• Benefits Corner
    1st Quarter 2022

    By Bill Dodge, CRA Benefits Chair

    Bill Dodge

    Included in this article:

     

    • 2022 COLA / Social Security and Medicare Part B Premiums 
    • 2021 Open Enrollment Feedback / Review
    • Updated Information on COVID-19 provided by CDC 

    2022 COLA / Social Security and Medicare Part B Premiums

    Social Security Administration (SSA) announced October 13, 2021 that its annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) will be 5.9 percent, a boost to average retirement benefits of about $92 per month for individuals , starting in January. The 2022 COLA is the largest increase to Social Security benefits since the 7.4 percent hike that went into effect in January 1983. Until this year, COLAs have been modest, averaging a 1.65 percent increase annually over the past decade, with no gain at all to benefits in 2016. The increase that went into effect in January 2021 was 1.3 percent.

    “Today’s announcement of a 5.9 percent COLA increase, the largest increase in four decades, is crucial for Social Security beneficiaries and their families as they try to keep up with rising costs,” says AARP Chief Executive Officer Jo Ann Jenkins. “The guaranteed benefits provided by Social Security and the COLA increase are more crucial than ever as millions of Americans continue to face the health and economic impacts of the pandemic. Social Security is the largest source of retirement income for most Americans and provides nearly all income (90% or more) for  1 in  4 seniors.”

    Most Social Security recipients will see their COLA reduced by an increase in the cost of Medicare. Medicare Part B premiums, which cover physician visits and outpatient medical services, are typically deducted directly from Social Security benefit payments.

    The standard monthly premium for Medicare Part B recipients in 2022 is $170.10, an increase of $21.60 from 2021. The standard rate applies to beneficiaries with incomes of $91,000 or less for an individual and $182,000 or less for a married couple that files taxes jointly; those who earn more pay higher premiums.

    Source: https://www.aarp.org/retirement/social-security/info-2021/cola-set-for-2022.html

    2021 Open Enrollment Feedback / Review

    The recent 2021 Open Enrollment period (OEP) from October 15 to December 7, 2021 for post-65 participants has been completed. During that period, OEP feedback was received from many participants that they were experiencing delays in scheduling their appointments and lengthy wait times on phone calls placed with Via Benefits. Such feedback was shared with Chevron Benefits, which in turn held discussions with Via Benefits to understand what efforts were being made by Via Benefits to address these issues. The following feedback was provided to Chevron Benefits by Via Benefits on such efforts. 

    Call Me Back Feature

    • We are calibrating the usage of the Call Me Back feature and appointment availability. While we intended to utilize Call Me Back when wait times were longer than five minutes, we will begin adjusting use of this feature based on our capacity to call members back in a reasonable timeframe.

    Appointment Availability

    • Supporting participants is our highest priority, and we have all hands-on deck to manage incoming call volume and scheduled appointments. We are continually monitoring call volume to maximize our capacity to support members. Appointment availability is subject to change based on our capacity to manage these requests.

    Benefit Advisor Shortage

    • Via Benefits was not spared from the workforce outage that is currently hitting many businesses. We are currently doing everything possible to hire and retain as many Benefits Advisors as possible. Via Benefits is also letting participants know of their options when they call, such as the following:

     

      • Medicare OEP runs through December 7, 2021,
      • Retirees can go to the web and use online tools to answer questions, and
      • For those not comfortable with the web, they can call and get assistance from our reps trained to help those retirees login to their account and navigate the site to see their Coverage Checkup results.

    Now that the 2021 Open Enrollment period has ended, Chevron Benefits will be conducting its annual post open enrollment review and assessment. The findings of this review and assessment will be shared with participants in a future quarterly Benefits Corner article once such information becomes available. 

    Latest Updated Information on COVID-19 provided by the CDC

    The latest updated information on COVID-19, including the Omicron variant, is available on the following CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) website: 

    https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/

    : As you read public service information about COVID-19, please remember that as with other personal health questions you may have, it is always best to discuss such concerns with your personal physician.