Don’t TRIP on this TRAIL.

The move by Illinois to change the Teachers Retirement Insurance Plan (TRIP) to the Total Retiree Advantage Illinois Plan (TRAIL or is it TRAILP?) is going badly by any measure.

Over the past several weeks I have tried to keep readers up to date with all the information I could gather.

What I haven’t done is posted hearsay horror stories that I couldn’t confirm. The stories that go, “My brother’s sister’s cousin tried to find a doctor who took Medicare Advantage in New Jersey…”

What wasn’t needed, it seemed to me, was more confusion than had already been created by the decision of Illinois and Central Management Services to roll this massive program out faster than a left turn signal at Damen and Fullerton.

The information seminar schedule has been released. Some of the meetings aren’t scheduled until days before retirees must decide what to do.

I have posted the places and times of as many of the seminars as I know about.

Our own retired chapter of IEA – Retired has scheduled our own information meeting with TRIP Director of Outreach Rich Frankenfeld for November 13th.

However, I have been deluged with stories from readers about their difficulties in getting answers from the phone number that Central Management Services provided.

There continues to be unanswered and answered questions about loss of coverage.

We are talking about retirees here. Many who are elderly and are frightened by the change.

The advice I give is don’t act in a rash way. 

If you have been on TRIP and you don’t sign up for TRAIL, you will not be able to go back on at a later time.

Go to the meetings. Bring friends. Ask lots of questions.

A concern that keeps getting asked of me is what about retirees in nursing homes, out-of-state or without internet access?

I don’t have the answer and I haven’t heard anything from CMS.

Skeptics wonder if this isn’t all being done with the end game of the state getting out of the health insurance business.

I wonder too.

11 Replies to “Don’t TRIP on this TRAIL.”

  1. I went to the CMS website where they have details of the plans for TRIP retirees and State of Illinois retirees, and they are different. TRIP deductible is $259; State of Illinois Retirees is $100. TRIP retirees pay 20% until they reach out of pocket; State of Illinois retirees pay only 10% until they reach the out of pocket. This is for United Health Care PPO. Don’t understand why.

    1. For better or worse, the TRIP, CIP and state employees plans all differ, starting with the premium paid. TRIP and CIP people have no right to “return” to state plans if they opt out, state employees do. ETC ETC. It all goes back to the original design of the respective plans, it seems.

  2. Fred,
    I too think there is a “method to their madness” on the part of the state and CMS to ,as you said, “get out of the health insurance business” altogether. I had written to Linda Brookhart, Executive Director of my retirement system, SUAA (I am in SURS) and asked her the question as to why no Medigap option was included for retirees and why this wasn’t even brought up at the Oct. 23 COGFA hearing. She confirmed my suspicion by telling me that of course “the state” realized that if a standard Medigap option had been included no one would take the Advantage plan and the state apparently “wants this Medicare Advantage program to fly” as she put it, I also agree that it has been absolutely outrageous how poorly this thing has been handled and “rolled out”. Why couldn’t they just post on CMS website the same information that we are apparently still waiting for in the mail? I still haven’t gotten even the first letter and it’s now Oct. 30th. For me, I have been closely following this whole mess since I first found out about how retirees were going to be thrown into a Medicare Advantage Plan last spring and also at that time SB 2404 was being considered and I had made up my mind at that time that I would not give up the 3% compounding COLA so therefore would have to get my own Medigap policy anyway, so I kind of started looking at private insurance options last spring and summer. I do feel so sorry for those poor retirees who are elderly or not “internet savvy” and still know nothing about this, and I suspect there are lots of them out there. I also agree that one shouldn’t act rashly (especially if you are in CIP or TRIP and can never opt back in) but also keep in mind “time is of the essence” here and the federal Medicare enrollment clock is ticking and if one is considering a switch to a private Medicare Plan and Part D you really need to be doing your homework, and have everything in order to make the change (if that’s what you decide to do) because remember those of us in this “state of Illinois retiree healthcare mess” aren’t the only one’s who the Medigap insurance companies are dealing with right now. EVERYONE in the private sector is also now reviewing their policies and making changes so to say the insurance companies are busy now is an understatement. Also, for those who decide to opt out and now have to “cobble together” your own coverage, I called Delta Dental Plan to find out about private dental insurance. The person I talked to said that since we are already Delta members through a group that our replacement policy could start right away with no waiting period. They have three levels of plans, Bronze, Silver and Gold (I think). Even the top plan isn’t terribly expensive at around $35/month, if I remember correctly. The other plans are even cheaper. However, I also found out we do have very good dental coverage with the state and even going privately with the top plan, the coverage is not at the level of what we have with the state, but, it is coverage if one thinks they need to keep dental insurance..

  3. Fred, one of the ways CMS & TRS can assist is to webcast/podcast the meetings as they occur. They could even have questions submitted in real time. This suggestion also goes against my basic objection to anything that would re-enforce the digital divide. So I am very torn and I don’t want to potentially help efforts to limit the access of our people.

    1. You’re right.. They need to improve the communications to say the least. Fred, I’ve lost the thread here. When/where is your meeting on the 13th? If it’s do-able I could get it on film at least. It sounds like a smaller format where sound would be manageable.

  4. I have to wonder if the same folks who masterminded the website for Obamacare aren’t somehow involved in Illinois’ TRAIL unfolding debacle. There sure seems to be so much unnecessary confusion, unanswered questions, and misinformation [or no information] for both programs. Who’s masterminding these “new and improved” insurance programs, the Three Stooges? In looking at the list of informational meetings, I noticed that a number of them are sponsored by our illustrious state legislators. As I see it, if the legislature is behind this TRAIL program change, it can’t be good considering what they’re trying to do to us with regard to pension “reform”. Supposedly the state is saving money by doing this. Wonder whose pockets are going to be lined with this saved money and which legislators have connections with the few providers chosen to administer these programs. I hope against all hope that my gut feeling is wrong about all this but if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and looks like a duck, it’s a duck!

  5. Does anyone have any information regarding if we will be able to keep our dental and vision if we “opt out”. Although I am a retiree one of my friends is still working and subscribes to an internal listserv at UIC and forwards the posts on to me. Some of the posts seem to indicate that if we “opt out” we can still keep the dental (and I assume the vision as well) also our life insurance. I had just assumed these would “go” as well with the opt out. Also I think someone posted on this listserv something about if you do decide to opt out you must provide CMS with proof of other coverage. If this is true, then for those of us who do opt out I would assume your time line for obtaining other coverage is even shorter since, as I have said, these insurance companies are swamped this time of year and you would need to have your individual policy in place with proof (i.e., I presume insurance cards) by CMS deadline.

    I hope I am wrong, but with each passing day this whole thing just seems to be getting worse and wore to me.

    1. Ronnie, if you are in the state employees group rather than TRIP or CIP, page 7 of the TRAIL booklet says you do keep both life insurance and dental coverage, if you opt out. I had expected to lose dental as well, but for some reason, apparently not. Perhaps it’s because we already pay separately for that coverage.

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