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1. Medicare Decoder    2. Basics    3. Advantage vs. Original    4. Compare Plans    5. Via HPInc/HPE    6. Trouble; Contacts

5. Medicare via HPInc or HPE If receiving benefits from or subsidized by HP/HPInc or HPE.

Advice and reference info from members. (Updated Dec 2, 2020.)   Questions or comments to: info@hpalumni.org

General healthplan heads-up:

1. Technically, you have 31 days to change your health plan if you lose coverage from an employer or other plan -- or have a status change such as marriage or divorce -- or transition to Medicare. These restrictions are not unique to HPInc/HPE. A fundamental principle of health insurance is that everyone continuously pays into the overall health insurance system pool when they are healthy. (For example, that's why if you don't sign up for each of the various elements of Medicare when you are first eligible, you generally have to pay a late enrollment penalty for years.)  If you have such a change, contact your Benefits Center ASAP -- or contact the insurance sales agency that you bought the plan from, such as Aon Retiree Health Exchange ARHE Contacts

"They couldn't do the surgery because his insurance had been terminated. It took a very long three-way phone call with the Benefits Center and UHC to get his new coverage entered into the system." 

2. You must examine health plan coverage every year. Features for the same plan may change from year to year. Plans may be closed or restructured. (For example, one member bought a low-cost, high-deductible Medicare Part D drug plan. The plan was discontinued and they were moved to a higher-cost plan. A couple of years later, the low-cost plan was again available to new customers.) Tip: HPAA member advice on comparing health plans: https://www.hpalumni.org/health-compare

Medicare heads-up:

1. You may have to take action. "Some people get Medicare automatically, and some have to sign up. You may have to sign up if you're 65 (or almost 65) and not getting Social Security."

2. Deadlines. "There are certain times of the year when you can sign up or change how you get your coverage."

3. Don't delay. "If you sign up for Medicare Part B when you're first eligible, you can avoid a penalty."

If benefits involve HP/HPInc or HPE:

1. Be sure to go through the critical info in your Enrollment Guide -- including changing HPInc or HPE plans, dropping and re-enrolling, loss of spouse/partner's coverage, and dependent coverage following your death. (HPInc: Inside rear cover. HPE: Page 18.) Tip: Lots packed into the Enrollment Guides. Even if you have a paper copy, much easier to use if you download the current copy and use Adobe Reader's search feature to find specific words or phrases. (To search for a word or phrase in a pdf file, press Ctrl and F together on a PC -- or Command and F on a Mac.) https://www.hpalumni.org/EnrollmentGuides

2. Group plans are different from individual plans. Health plans provided through employers to current employees and retirees are "group" plans that have been customized for the specific employer. Some members found that HPInc or HPE group plans provide better coverage for their specific situation than open-market plans -- for example, coverage of dependents, pre-existing conditions, or medications. Group plans and open-market individual plans with similar names from the same carrier may have very different coverage features. With Medicare plans, even though there are government specifications for open-market Advantage and Supplemental plans, employer plans do not have to match those specifications.

What happens when?

Medicare works differently!  You have lots of work to do. If you haven't already done so, start at Step 1 -- Medicare Basics

Dependent coverage coordination. Unlike group plans, which cover dependents, a Medicare plan covers one individual. This complicates the transition from a group employee or retiree plan to Medicare, since you and your spouse/partner are probably not the same age. Study the Enrollment Guide and work with your Benefits Center to set up coverage. "Younger Spouse Losing Health Insurance, Now What?"

A couple of months before you reach 65 -- and during every Annual Enrollment -- you will hear from multiple companies:

- The HPInc or HPE Benefits Center is operated for HPInc by Alight Solutions (operated for HPE by Bswift.) The Benefits Centers administers the HP-custom group Medicare plans in the same manner they administer the pre-Medicare plans, which are also custom group plans.

- Aon Retiree Health Exchange (ARHE) is an insurance sales agency compensated through commissions paid by the carriers and HMOs. HPInc and HPE have selected ARHE as the exclusive broker to sell company-subsidized standard open-market individual Medicare plans to their employees and retirees. (No connection with the government health insurance exchanges.) You work with an ARHE agent who is licensed to sell health insurance in your state. If you qualify for a subsidy, an individual Medicare plan is subsidized by HPInc or HPE only if you purchase through ARHE. If you do not qualify for an HPInc or HPE subsidy, the price for a given plan is the same whether you purchase it through ARHE or another sales agency.

Other companies. You will also receive mailings and phone solicitations from insurance companies (such as AARP/UHC) and insurance sales agencies who purchase lists from consumer data brokers. This information was not provided by HP.

The national Medicare deadline is December 7, 2020 to adjust your coverage for the next calendar year. (The annual deadline does not apply if you have qualified life event during the year -- such as starting Medicare.)

If you won't be able to resolve your Medicare situation by the HPInc/HPE enrollment deadline -- for example, because you can't get an ARHE agent appointment in time, or you have an application pending for an individual Medicare plan through ARHE -- HPInc and HPE recommend that you enroll in the best HPInc/HPE plan now and change later if necessary.

There is a confirmation and mop-up cycle after the stated HPInc/HPE deadline...
HPInc: "You must make corrections by December 18, 2020, at 6 p.m. Pacific Time (8 p.m. Central Time). After that date, you won’t be able to make changes for 2021 unless you experience a qualified status change." --HPInc Enrollment Guides. 
HPE: "If you need to correct your elections, notify the HPE Benefits Center before December 31, 2020." --HPE Enrollment Guide.
[However, members report that changes made too far after the original deadline may not be in place at your providers by January 1.]

You can change back to an HPInc/HPE group plan from Aon Retiree Health Exchange individual coverage, as indicated in your Annual Enrollment Guide.

How to explore the Aon Retiree Health Exchange alternative.

The amount of the subsidy you would receive if you choose to buy through ARHE is shown in the body of the Enrollment cover letter under the heading "HP premium reimbursements for Aon Retiree Health Exchange coverage." [See yellow highlights in our sample personalized cover letter: https://www.hpalumni.org/2021HPIncSampleStatement-Aon.pdf ]

That choice is given in the Enrollment cover letter and on the Benefits Center website as "Aon Retiree Health Exchange $0.00" -- because you pay the carrier directly.

Examine the ARHE choices for your area -- with list (i.e. unsubsidized) prices -- without making any commitment:

ARHE for HPInc https://retiree.aon.com/hp
1-800-975-0355 -- 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Central Time, Monday through Friday 

ARHE for HPE -- Hewlett Packard Enterprise https://retiree.aon.com/hewlettpackardenterprise
1-844-537-5303 -- 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Central Time, Monday through Friday

If you can't set up an account, you can see the same ARHE choices for your area -- with list prices -- without registering on the ARHE site. Go to https://retiree.aon.com/home.aspx and enter your Zip Code in the "Find Medicare Plans" box.

The Aon website does not display all Medicare plans available in your area. Some plans are only available directly from the insurance company or HMO rather than through insurance sales agencies. "Not all plans participate in exchanges, and that is the decision of the carrier." --HPAA's management contact at ARHE. Two examples:

- AARP/UHC Medicare plans are generally not on the list of plans available from insurance sales agencies such as ARHE -- you have to explicitly ask the sales agent for the AARP/UHC plans. (Our ARHE contact indicates that this is "UHC AARP's marketing requirement.") Check the AARP/UHC website to see what is available in your local area: https://www.aarpmedicareplans.com You need to join the AARP -- well worth the $16 per year for the publications and other benefits. ARHE will ask you for your member number, which needs to be current.

- Kaiser individual regional Medicare HMO plans are generally not on the list of plans available from insurance sales agencies such as ARHE. However, group Kaiser regional Medicare HMO plans are available through the Benefits Center.

The first year with ARHE, prepare for your call by using the ARHE site:

- Register and confirm your enrollment appointment

- Enter your prescriptions -- which has a huge effect on which plans work best for you.

- Compare plans and put the best alternatives in the shopping cart

Member tip: After the first year with ARHE, "Don't bother with an Advisor, who is unlikely to know anything that you haven't already researched. They also take up a lot of your time. And from reports on this forum, they sometimes stand you up. Now that we are allowed to do our own enrollment on the ARHE web site, do that. It worked for me."

You must carefully compare the alternatives yourself. Aon agents do not have information on -- and would not be legally allowed to discuss -- the HPInc/HPE group plans; nor do the Benefits Center agents have information on open-market plans. Similar-sounding group plans and individual plans from the same carrier may have very different coverage features.
"Because these two types of coverage are different and the individual insurance market is subject to federal regulation, each organization can provide details about the plans they offer, but they can’t provide direct comparisons between HP plans and exchange-based plans." --HPInc Corporate Benefits
Tip: HPAA member advice on comparing health plans: https://www.hpalumni.org/health-compare

Work with both ARHE and the Benefits Center to determine the best plan for your specific situation offered via each. Then you make the final choice.

How the ARHE payment process works.

At the start of the year, the company funds a Retiree Reimbursement Account (RRA.) 

Every month...
1. You pay the carrier monthly, usually via direct debit from your checking account.
2. The carrier notifies Aon (and pays Aon a sales commission for that month.)
3. Aon notifies the Benefits Center of the amount you paid.
4. The Benefits Center rebates that amount to you via direct deposit to your checking account -- and subtracts the amount from your RRA.
5. When your RRA is almost depleted for the year, you get a partial rebate for that month. Then, the rebates stop until next year.
Members report that, once it is set up, this process works very well

This ensures that the funds were spent on health insurance -- therefore, neither you nor the company pay income tax on it.

If you have a problem, contact the insurance sales agency you purchased from. In the case of Aon Retiree Health Exchange, contact your Advisor. If the Advisor can't resolve your problem, they escalate it to Aon's special group of Advocates. (Because your are buying a standard individual policy via the sales agency, the company -- HP/HPInc or HPE -- is out of the picture -- except for providing  the subsidy.) Contact the Benefits Center if there are problems with the subsidy payments.

Next step: 6. Troubleshooting and contacts

For more mutual help on this topic and many others, join the independent HP Alumni Association. If you were formerly a regular, direct employee of HP, HPInc, or HPE -- or are in the process of leaving -- join the HP Alumni Association. No charge, thanks to HPAA members.

As financial, legal, and personal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, and finances and laws are constantly changing, nothing provided here should be used as a substitute for the personalized advice of competent financial, legal, and personal advisors.

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