GOVERNOR SIGNS BILL, SPONSORED BY JOE ROBACH, TO ENABLE RETIRED KODAK EMPLOYEES TO PURCHASE EXPERIENCE RATED HEALTH INSURANCE COVERAGE

Joe Robach announced that the Governor signed his bill that will help provide health insurance coverage to former employees of Eastman Kodak. The new law, sponsored by Joe Robach, which was unanimously passed by both the Senate and Assembly, authorizes the Department of Financial Services to approve a demonstration program to provide experience rated health insurance coverage to retired Eastman Kodak employees. The new law takes effect immediately and has no fiscal impact on the State.

“Some of these employees have dedicated the majority of their careers to Kodak, and they should have options for their health insurance coverage,” said Governor Cuomo. “This new law will enable an insurance company to provide retired employees with the option for experience rated health insurance coverage. I thank Senator Robach and Assemblyman Morelle for their hard work on this legislation.”

This legislation establishes a health insurance demonstration program for former employees of Eastman Kodak, a company headquartered in New York State that has been in operation for over 100 years. Under the bill, Benjamin Lawsky, Superintendent of the Department of Financial Services, can authorize an insurance company to offer former employees of Kodak experience rated health coverage. This means premium rates would be based on the claims experience of the covered former employees.

Currently, New York State Insurance Law requires individual and small group health insurance policies and contracts to be community rated. A policy issued to an association group that consists of individual members of an association is considered a small group health insurance policy and must be community rated. If a group policy or contract is subject to community rating, then their premium must be the same as the premium rate charged to all other groups holding the same policy in the same region. The bill would exempt the group from being considered a small group under the Insurance Law. As such, the group health insurance policy issued does not need to be community rated during demonstration program. The former employees in the group would be able to maintain the status quo by keeping their existing package of benefits at a premium rate that is based upon the collective claims experience of that one group.

Senator Joe Robach, co-sponsor of the bill, said, “From the beginning, the goal was to try to comprehensively protect people at Kodak who could lose their health insurance before being eligible for Medicare. This legislation, which was crafted based on Kodak retirees input, will give them this protection by providing an opportunity to get coverage at a good rate from competing insurers. I thank the Governor for sharing my commitment to resolving an issue that impacts so many lives.”

Assemblyman Joseph Morelle, co-sponsor of the bill, said, “This year’s changes at Kodak have created uncertainty for thousands of former employees. We still don’t know what the impact of bankruptcy will be in terms of health care benefits, and that’s why we’ve creating a safety net to protect these hard-working people and give them the security and peace of mind they have earned. I want to thank Speaker Silver, Governor Cuomo and my colleagues in both houses for their support, and especially Senator Robach for his partnership in making this a reality.” For more information on this important new law affecting Kodak employees, contact the office of Joe Robach.

JOE ROBACH KODAK RETIREE HEALTH CARE BILL PASSES SENATE, ASSEMBLY

Joe Robach recently announced that his legislation designed to provide Eastman Kodak retirees with affordable and accessible health care has been approved by the state Assembly and Senate.

Under the new insurance model created through this legislation, insurers will competitively bid for the chance to provide coverage to retirees not yet eligible for Medicare and whose health benefits may be terminated as a result of Kodak’s bankruptcy. As members of a large pool, retirees will pay lower premiums than if they purchased individual health plans.

The newly-created Kodak pool will be insured according to the same rules that apply to all insurance products in New York State.

For generations, Kodak stood as a symbol of economic certainty for tens of thousands of workers and their families. That certainty has vanished, and Joe Robach and his colleagues in the Assembly and Senate introduced this legislation to ensure that those who gave so much to Kodak and this community will not face the future fearing for their health and financial wellbeing.

The bill has been sent to Governor Cuomo for his signature. If you have any questions about this legislation and how it will impact Kodak retirees, please contact the office of Joe Robach.

JOE ROBACH AMENDS KODAK LEGISLATION

Joe RobachAfter hearing from several constituents and Kodak retirees, Joe Robach amended his recent Kodak legislation.

Joe Robach introduced legislation (Senate Bill S.6740) which would create a health insurance demonstration program to provide group health insurance coverage for former employees of a major New York-based employer – like Kodak.  The amendment will ensure/ clarify that all insurance companies can compete to provide this coverage.

Joe Robach said “This amendment will clarify this legislation and ensure that all insurance companies can compete to provide the lowest possible cost and best possible health coverage for Kodak retirees.”

This demonstration program seeks to create a new model of health insurance that would meet the special needs of this population, at a reasonable price, while still meeting solvency requirements, benefit mandates, and other obligations required by state statute and regulation.

For questions about this Kodak bill, contact the office of Joe Robach.

JOE ROBACH KODAK RETIREE HEALTH BILL PASSES SENATE

Joe Robach (of Greece) Kodak retiree health bill passed the New York State Senate today.  The legislation passed unanimously with 61 votes.

Eastman Kodak’s filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection earlier this year has prompted much uncertainty for employees and retirees of the company. If Kodak eliminates health benefits for retirees, those who have not yet reached the age of 65 (when they qualify for Medicare) will be left uninsured.  Since their filing, Joe Robach has been working hard to address potential problems for Kodak retirees at the state level.

To this end, Joe Robach introduced legislation (Senate Bill S.6740) which would create a health insurance demonstration program to provide group health insurance coverage for former employees of a major New York-based employer.

Joe Robach said “Retirees are worried that sooner or later, they will be without the health care benefits that they previously received from Kodak.  This legislation will help put these retirees at ease by providing them a safety net and creating and approving a program to ensure continued group health coverage.”

This demonstration program seeks to create a new model of health insurance that would meet the special needs of this population, at a reasonable price, while still meeting solvency requirements, benefit mandates, and other obligations required by state statute and regulation.

This bill will now be sent to the Assembly, where Assemblyman Joe Morelle has introduced a companion bill.  For more information, contact Joe Robach’s office.

JOE ROBACH INTRODUCES NEW KODAK RETIREE BILL

Joe Robach introduced a new health insurance bill for Kodak retirees.  This bill would establish a pilot program for Kodak retirees should they lose insurance benefits in the wake of the bankruptcy.  

Today, an increasing number of New Yorkers are losing employer-based health insurance coverage due to the economy. Some of these individuals were promised continued coverage by their employer after retirement. These former employees lack access to employment-sponsored health insurance coverage and often cannot afford to purchase coverage in the private pay market.  Joe Robach knows that this is the exact situation of Kodak retirees.  So for this reason, he partnered with an Assembly colleague to introduce new legislation for Kodak retirees.  This bill is different from Joe Robach’s other Kodak retiree bill, as it would not make retirees eligible for Healthy NY but would give them insurance options from a major carrier.

Specifically, this demonstration program seeks to create a new model of health insurance that would meet the special needs of this population, at a reasonable  price,  while  still  meeting  the  solvency requirements, benefit mandates, and other obligations required  by  state  statute  and  regulation. Providing this program on a “pilot” basis affords the Department of Financial Services the ability to assess the policy ramifications of this change and the impact on other groups and the community.  This bill aims to partner with a major insurance carrier in the Rochester community.  Joe Robach knows that this bill would protect the health of Kodak retirees and their spouses should they lose health benefits.

This legislation moved out of the Senate’s Insurance Committee on April 25, 2012.  This bill will need to pass the full Senate as well as the Assembly.  For more information, contact Joe Robach’s office.

JOE ROBACH AND THE ASSOCIATION OF KODAK RETIREES

Joe Robach has always maintained a close relationship with the Association of Kodak Retirees (EKRA) which is part of the Retired Public Employees Association.  Joe Robach knows that there are thousands of Kodak retirees and their spouses living in Monroe County and that it is important that they have a line of communication to each other.  For those retired from Kodak who would like to know more about EKRA, here is some more information.

The purpose of EKRA is to provide objective pension and benefit information and alternatives to members so they can make better decisions about their financial risks and security.  According to EKRA, being a member provides you with access to the latest information regarding the impact of changes in Kodak retiree benefits.

You can join EKRA if you are: a qualified under Kodak’s retirement plan; paid-up deferred annuitants that ended their Kodak employment prior to retirement eligibility and have vested benefit accrued that they are drawing or have not yet started to draw; those vested with benefits; LTDs who might be drawing LTD benefits but will draw KRIP in the future; survivors of deceased retirees who are receiving a portion of their spouse’s KRIP benefits; and Cash Balance participants.  If people are interested in joining they should check the EKRA website.

Joe Robach has always had a vested interest in Kodak retirees and their future.   For more information on his efforts on retirees, contact Joe Robach’s office.

JOE ROBACH KODAK RETIREE BILL STILL PENDING DESPITE RECENT NEWS

At Joe Robach’s (of Rochester) Kodak forum, many retirees were concerned with the fate of health care benefits.  In recent news, Kodak decided to withdraw its motion to eliminate the Medicare Enhancement Benefits for retirees who retired after October 1, 1991.   According to EKRA, as a result of the decision, retirees do not need to find new coverage or switch right now. This means (according to Eastman Kodak Retiree Association) that May 1st is no longer the effective date for termination of Kodak sponsored health care for those who retire after 10/1/91.   Although, retirees should still become familiar with all their options just in case there is any change in this decision.    Eastman Kodak Retiree Association (EKRA) is a group of retired Kodak employees, managed entirely by volunteers, develops and provides benefit and pension information to their members.  For more information, people should check out their website (http://ekra.org/).

Kodak also filed a motion which would support the formation of a Kodak Retirees Committee.  It seems that this committee will act as the authorized representative of the retirees with respect to any future proposals to modify Retiree Medical and Survivor Benefits.    The idea of a retirees committee was discussed at length last month at a hearing before the US Bankruptcy Court in a New York City regarding Kodak’s proposed Medicare Advantage cuts.   Judge Gropper is scheduled to hold a hearing April 16 on the new retiree committee motion.

This new decision will most likely put Joe Robach’s legislation at the state level on hold for a bit.  Again, Joe Robach’s legislation would make Kodak retirees who do not yet qualify for Medicare eligible for Healthy NY in the event Kodak’s health benefits are terminated.  This legislation is pending in the New York State Senate’s Insurance Committee.  People should contact Joe Robach’s office if they need more information.

JOE ROBACH KODAK FORUM: QUESTIONS & ANSWERS (PART I)

Joe Robach Rochester NY – Joe Robach’s Kodak Forum answered many questions for retirees about Kodak’s bankruptcy. Some of the questions and answers at the forum can be found below. Please keep in mind that these answers were provided by Brighton Securities with the information that was made available to them at the time (in January).

One of the main topics at Joe Robach’s Kodak forum was “how do bankruptcy proceedings work?.” The answer (described at Joe Robach’s Kodak forum) was as follows: Chapter 11 proceedings permit a reorganization of a company’s assets and debts rather than a total liquidation of the company. Chapter 11 bankruptcy does not necessarily mean the company is going out of business. Under the monitoring by the bankruptcy court, the debtor in possession (trustee) may see loans, cancel contracts, and take other actions deemed necessary to salvage the business. Contracts that may be cancelled include labor union contracts, leases, and vendor contracts. The company’s stock will usually be delisted from the exchange on which it traded and may then trade over the counter.

Another question which kept popping up at Joe Robach’s Kodak forum, was how KRIP would be affected. The answer: KRIP is a traditional benefit plan, so there should no meaningful effect on retirees receiving regular monthly distributions. Existing retirees who are receiving monthly KRIP payments should not see a change. Future retirees may lose the option of taking lump-sum distribution, with a monthly pension payment their only choice.

At Joe Robach’s Kodak forum, there were also several questions about SIP. The information provided was that the bankruptcy should have no effect on SIP. The assets are the account holders (you), and held in an account at T. Rowe Price, and Kodak cannot use that money for corporate purposes, nor can it be claimed by Kodak’s creditors.

Joe Robach’s Kodak forum, featuring Brighton Securities, provided lots of useful information to the public about Kodak’s bankruptcy. For more information, you can contact: Joe Robach office.

JOE ROBACH INTRODUCES BILL TO HELP KODAK RETIREES

At the Kodak informational event in January sponsored by Joe Robach, one of the consistent concerns which kept popping up from the crowd was the fate of retiree health benefits in the wake of Kodak’s bankruptcy.  Many Kodak retirees are concerned that if health benefits are terminated, they will be forced to pay thousands in additional premiums or will be left with no insurance at all.   This problem is particularly concerning to those Kodak retirees who are under the age of 65 because they do not yet qualify for Medicare (Medicare is a federally sponsored health care program for US citizens over the age of 65).  After speaking with many of his constituents who are Kodak retirees, Senator Joe Robach decided to introduce legislation to address this issue at the state level.  Joe Robach introduced a bill that would make Kodak retirees, who have not yet qualified for Medicare, eligible for the Healthy NY program.   More specifically, this bill would allow those (not yet the age of 65) who were guaranteed health benefits when they retired from a company and who lost them through no fault of their own eligible for this program.  Healthy NY is a New York State program which provides reduced cost, comprehensive health insurance to eligible New Yorkers.  It should be noted that this legislation would also make retirees’ spouses and dependents eligible for Healthy NY as well.  If passed into law, this legislation would provide Kodak retirees who are fearful of losing their benefits with a health insurance safety net.  In the Senate, the bill is numbered S.6331 and has been referred to the Senate’s Committee on Insurance.     This bill is also being introduced in the Assembly.  If Kodak retirees have questions about this bill or its status, they should contact Joe Robach or someone in his office.

EASTMAN KODAK COMPANY AND JOE ROBACH

Eastman Kodak Company and Joe Robach have had a long history which began several decades ago.  Joe Robach’s father Roger Robach worked at Kodak for over 30 years before being elected to the New York State Assembly.  Roger Robach held several positions at Kodak and then ran for the Assembly in 1974 (Roger served in the New York State Assembly until he passed away in 1991).  Joe Robach also worked for the Eastman Kodak company, primarily during the summer time when he was in college at SUNY Brockport.  He also worked some time after college for Kodak on the assembly line.  It was estimated at that time that Eastman Kodak had tens of thousands of employees in the Rochester community. Now, there are around 6,000 employees in the Rochester area.

The announcement of Kodak’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing really hit hard for the community.  There was a lot of fear amongst employees regarding job security and for retirees worried about losing their Kodak sponsored health benefits, especially for those retirees who had not yet reached the age of 65. The issue, surrounding Eastman Kodak Company, was not lost on Joe Robach.

To try to put some minds at ease over the Kodak bankruptcy announcement, Joe Robach partnered with Brighton Securities – a local financial advisory group – to offer an informational session about bankruptcy filings and their potential impact on the community.   The event at the end of January was held at the Greece Community Center and it was open to all members of the public.  Over two hundred people came to the event, and they had their questions about their retirement accounts (SIP Fixed Income Fund and KRIP), health care benefits and general bankruptcy questions (particularly how proceedings work) answered to the best of the experts’ ability.  The experts also spoke about issues pertaining to stock holders, bond holders and Kodak’s debts and patents.

While Joe Robach’s informational Kodak event could not answer every question or put all retirees minds at ease, it was very successful in clearing up misinformation and was very informative.