After working at U.S. telecom giant AT&T for 20 years, Dean Ramsey faced retirement unsure what the next stage of his life might bring – and how he would manage his health care.
“I was suddenly faced with challenges I’d never faced before,” Dean said. “I work with people. I love being with people and I’m good at that. But when I’ve got to sit down at a desk and do paperwork, I’m not in my element. It was scary.”
Dean’s story is similar to that of many people approaching retirement. Across the world, health care costs are rising, and they often fall disproportionately on retirees. Many people in retirement live on their own, on a fixed income, and face more frequent health challenges than others – especially when it comes to chronic illnesses.
A recent survey by the U.S. National Council on Aging (NCOA) found that 24 percent of Americans aged 60 or over are worried that their income will fail to meet their monthly living expenses over the next five to 10 years. Naturally, at a vulnerable time in a person’s life, the cost of health care is a particular worry.
Medicare, the U.S. government’s health insurance system for retirees, is complex. And although some elements are free-of-charge to those who have made sufficient contributions during their years of employment, it is not comprehensive. The system leaves many needing to make additional financial contributions to make up the shortfall.
Luckily for Dean, his years of employment at AT&T provided him with a safety net. AT&T subsidizes healthcare for over a million of its employees, retirees and their families. This puts the company in a position of great responsibility when it comes to guaranteeing the welfare of its beneficiaries. “One out of every 300 Americans is eligible for an AT&T healthcare program,” says Ben Jackson, Assistant Vice President, Health & Welfare Operations, AT&T.
Providing insurance to retirees is one thing, but insurance marketplaces are not always easy to navigate, with people often facing an enormous number of care options to choose from. “Health care is becoming more complex, more expensive and more confusing for most people, especially for older adults,” says Jim Firman, President and CEO of the NCOA.
To many retirees, the health care system may seem overwhelming. “Employees and retirees might have little in the way of available information about how they select, how they use, and quite often how they purchase health care,” says Diana Robinson, Executive Vice President, Aon. Mindful of these challenges, AT&T’s leadership was determined to create a better retirement for its employees, and empower their decision-making.
Aon’s solution is the Aon Retiree Health Exchange. The exchange creates a private health care marketplace for AT&T’s retirees, giving them the chance to choose a health care plan that suits their needs and circumstances – enabling them to shop around and save money.
In the Aon Retiree Health Exchange, each AT&T retiree receives a fixed subsidy from their employer. “Retirees can purchase a plan using a fixed-dollar amount from their employer. The exchange allows individuals to choose between a broad array of coverage choices to find a plan that works for them,” explains Robinson.
Retirees are assigned a dedicated Benefit Advisor to be their personal advocate and assistant within the new exchange. The advisor is a guide with detailed knowledge of health insurance, helping retirees make informed decisions and providing unparalleled peace of mind for people entering a complex and unfamiliar market.
Dean says the benefits of the exchange are not just practical: “Aon made it a whole lot easier for me to find a health care plan that works for me. But stating it that way is an understatement, it was more than just getting the job done – it was the way it made me feel.”
With the Aon exchange, every time a retiree calls up for advice about their benefits, they speak to the same advisor, who helps them find the cover that is right for their needs and shops around to save money on their plan.
“What I love about this is that it puts the retiree back in the driver’s seat,” says Robinson. “It empowers them to make decisions that are probably of the utmost importance in their lives and their families lives, and helps them select medical care that meets all of their needs.”
The Aon Retiree Health Exchange enables AT&T’s employees to begin their retirement with a wealth of health care options, and a personal advisor to help them find the plan that’s right for them.
Dean formed a strong relationship with his Benefit Advisor, Tom: “He’s given me his phone number and he said ‘I’m your guy from now on.’ And you don’t know what that feels like when you’re old, and there is nobody in your life that’s your guy from now on. And here AT&T have hired a company to be my guy.”
AT&T began enrolling retirees in the exchange in October 2014. But first, they launched a massive communications campaign to explain to their 230,000+ retirees how it would make their lives easier. Aon and AT&T embarked on a nation-wide roadshow visiting over 30 cities to meet with retirees, and offering them all a one-on-one appointment – over the phone – to discuss the new plan. “Over 30,000 people took up the offer to meet face-to-face,” says Jackson.
With Aon and AT&T’s help, Dean was able to navigate the retiree claims process with ease – and he can now enjoy his retirement safe in the knowledge he can access the health care and advice that he needs. With a smile, Dean summed up the difference the exchange has made to his retirement: “Aon made it a whole lot easier for me to find a health care plan that works for me,” Dean said. “Aon, combined with AT&T, have made my next 20 or 30 years very easy for me to look forward to.”