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Tracking Qwest Retiree Health Care Costs

While those who retired from US West before 1991 are protected from changes in their health care benefits, those who retired after 1990 are not protected.  Qwest has begun shifting health care costs to the retirees, first to Post-1990 Management Retirees, and more recently to Post-1990 Occupational Retirees.  AUSWR CO/WY has been tracking health care costs for these groups, and the data are shown on these web pages.

Post-1990 Management Retirees

Caps announced

In the fall of 2006, Qwest announced caps on what they pay for Post-1990 Management Retiree health care benefits. Starting with the retiree health care benefits for 2007, it capped the amount that the Company would pay toward the monthly premiums at the amount that the Company had paid in 2006.

Cap amounts

Qwest supplied this document showing its cap amounts for different categories of retirees.

Note: The document includes monthly Dental caps, and we have not tried to track dental costs. Our tracking has been of medical costs only.

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To find your own category, first go to the column that describes you.  For example, if you the retiree are on Medicare, you are in the second column – Medicare (65+).  Next, go down to the row that describes the coverage you are buying. For example, if you are buying coverage for yourself and your spouse, who is also on Medicare, then go down to the second row – Single+1(Medicare).  The Qwest cap for you is $290/month.  If your spouse is not on Medicare, go down to the third row – Single+1(Non-Medicare).

The way the cap works, the premium cost is estimated for the coming year, Qwest pays its part up to the cap, and the retiree pays the rest. Each medical plan has its own monthly premium, so the amount you pay depends on the plan you choose.


Since 2006, we have asked Post-90 Management members to send in the cost information contained in their open enrollment packages so that we can track the manner in which Qwest is implementing these caps and what effect this is having on retirees.  The following charts show the data members have been sending us.  The majority of them are on United HealthCare Preferred Provider Option (UHC PPO). We have also received some data for other plans, Kaiser, United Health Care Consumer-Directed Health Care (UHC CDHP/HDHP) and Lovelace (New Mexico). A table of acronyms is given below. We do not have data for all years for all plans in all categories. 

So far, we have been able to compile data from 2006 through 2009.  The year-to-year changes are shown on the following charts.  There is one chart for each retiree category for each health plan.

Here are some things to keep in mind as you look at the charts.

·    This information is for monthly premiums only.  Each plan also has deductibles, co-pays and/or co-insurance that add to your costs as you use the plan. We have no way of knowing how much people actually are paying for those additional costs.

·    The Qwest costs are estimated a year in advance.  The retiree costs are real. They are the monthly premiums that are actually paid.

·    The UHC CDHP/HDHP plans have much higher deductibles than the other plans, and so the  monthly premiums are generally lower than the other plans.  We have found that, if you use the plan enough to pay the entire deductible, then your monthly premiums plus deductible for UHC CDHP/HDHP are about equal to the monthly premiums plus deductible of the UHC PPO plan.

·    Qwest costs are lower for people who are on Medicare, so the caps are also lower.

·    For retirees who are on Medicare, we haven’t tried to take into account the monthly premium they pay to Medicare. Nor have we taken into account the amount that Qwest reimbursed these retirees for their Medicare premium. 

The Data

The following is a list of all of the categories of data we have collected so far.  Go to the category you want to look at and click on the plan you want to look at. This will take you to the chart containing the data we have so far for that category and plan. If you want to print the chart, you need to print it in color. We suggest you bookmark any chart you would like to keep track of.  If you see gaps in the data that you can fill, please send your information to:

Barbara Wilcox                    or                            Inez Lucero                                   



      Non-Medicare Eligible

            UHC PPO

            UHC CDHP/HDHP


      Medicare Eligible

            UHC PPO



      Both Non-Medicare Eligible

            UHC PPO

            UHC CDHP/HDHP



      One Non-Medicare and One Medicare

            UHC PPO

            UHC CDHP/HDHP


      Both Medicare Eligible

            UHC PPO

            UHC CDHP/HDHP



      All Non-Medicare Eligible

            UHC PPO

            UHC CDHP/HDHP


      One Medicare Eligible

            UHC PPO


      All Medicare Eligible

            UHC PPO

What Have We Learned So Far?

It is hard to make any sweeping conclusions from these data, because the cost patterns are different for different retiree groups and for different health plans. Also, few retirees are on Family plans, and we don’t have enough Family data to show trends over time. The patterns are clearest for retirees enrolled in United HealthCare’s PPO plan, which probably has the highest number of retirees enrolled.

The retirees who are shouldering the highest premium increases are those who are not yet eligible for Medicare. (Single, Non-Medicare, UHC PPO; Single Plus One, Both Non-Medicare, UHC PPO).

Medicare-eligible retirees, on the other hand, have had either no premium increases or small increases. (Single, Medicare, UHC PPO; Single Plus One, Both Medicare, UHC PPO) Total costs for these retirees on Medicare actually dropped from 2006 to 2008, but Qwest did not reduce the premium that these retirees paid.  This is consistent with what Qwest said it would do in the document shown above. Retirees who are on Medicare have to pay Medicare premiums, which are on the increase.  Furthermore, starting in 2009, Qwest will no longer reimburse Medicare premiums to post-90 management retirees. 

Our conclusion? Total health care costs have been going up for most, if not all, post-90 management retirees.

Post-1990 Occupational Retirees

In 2008, the new contract between CWA and Qwest included provisions for Post-1990 Occupational Retirees to begin paying monthly premiums for their health care in 2009.  The CWA-Qwest Corporation Final Bargaining Report 2008 gives the schedule of premiums 2008-2011.  We have asked members who are post-1990 occupational retirees to send us cost information from their 2009 open enrollment packages so that we can begin tracking the retiree and Qwest costs for these retirees. Charts representing the Post 90 Occupational retirees’ data is still a work in progress, and we anticipate it being available after the first of the year.

Acronyms and Abbreviations

CDHP       Consumer Directed Health Plan – UHC Choice Plus Network.                      In 2009, the name of this plan was changed to High 
                    Deductible Health Plan (HDHP).

HDHP        High Deductible Health Plan – UHC Choice Plus Network,
                    previously the Consumer Directed Health Plan (CDHP).

PPO           Preferred Provider Option – UHC Choice Plus Network

Kaiser        Kaiser-Permanente Health Maintenance Organization (HMO)

LoveLace   A plan offered only in New Mexico

UHC           United HealthCare.  Please note that all UHC plans listed above
                   are subject to In-Network and Out-of-Network charges
                   as defined by the UHC Choice Plus Network.


If you are able to fill in any gaps in what is in the charts, please send the information to us. Please send data, questions and comments to:

Barbara Wilcox                                                Inez Lucero                                   




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