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Medicare Part B premium refund: Retirees could gain up to $1,200 a year

By John Tarleton and Dania Rajendra
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If you retired from CUNY in 2011 and are covered by City health insurance, be on the lookout for a letter from CUNY in this month’s mail. It could save you $1,200 a year-- or $2,400 if your spouse or domestic partner is included.

PSC members listen during an October 25, 2011 public forum on the future of Social Security and Medicare. The event was organized by the union's Social Safety Net Working Group.
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The letter provides details on how to apply for a 100% reimbursement of your Medicare Part B premium costs. Medicare Part B is the part of Medicare that covers doctors’ visits, outpatient care and other services not covered by Medicare Part A, which covers hospitalization. In most cases, the premium is deducted from your Social Security check.

In 2011, retirees with annual incomes of less than $85,000 paid Part B premiums of $96.40 to $115.40 per month, depending on their year of enrollment. In 2012, all Medicare beneficiaries with income under $85,000 will have their monthly Medicare Part B premiums reset to $99.90.

IRMAA EXPLAINED

Medicare beneficiaries with incomes above $85,000 pay progressively higher monthly premiums above the basic rate.

Reimbursement of your Part B premium costs comes from the City of New York, and you won’t get it unless you have signed up to receive it. For the amount of the basic premium (the monthly rate for incomes below $85K), you only have to sign up once and thereafter should receive your refund check for the basic amount every year.

If you must pay more than the basic premium (increased by what is termed “an income-related monthly adjustment amount,” or IRMAA), you will have to fill out a form to seek reimbursement of those additional payments. This form must be filed annually. Detailed information and the form for IRMAA reimbursement are both online.

If you do not receive the letter from CUNY, check in with your college HR office or apply directly. (See details at the end of this article.)

‘OLD-FASHIONED POLITICKING’

Reimbursement of your Medicare Part B premiums is a benefit that was won through union action. Municipal unions first won reimbursement at the bargaining table in 1966, but a succession of mayors pled poverty and paid only a portion of the premium. In 2001, the city paid just 70%, which was then $384. The return to 100% reimbursement was won through “old-fashioned politicking” by the New York City labor movement, says Irwin Yellowitz, a labor historian and former chair of the PSC Retirees Chapter.

PERSEVERANCE PAYS OFF

By 2000, “it had been an issue that was out there for a very long time,” Yellowitz said. The reimbursement meant more and more to people, especially lower-paid city workers, as the premium was going up steadily. “The argument that the City couldn’t afford it didn’t wash anymore,” he said.

New York City unions, including the PSC, the UFT and AFSCME District Council 37, helped mobilize retirees and other members to send postcards, meet with City Council members and testify before the Council on the issue. In 2001 the City Council passed a measure reinstating the full reimbursement and overrode Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s veto of the bill. But Giuliani sued to block implementation, and the measure remained tied up in court. In 2002, union efforts finally bore fruit: with Giuliani out of office, the City agreed to drop its suit.

CLAIM YOUR REFUND

How to sign up for your refund of the basic Medicare Part B premium is different for members of the NYC Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS) and for members of TIAA-CREF. In both cases, you must provide a copy of your Medicare card, which must indicate that you are enrolled in both Parts A & B. (Be sure to send a copy, not the original.)

If you belong to TRS, you must send the copy of your Medicare card to: NYC Health Benefits Program, 40 Rector Street, 3rd floor, ATTN: Medicare Unit, New York, NY 10006. Participants in NYCERS (the NYC Employees’ Retirement System) or BERS (the Board of Education Retirement System) should also send the copy of their card to this address.

If you are a member of TIAA-CREF, you must fill out a reimbursement application form, available from your campus HR office or online at psccunywf.org/PDF/MedicarePartBApplication.pdf. Send the completed form, plus copies of both your Medicare card and your retiree health plan card (GHI, HIP, etc.), to: University Benefits Office/CUNY, 395 Hudson Street, 5th floor, New York, NY 10014. (TIAA-CREF members should make sure to follow this procedure: it is the only way to ensure that you will receive your Part B reimbursement.)

For both TRS and TIAA-CREF members, if your spouse or domestic partner is also enrolled in Part B, is covered by your retiree health plan and is not receiving Part B reimbursement from another source, be sure to include a copy of his or her Medicare card, along with your own name and Social Security number, so that you will receive reimbursement for his or her Part B premium payments as well.

For further information, contact your college HR office.

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[Article updated 1/17/12]