO plan has a feature that gives you money on a debit card to use towards your deductible and health expenses if you submit to biometric screenings and questionnaires for you and your spouse. The purpose is to provide you feedback on how to live a healthier life. This plan also has a more restrictive “value based” prescription drug coverage that may not suit all, so be aware when making your choice.
Bronze EPO plan is the minimum required content plan under the ACA (Affordable Care Act). This Bronze plan has a very inexpensive monthly premium cost, but has high deductibles, higher priced co-insurance and prescription components.
Aetna Select HMO and some Guam plans that were offered to pre-merger United and pre-merger CMI Flight Attendants as part of the phase in of cost share from 2017 to 2020 must continue to be offered to Flight Attendants.
You will need to decide which plan works best for you and your family. You can compare plans available to you, see plan summaries, and look at monthly premium costs on YBR. To access YBR, go to Flying Together, and then click on the Employee Services tab.
Medical Plan Monthly Premiums
Cost share for Medical plans is based on 80% company, 20% Flight Attendant contributions. This 80/20 cost share limit applies to all Core plans and Select Regional plans. Optional plans can be set at the company’s discretion, but there is an aggregate 80/20 total cost share limit that applies to all plans. As is current practice today, contributions are based on 4 tiers of coverage, which depends on who you are covering. The tiers are: Employee, Employee plus spouse; Employee plus child(ren), and Family.
A provision to phase-in monthly premiums for HMO plans that had little or no premiums for pre-merger United Flight Attendants in their previous contract, and certain Guam plans that had lower than 80%/20% cost share premiums for pre-merger CMI Flight Attendants in their previous contract, applies. If the premium of the HMO or Guam plan was less than 10% of cost before this contract, the cost share is:
- 2017 cost share 90% United/10% Flight Attendant
- 2018 cost share 87.5% United/12.5% Flight Attendant
- 2019 cost share 85% United/15% Flight Attendant
- 2020 cost share 80% United/20% Flight Attendant
All Flight Attendants, regardless of previous subsidiary, can take advantage of these reduced rates for these plans. Again, plan eligibility is based on the zip code of the permanent address on file. Starting in 2018, monthly premiums for our plans also cannot rise more than 9.25% per year. This does not apply until 2021 for plans that are subject to the above mentioned phase-in of premiums.
Please note, there are two exceptions to contractually negotiated premiums. To comply with a San Francisco City Ordinance, United offers Kaiser of Northern California, a regional HMO plan, with no monthly premium for the employee-only tier. This applies only to San Francisco based Flight Attendants, regardless of permanent address on file. Flight Attendants with a permanent Hawaii address on file are subject to the Hawaii Prepaid Health Care Law. This means that the employee-only tier of health plans offered cannot be more than 1.5% of base pay. If you have a Hawaii address on file, your employee-only coverage tier will have this cap applied to comply with the law.
Tobacco Wellness Credit and Spousal Surcharge
For many Flight Attendants the Tobacco (free) wellness credit, and spousal surcharge are new concepts for 2017. For others, United has already been applying this to your monthly premiums.
A $48 per month wellness credit is applied for both the employee and spouse/domestic partner if they do not use tobacco products. While enrolling, you answer a question regarding tobacco usage for you and your spouse/domestic partner. Your monthly premium will be adjusted accordingly.
If your spouse can get subsidized health benefits at his or her workplace, and the Flight Attendant chooses to insure him or her under United’s Medical plans, there is a $50 per month surcharge that is applied to your monthly premium. This surcharge does not apply if your spouse/domestic partner works for United. This question is also asked during the enrollment process, and the surcharge is applied to your premium accordingly.
Similar to contractual medical plan provisions, United is required to offer the Core Dental plan to all Flight Attendants. The plan design for the Core Dental plan is the same as the Traditional Dental PPO plan offered under the pre-merger United Flight Attendant Contract. (see YBR for plan details). United may also offer additional dental plans with alternative plan designs. These additional plans are offered based on permanent address on file requirements.
Dental Plan Monthly Premiums
An 80% United, 20% Flight Attendant cost share is applied to the required Core Dental plan. There is also a 9.25% annual premium cost increase cap starting in 2018. With any other optional offered dental plans, the company sets the monthly premium. It is in the company’s interest to set premiums for optional plans on an 80/20 basis, corresponding to the actual cost of the plan, as they realize savings when Flight Attendants choose less expensive plans. Contributions, also like medical plans, are based on the four (4) coverage tiers depending on who you are covering: Employee, Employee plus spouse; Employee plus child(ren), and Family.
Vision plans offered by the company are based on permanent address on file. The Flight Attendant pays 100% of the cost of coverage for vision benefits. Vision plans that United has offered in the past are continuing in 2017. Coverage tiers are the same as medical and dental: Employee, Employee plus spouse; Employee plus child(ren), and Family.
Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA)
Flexible spending accounts are IRS defined, U.S. tax sheltered employee funded accounts that allow employees to deduct money via payroll deduction for certain health or dependent daycare expenses. The total maximum allowable deferral amount for 2017 Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA) is $2,550. There is a separate $5,000 amount allowed for Dependent Daycare Accounts.
During the enrollment process you can elect how much per paycheck you would like to put into your FSA and/or Dependent Daycare Accounts. Per IRS rules, FSA/Dependent Daycare Account elections do not carry over from year to year. You must actively make your election(s) online on the YBR website. You must claim the funds in these accounts by April 30 of the following year, or the funds are forfeited. Contractual language stipulates the return of unused or forfeited funds (if any) in Flight Attendant FSA/Dependent Day Daycare to all FSA/Dependent Daycare participating Flight Attendants, in an IRS approved disbursement.
Company Paid Life Insurance is $40,000 for the Flight Attendant. In addition, there is $3,500 for your spouse and $1,500 for each child ($1,000 under 6 months). This is provided at no cost to the Flight Attendant.
Group Universal Life (GUL) Insurance will be the voluntary group Life Insurance for Flight Attendants. GUL has benefits over other types of life insurance (such as Term Life) by including the ability for you to draw down your life insurance benefit in the case of a terminal diagnosis with less than 24 months to live. GUL also has the advantage of having a savings component available which earns 3% interest. The savings plan allows you to withdraw the savings portion of your plan at any time. Saving deductions can be set up to be payroll deducted along with your premium. Another GUL advantage is that it is portable; you can continue your policy into retirement after leaving United if you wish to do so.
GUL is signed up for in increments of yearly salary, with a maximum coverage amount of up to 10 times your yearly salary or $600,000. Yearly salary is defined as 85 hours per month times 12. Premiums are based on age bands and the amount of each $1000 increment you are insuring. Premiums go up if there are wage increases, which increase your yearly salary, or if you move into a new age band. If you would like to increase the amount of voluntary life insurance that you have, or if you want to sign up at Open Enrollment, you must provide Evidence of Insurability (EOI) by filling out a health questionnaire.
GUL has an automatic enrollment feature in which new hires are enrolled at four (4) times annual Salary, and your spouse at $30,000. This feature also happens when you return from a leave of absence. You are automatically enrolled as if a new-hire Flight Attendant, without having to prove EOI. An enrollment packet is sent to you via mail, and if you do not wish to be enrolled in GUL you can decline coverage by going online to the Securian/Minnesota Life website to change or decline coverage. This can be found on YBR under the “Other Benefits” tab.
Starting in 2017 you will see United’s life insurance administrator Minnesota Life transition to and be referred to its parent company’s name, Securian.
Personal Accident Insurance
Company paid Personal Accident Insurance (PAI) is provided by United above the contractually stipulated amount of $10,000, to $14,000. This is in the case of accidental death or dismemberment, and is at no cost to the Flight Attendant.
There is also a voluntary PAI plan available that provides for benefits up to $500,000 for death or dismemberment. It can be signed up for in increments of $25,000. This policy is payroll deducted and has further lump-sum payment benefits for many types of accidents and bone fractures. If you don’t have PAI, you can enroll in this coverage at Open Enrollment. No Evidence of Insurability (EOI) is required. The PAI plans are administered by AIG.
Long Term Disability
Long Term Disability (LTD) Insurance is provided for under our Contract and has been improved for all Flight Attendants. LTD provides income protection if you are disabled, can no longer work and are under a doctor’s care. Benefits are provided for 2 years if you can no longer work as a Flight Attendant, and up to age 65 if you can no longer do any job for which you are trained or qualified. If you are older than 61 when you first become disabled, you may be eligible for benefits beyond age 65. Please see Section 29 of our Contract for a chart outlining the number of months of benefit applicable for disability starting after age 61.
Flight Attendants will have four (4) options for LTD coverage, and for many Flight Attendants this is a change. The four (4) options are:
- 4 month (120 days) waiting period with 60% of salary benefit
- 6 month (180 days) waiting period with 50% of salary benefit
- 6 month (180 days) waiting period with 60% of salary benefit
- 9 month (270 days) waiting period with a 50% of salary benefit.
Premiums for LTD plans are cost shared with United. United pays 60% and the Flight Attendant pays 40% of the cost of the premium. Flight Attendant premiums are paid post tax, and imputed income is generated for United’s share of the premium for tax purposes, which in turn makes the benefit non-taxed. Benefits for LTD can only be offset by 3 sources:
- Workers’ compensation
- State Disability benefits
- Social Security Disability benefits.
If you are already enrolled in an LTD plan today, you can change to any of the four (4) options available at Open Enrollment. If you do not have coverage and would like to enroll, you will have to fill out a questionnaire proving your Evidence of Insurability (EOI).
With this contract, new hire Flight Attendants will be automatically enrolled after 6 months of service with the company at the 6 month/60% of salary benefit-level. If you opt out of coverage at any time, you will need to prove EOI to re-enroll. If you go out on a leave of absence, your coverage stops during the leave. Upon returning to work, you will be automatically re-enrolled at the same level of coverage you had prior to the leave. LTD is administered by MetLife.
United Benefits Center
Call center assistance for enrollment support, questions, benefit information, and plan summaries/descriptions will continue to be provided by AON/Hewitt. AON/Hewitt administers the YBR website as well and can be contacted at (800) 651-1007. For International based Flight Attendants, these phone numbers are available:
- Germany 0800 000 4878
- Hong Kong 30029795
- Japan 012 067 9100
- UK 0800 285 392
- All other countries call (+1) 646 254 3463
Your Benefits Resources
When Open Enrollment commences, the Your Benefits Resource site is accessed from Flying Together under the Employee Services tab. The website will take you through the Open Enrollment process, allow you to see plan summaries and documents, show and compare plans available, give you monthly costs, and allow you to make your elections.
On YBR, during enrollment, you can also add or update beneficiaries if needed. After completing enrollment, an email along with a mailed confirmation is sent to you.
Again, we strongly recommend all Flight Attendants go through this process even if no changes are being made to ensure beneficiaries are up to date. Your AFA MEC Benefits Committee trusts this article is helpful in understanding Flight Attendant Benefits provided for under the new Contract.