2015 TUARA Newsletter
Looking back another busy, interesting, and unique year has passed for TUARA. There were changes to our usual program format and partnerships that provided fresh new experiences. Opting to join with UA’s Health Fair gave TUARA members broader opportunities for health check-ups and information gathering. Obviously a winner, therefore calling for a repeat this year. Along these same lines, thanks to our three panel members, the Health Care Forum provided a bountiful source of information, far beyond expectations. While the forum can be considered a success because of the interest of attendees the shortfall was low attendance. With the lovely weather we have had lately it is hard to remember our terrible winter days, one of which reduced turnout for the Health Care Forum. Look for a repeat and update among 2015-16 programs. Our most lucrative and rewarding undertaking this past year was TUARA’s venture into providing bus rides to out of town football games. This highly successful endeavor made it possible to substantially increase our contributions to the Robert E. Witt First Generation Book Scholarships. Definitely this is a keeper project. Whether you ride or simply pass the word along, your support results in great rewards with many more students benefiting from this program.
Moving Forward attendees at the TUARA Annual Meeting/President’s Luncheon had the opportunity to vote for and meet our new Officers and Board Members. It is important to recognize and acknowledge that these individuals are making a commitment of time and talents to protect your needs as a UA retiree, educate the public (including our legislators) about your problems and needs, and promote continuing support of UA’s scholarly and professional objectives. The fact is, however, the TUARA Board needs your support to accomplish these goals. First, your support is needed to aid in continuous recruitment of members. Come to meetings; participate in functions; and, always bring a friend and future UARA member. Past history has shown our best recruitment source is YOU! Why is it so important that we keep our membership roster high, alive and well? Numbers speak loudly. TUARA’s role as your advocate is greatly enhanced by our strength in members. This number is a major tool used to gain, manage, and keep attention. This brings us to the second reason why we need your support. TUARA is only as good as the information we receive from our members. To assure TUARA is meeting the needs of our membership we must hear from you. You can always speak to any member of the TUARA Board with your concern, suggestion, advice, or criticism. Board members and their contact information is listed in this newsletter. We represent you on the following UA committees: Safety and Security, Professional Staff Assembly, Faculty and Staff Benefits, Parking and Traffic, Intercollegiate Athletics, and the United Fund. If these connections are not appropriate, as your representative, TUARA will seek out and track down an answer.
TUARA also has a charge to serve as your advocate on matters that go beyond UA and Tuscaloosa, particularly in the areas of pay and health care. Our partner on the state level, AERA, has upped our representation by adding a new
Higher Ed Director to the AERA Board. This newly elected Director, Dr. Gerald Johnson, has expressed a commitment to assure that higher ed’s voice is heard. Our responsibility in return will be to communicate our interest and concerns
and provide support when and where needed. As in any new undertaking, an interactive link must be built. You will be hearing more as this system becomes a reality. TUARA has much to look forward to during the 2015- 16 year. With your help and involvement, TUARA will continue to strive to meet our purposes as outlined in our constitution:
The Nominating Committee requested that the membership approve a change to the TUARA Constitution and Bylaws at the recent Annual Meeting. TUARA has become a much more active and involved organization since its founding in
2003. Procedures have grown more complex. Activities and responsibilities of Board members, especially the President, also have increased. In order to insure that the incoming President of the organization is familiar with responsibilities
and procedures of the office of President, the Board is asking that the office of President Elect be added to the membership of the Board. This person would then have two years to become familiar with the responsibilities of the office of President.
The President Elect will be nominated by the Board’s Nominating Committee and approved by the membership prior to assuming the office. Nominations for this position also will be accepted from the membership prior to and from the floor at the Annual Meeting; voting for the nominee(s) will take place at the Annual Meeting along with nominees for other Board positions. The President-Elect would assume the position one term (two years) prior to assuming the office of President of TUARA.
Uncertainty breeds concern and often leads to misconceptions and mistruths. This is the premise upon which three health care experts were assembled for “The Future of Health Care for Seniors” forum held on Tuesday, March 10th, at the Bryant Conference Center. TUARA partnered with OLLI and TERA (Tuscaloosa Education Retirees Association) to provide members and the public with true facts and answers to questions pertaining to current health care service for seniors.
Ashley Adcox, Aging Service Supervisor, Area Agency on Aging for West Alabama, explained that her agency serves as a primary source of information about, and helps, with state and federal benefits as well as local programs and services. The objective of this service is to enable older people to maintain their independence as long as possible. One of the most used programs is Senior Rx which provides prescription drug assistance for qualified individuals who meet age, income and medical criteria. Another major source of assistance is the Senior Health Insurance and Assistance Program (SHIP) which provides insurance counseling to help individuals make informed decisions regarding their insurance benefits.
Donna Joyner, CPA, PEEHIP Director, informed attendees that October 1, 2010, was the start of changes that will continue to come. So far, PEEHIP has added these benefits with “0” additional cost to the recipient by absorbing the added expense. Several of these changes include:
- Extended family coverage: Adult children, up to 26 years of age, may be covered by PEEHIP. This includes independent children living out of the state of Alabama.
- Expansion of preventive services, provided without any copay requirement.
- Expanded services for women for contraceptives
- Removal of exclusion for preexisting conditions for anyone
- Added provision of nondiscrimination among health care providers allowing individual choice of any licensed physician. Additionally the services of nurse practitioners and physician assistants are allowable.
A particular important provision of PEEHIP for those with catastrophe illness is that out-of-pocket expenses exceeding $6,600 for an individual or $13,200 for a family are covered. To head off the need for this type of coverage, anyone not on Medicare is required to participate in the TEAM-UP for Health program requiring regular physical check-ups. Fifty-one per cent of PEEHIP members are currently participating.
And, it is noteworthy that while the trend in insurance coverage is to discontinue spousal cover, PEEHIP continues to offer this benefit.
PEEHIP strives to provide coverage without additional cost to recipients. Measures taken to accomplish this include:
- PEEHIP pays the federally mandatory transitional fee aimed at stabilizing medical insurance fees.
- PEEHIP supports research to identify the benefits of having health insurance.
- PEEHIP performs monthly eligibility and divorce audits to eliminate abuse; and coordination of benefits audits to reduce cost.
- To verify compliance with the mandate that all persons must carry health insurance PEEHIP
- Identifies individuals who have and use PEEHIP.
- Assures that insurance is provided to all individuals who work 30+ hours per week.
Possibly the most reassuring words provided during the evening was that with all the changes and additional requirements “there is no discussion at this time to discontinue PEEHIP coverage for education retirees.”
The third member of the panel, Rick Watts, Business Manager, DCH Regional Medical Center, painted a picture of the effect current and new requirements are having upon hospital payment systems. Without a doubt, the greatest impact is felt by small rural hospitals. Currently payment charges are based upon coding submitted to Medicare. This system fails to take into consideration individual patient differences such as length of stay. Payments can be appealed, however, it is a lengthy and time consuming process that could stretch over 2 years.
The chief response by the medical industry in handling increased cost is to shift how services are classified. Many
procedures are being reclassified from the higher reimbursed in-house care to possibly a lower reimbursed out-patient classification. In order to be coded as in-house, the physician must certify that the patient will stay past two midnights.
Watts pointed out that while government mandate requires all individuals to carry insurance many chose to pay the penalty rather than pay the monthly cost of coverage. Because of the negative impact, particularly upon emergency
room care, there is a great need for educational counseling to change this mindset.
When our able panel moderator, Sammy Watson, Director of Community Relations, DCH Regional Medical Center, indicated that our scheduled time for questions had run out and the meeting was adjourned, it was apparent that everyone was not willing to leave. Rather, many audience members converged upon the panelist continuing to press for answers well into the following hour. It was mutually agreed by the sponsors, TUARA, OLLI, and TERA, that coverage of health care issues for seniors will hold a spot in future programming.
On the second Thursday of each month from 7:30 am until 9:00 am, TUARA members assemble the “Secret Meals” packets at the West Alabama Food Bank. Other TUARA Members choose to go at different times Monday – Friday, between 7:30 am and 3:00 pm. The Secret Meals are packets filled with nourished goodies that are placed ‘secretly’ in a child’s book bag by a teacher. This gives the child food over the weekend.
Thanks to the continued generosity of our TUARA membership and the extraordinary success of the TUARA sponsored bus trips to several football games last year, the following students were each awarded a $250.00 book scholarship at the University Supply Store for the 2015 Spring semester. Each student is a sophomore at The University of Alabama. Congratulations to all these deserving students!
• Austin Tyler Dement is a Mechanical Engineering major from Thomasville, Alabama and has a 3.863 GPA.
• Donielle Eslick comes to UA from Decatur, Alabama and is a Political Science major with a 3.518 GPA.
• Jamil Hannah is in Pre-Major Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences where he has a 3.413 GPA. He is from Talladega, Alabama.
• Tiffany Hildreth is from Cordova, Alabama and is in the Nursing program at UA. Her GPA is 3.476.
• Tori Vines is an Advertising and Public Relations major from Jasper, Alabama. Tori has a 3.593 GPA.
To date, TUARA has awarded 40 Robert E. Witt First-Generation Book Scholarships. More TUARA-sponsored bus trips are planned for the upcoming football season Make your plans now. Join us on the bus for an easy, fun ride to and from the game. You will be making many young people at The University of Alabama very grateful for your continued presence in their lives.