If you retired from a full-time position at CUNY and have retiree health insurance coverage from the City of New York, you may be eligible to receive reimbursement for the monthly premium you pay for Medicare Part B. It could save you more than $1,200 a year – or twice that amount if your spouse or domestic partner meets eligibility requirements.
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 Medicare B premium is deducted from your Social Security check.
In 2015, most retirees on Medicare will pay a monthly Part B premium of $104.90 per person. If your modified adjusted gross income, as reported on your IRS tax return for 2013, is above a certain amount, you will have to pay more. The threshold is $85,000 if filing an individual tax return, or $170,000 on a joint return.
Medicare beneficiaries with incomes above these thresholds must pay progressively higher Part B premiums above the standard monthly amount. This additional premium, above the standard monthly rate, is known as the Income Related Monthly Adjustment Amount (IRMAA). If you must make these IRMAA payments, the amount can change each year depending on your income.
Getting Signed Up
Reimbursement of your Part B premium is processed by the New York City Health Benefits Program, and you won’t receive reimbursement unless you have submitted notice of your eligibility. You do not need to submit an annual request to receive reimbursement for the standard monthly premium; once you are signed up you will continue to receive this basic reimbursement each year. Retirees in the Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS) with City health coverage must write to the NYC Office of Labor Relations (see below), while retirees in TIAA-CREF or other retirement vehicles in CUNY’s Optional Retirement Program (ORP) must send a form to CUNY.
If you pay more than the standard monthly premium, because of IRMAA, you can also be reimbursed for the additional amount. However, you must apply annually for the IRMAA reimbursement, by completing a separate application and submitting it to the NYC Office of Labor Relations (again, see below for details).
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.
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 Reimbursement
The process for requesting reimbursement of the monthly standard premium for Medicare Part B is different for members of the NYC Teachers’ Retirement System and for members of TIAA-CREF or similar plans. In both cases, you must provide a copy of your and/or your eligible dependents Medicare card(s), which must indicate the effective dates of your enrollment in both Parts A and B. (Be sure to send a copy, not the original.)
If you are receiving your pension check from TRS you must contact the NYC Health Benefits Program. Your letter must include copies of the Medicare cards and birth dates for yourself and spouse or domestic partner; your retirement date, pension number and pension system; the name of your health plan; and the name of your union welfare fund (the PSC/CUNY Welfare Fund). You must send your letter to:
NYC Office of Labor Relations
Health Benefits Program
40 Rector Street, 3rd Floor
New York, NY 10006
Attn: Medicare Unit
Participants in NYCERS (the NYC Employees’ Retirement System) or BERS (Board of Education Retirement System) should also send their letters and copies of Medicare cards to this address.
If you are receiving your pension check from TIAA-CREF, you must complete an application that is available on the CUNY website and submit it to CUNY’s University Benefits Office. The application is online at tinyurl.com/CUNY-TIAA-Part-B. Send the completed form, plus copies of your retiree health insurance card and your Medicare card (and Medicare card of your spouse or domestic partner), to the address below. Your Medicare card(s) must indicate the effective dates of enrollment in both Parts A and B. Send these documents to:
University Benefits Program
555 W 57th Street, 11th floor
New York, NY 10019
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.
You should sign up for reimbursement immediately upon receipt of your or your dependent’s Medicare card (which must indicate enrollment in Part B). For reimbursement of this monthly standard premium you will only need to sign up once. But be sure to notify the agency to which you originally applied (either the NYC Office of Labor Relations or CUNY University Benefits Office) of any address or status changes to avoid delays in receiving your reimbursement check.
Please note that if you will receive City health coverage in retirement, you may apply to receive reimbursement for Medicare Part B payments for your spouse or domestic partner even if you yourself are not yet Medicare Part B eligible.
Reimbursement For IRMAA
Reimbursement for the standard premium payments is generally sent out in August of the year after those Part B payments were made. Reimbursements for IRMAA payments are processed later, usually the following March. For example, reimbursement for standard Part B premium payments made in 2014 would be sent out in August 2015, while IRMAA reimbursements for that year would be sent out in March 2016.
Fill out the form to apply for reimbursement of IRMAA payments made in 2013 (available online at tinyurl.com/NYC-HBP-forms). The reimbursement form for 2014 payments should be available there by August 2015. Remember that to receive reimbursement for IRMAA payments, you must apply annually.
Retirees who have a major life-changing event and whose income has decreased can request a reduction in their IRMAA payments by completing a Medicare IRMAA Life-Changing Event form or scheduling an interview with their local Social Security office. (People who are newly retired are often overcharged for these premiums, when Social Security looks back at the prior years’ income.)
For further information, contact the NYC Health Benefits Program (212-513-0470) or the University Benefits Office (646-664-3350).