In June of 2023, the State of North Carolina, including the State Health Plan for Teachers and State Employees and State Treasurer Dale Folwell, filed a Writ of Prohibition with the North Carolina Supreme Court seeking to overturn and prohibit the March 2022 Supreme Court decision on Lake v. NC State Health Plan from moving forward at the trial court level. The North Carolina Supreme Court’s March 2022 decision determined that eligible State employees have a contractually vested right in a noncontributory health plan for life, equivalent to the plan in place when a class member’s rights are vested.
On October 20, 2023, the North Carolina Supreme Court denied the Writ of Prohibition, allowing the case to continue to be adjudicated in the Gaston County, North Carolina Superior Court.
Great news! There were no premium increases or changes to the dental plans with the Standard Dental coverage that uses the Ameritas network of providers.
We also still have Superior vision as our eye care provider, and even though there was no change to the cost of the vision care coverage, we have gotten a reduction in the co-payment. The co-payment cost has been reduced from $20 to $10. This is for the exam and the materials (up to the noted limits).
Since we did not have any changes, NCRGEA did not have an open enrollment this year. If you are satisfied with your current dental and vision coverage, no action is required and your policies will continue just as they are now. If you want to make any changes, such as add, drop, enroll or cancel, you may do so at any time.
Please keep in mind all the wonderful benefits that are included (free) with your NCRGEA membership:
Superior Vision Discount Card (acts as a coupon with providers who will accept it)
Start Hearing Inc Discount Hearing Program (referring you to hearing providers in your area and discounted materials)
NCRGEA’s $10,000 Accidental Death and Dismemberment Policy (cause of death must state accidental on the death certificate and be reported within 365 days of accident or death)
We are always looking for more benefit options for our members, and that’s why we partnered with AMBA. You may have already received a mailing, email or phone call from them regarding supplemental benefits. AMBA can provide you with many different supplemental benefits, such as:
Home Health Care Insurance
Long Term Care Insurance
Cancer, Heart & Stroke Accident and Disability Insurances
Hospital Stay Coverage
Medical Air Services Association (MASA)
Final Expense Whole Life & Guaranteed Acceptance Life Insurance
If you have any questions, want to enroll in or need help with your benefits, please contact our call center with AMBA for:
As of 2022, nearly half of all Americans expect to retire with debt. If you’re dealing with debt in retirement, having a clear understanding of your loans and a strong management plan means debt doesn’t have to derail your retirement goals. Here are some things to know about managing your debt so you can take control and be confident in your financial future.
Understand your debt
First, not all debt is created equal. Over the years you may have accumulated both “good debt” and “bad debt.”
“Good debt” generally refers to the money borrowed as an investment in yourself and your future, while “bad debt” is the money owed on depreciating assets, often at a high interest rate.
Prioritize your payments
Once you’ve identified which of your debts are good and which are bad, it’s important to prioritize your payments. Paying off loans with higher interest rates first means you will pay less over time. If you have the means, make more than the minimum payment on these high-interest loans.
You can also consider refinancing your loans for terms that better fit your retirement income and lifestyle. When you refinance, you may be able to get a lower rate and a more manageable payment schedule.
Make the most of your income
Once you’ve made a plan for managing your debt, smart financial choices can help keep you on track.
Downsize your dream home
If home prices are rising, you’d be wise to downsize rather than splurge on your dream retirement home. Plus, a smaller home could lower your utility bills and upkeep expenses in addition to lowered property taxes and mortgage payment.
Find supplemental income
If your retirement income doesn’t cover your debt payments and still afford you a comfortable lifestyle, you may want to consider finding a supplemental source of income. Marketing and monetizing your skills and expertise can be a fulfilling way to spend your time and bring in some extra cash.
This one might sound obvious, but being consistent with your payments is the most important thing you can do to manage your debt. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, it may be wise to seek a financial planner to help you build a personalized management strategy.
Visit lgfcu.org for more good ways to manage your money.
Your Group Medicare plan provides coverage for vaccines, but that coverage depends on the specific vaccine and where you get it.
Knowing how your coverage works may save you from paying for vaccines out of pocket.
At your provider’s office the Medicare Part B portion of your plan pays for the following vaccines at your provider’s office and at the pharmacy:
Influenza (flu) vaccine—once per season
Hepatitis B vaccines for persons at increased risk of hepatitis
Vaccines directly related to the treatment of an injury or direct exposure to a disease or condition, such as rabies and tetanus.
At a network pharmacy the Medicare Part D portion of your plan covers all commercially available vaccines—except for those covered by Part B—as long as the vaccine is reasonable and necessary to prevent illness.
Important information for your pharmacist
Let your pharmacist know to use BIN 015581 and PCN 03200000 when filling your prescription for items covered under Part D.
Get vaccines like the ones listed below at a network pharmacy. If you get them at your doctor’s office, you’ll pay the full cost of the vaccine out of pocket.
Here are some common vaccines that you should get at your pharmacy, not from your doctor.
Tdap (If you need a tetanus shot due to injury, Medicare Part B will cover that from your doctor.)
Because vaccines are covered differently at the provider’s office and the pharmacy, you may want to call first to understand how your insurance covers a specific vaccine.
Call the Customer Care number on the back of your Humana member ID card or sign in to MyHumana.com.
Driving along the interstates throughout North Carolina you can see the growing skylines of the cities and construction of new business. It’s not until you start driving down the smaller state maintained highways that you start to come into the more than 450 towns within our state with populations fewer than 10,000. Towns that aren’t nearly as prosperous as their neighbors on the interstates. These are the towns with the shrinking populations.
“National economic trends coupled with population declines have had a devasting impact on many small towns and rural areas across America. Often, the largest employer in these smaller towns is a public entity like a school system or municipality that employs teachers, nurses, firefighters, and public safety officials. These public employees spend their career serving their communities at a time when a growing number of young workers are leaving their hometowns for job opportunities in urban areas,” said Dan Doonan, National Institute on Retirement Security executive director.
These are the town that are more dependent on the incomes of its residents than on the tax revenues brought in from major corporations and big developments. These are the towns where the residents that worked there for the community are more likely to retire there. And these are the towns where their public pension benefits go beyond the retirees and their families. Their benefit dollars also play a critical role in supporting the local economies.
Retired public employees spend their pension income in their towns on goods and services like housing, food, medicine and clothing, which serves as a stable source of economic activity in smaller communities
Dan Doonan, NIRS executive director
Research by the NIRS revealed that, in absolute terms, the greatest number of public pension recipients and, therefore, public pension benefit dollars, reside in big cities. But because the economies in the cities are large and complex, the economic impact of pension benefit dollars is modest. However, in small towns and rural areas where the economies are more dependent on the income of its residents, the economic impact of pension benefit dollars goes farther.
The NIRS examined the economic impact of public pension benefit dollars at the county level in 2,922 counties across 43 states representing every region of the country. North Carolina was one of the seven states that was not included in the research.
The analysis of the data reveals that pension benefit dollars account for an average of 1.2% of gross domestic product (GDP) in those counties. NIRS believes this is because many rural areas have agriculture-dependent economies. Farms often are described as “asset rich, but cash poor.” This means that the value of the land, equipment, and goods produced is high, but the monthly cash income of the farmers is relatively low. Therefore, the pension benefit dollars in these counties represent a greater portion of personal income than GDP.
Likewise, the benefit dollars make up an average of 1.25% of the total personal income in the counties. Therefore, GDP and total personal income derived by pensions are why these communities experienced the greatest relative economic benefit from public pension benefit dollars.
“Eventually, public employees in rural and smaller communities retire and typically stay in their hometown. Retired public employees spend their pension income in their towns on goods and services like housing, food, medicine and clothing, which serves as a stable source of economic activity in smaller communities. Our analysis clearly indicates that pension spending provides a substantial economic impact on struggling small towns and rural communities across the nation,” Doonan explained.
The NRIS analysis reveals two interesting effects taking place in rural counties concerning pension benefits. Pension benefit dollars provide metropolitan and rural counties similar levels of GDP, but rural areas have a greater percentage of personal income from pension dollars.
Additionally, the conversation about public pensions should not focus solely on the dollars contributed to the plans, it also must acknowledge substantial economic impact they have across the state, especially in the rural areas.
The budget enacted by the North Carolina General Assembly and signed by Gov. Roy Cooper earlier this year allowed for a one-time supplement to be paid to retirees of the Teachers’ and State Employees’ Retirement System (TSERS), Consolidated Judicial Retirement System (CJRS), and the Legislative Retirement System (LRS). In addition, the General Assembly passed a bill allowing the Local Governmental Employees’ Retirement System (LGERS) Board of Trustees to consider a one-time supplemental payment for LGERS retirees provided there were sufficient funds from investment gains to pay for it.
The one-time supplemental payments will be distributed as a part of the monthly pension payments to eligible TSERS and LGERS retirees and benefit recipients in October. Regular payments will return to the levels they would have been without the supplemental payment in November.
There is often confusion about the way COLAs or one-time supplements are considered. While we are all public servants in the state of North Carolina, there are seven retirement systems with different rules, laws and guidelines.
As it relates to COLAs or one-time supplements, TSERS’, CJRS’ and LRS’ payments are granted by the General Assembly. LGERS supplements are paid for by the local governmental employer. With the passage of Senate Bill 311, I was able to recommend a solution that is fiscally responsible, providing LGERS’ retirees a one-time benefit without increasing rates for the cities and counties across the state.
Our job is to keep the retirement system solvent for this and the next generation of those who teach, protect and serve -and every decision made by me, staff and the Boards of Trustees is made with a member-first mentality.
I encourage you to visit our website, myNCRetirement.com, and view Trending Topics. Here you will find important information about the October one-time supplements and other retirement matters.
Retirement is a big part of what we do at the Department of State Treasurer (DST), but did you know there are several other divisions and programs that work hard for you and others in North Carolina? DST includes the Office of State Treasurer, Retirement Systems Division, Financial Operations Division, Investment Management Division, State and Local Government Finance Division, Unclaimed Property Division (NC Cash), State Health Plan, Supplemental Retirement Plans and the NC ABLE Program. Each of these work together to make a difference for the citizens of North Carolina.
The role of the Treasurer has always had widespread influence and impact in our state. I am fortunate to have been able to accomplish many things, including reducing costs and fees, increasing transparency and making sure that this benefit is available for current and future public service employees. I stand on the shoulders of staff, Boards of Trustees and previous Treasurers who have conservatively managed the pension plan, making it one of the best funded in the world.
As we approach the holidays, people are at their most generous. We spend time with loved ones, buy gifts for each other, and strengthen our communities through charitable donations. Unfortunately, scammers know this, and they come out of the woodwork to try to take advantage of people’s generosity. Take precautions to make sure your donations go where you want and not to line some scammer’s pocket.
Before you give, do your research on the charity or organization. It’s a good idea to donate to charities that you are personally familiar with or that operate visibly in your community. If researching online, double check that the charity’s URL is legitimate by looking for a lock icon and an “https:” in the address bar. Copycat websites and apps will resemble a business’s brand name closely or have a URL that is similar to the real thing.
Don’t respond to unsolicited emails, text messages, and social media posts asking you to give. Although the cause may sound worthy of your hard-earned money, taking the time to verify an organization’s legitimacy is worth it.
Be careful of calls from charity fundraisers. Some telemarketers keep up to 90% of the money they collect for charities. Your money will go further if you give directly to the real charity, not to hired fundraisers. Also, scammers will often try to pressure you into donating. Remember that legitimate fundraisers will not push you to make a donation immediately.
If you are unsure whether a charity is the real deal, you can call my office’s Consumer Protection Division at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM to check whether the charity has complaints against it, or you can call the North Carolina Secretary of State’s office to check its license. You can also research a charity’s ratings and history using resources including the Better Business Bureau’s (BBB) Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, Charity Watch, or GuideStar.
Once you have chosen and verified a charity, it is best to pay by credit card for security and tax purposes. If you decide to pay by check, always make it out to the charity and not an individual.
For more information on common charity scams and how to avoid them, visit ncdoj.gov/charity. And if you think you or someone you know has been the victim of a scam, file a complaint with my office’s Consumer Protection Division at www.ncdoj.gov/ complaint or by phone at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM. The holiday season is a special time of year, and I hope this season brings joy to you and your loved ones.
This past March, the NC Supreme Court ruled that a vested State retiree is contractually entitled to the same retiree health care benefits that were in place at the time they vested. The NC Supreme Court ruling sends the case back to the North Carolina Superior Court for a determination of whether the State’s actions in reducing benefits was a material breach of the contract and if so, a determination of damages.
“It is time for this case to be resolved,” O’Connell stated. “Our retirees have been waiting over ten years to receive the benefits the State promised them when they became employed. I urge the State to stop delaying and do the right thing for these retirees who relied on the State’s promises.”
The case was filed in Gaston Superior Court in 2012 after the North Carolina General Assembly reduced the benefits retirees would receive in the nonpremium contributory plan. The Superior Court granted a partial summary judgment for the retirees and reserved ruling on the amount of damages.
“This case has been up and down in the trial court and appellate courts for almost 11 years,” stated Chris Whelchel of the Gastonia law firm Gray, Layton, Kersh, Solomon, Furr and Smith, one of counsel for the retirees. “We are prepared to move on with this case to make sure these retirees receive what the courts have said they deserve. Many of the 220,000 retirees affected by this case have died waiting for justice to be served.”
At the November district conferences, lobbyist Jack Cozort shared information on the case with members. You may view it below.
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