Important Benefits Announcement 10/29/08

This was posted on the Heller Ehrman external website.  Can someone clarify whether this means those of us terminated on 10/10/2008 and 10/17/2008 are covered through November?

Update: I wanted to excerpt this from the comments since it seems to be spot on in terms of whether or not you are covered, and in what manner, if you were terminated on 10/10 or 10/17:

1) Health insurance coverage from Heller is provided on a monthly basis, and when employment is terminated (voluntarily or otherwise) you continued to be covered through the end of that calendar month.

Corollary a: Anyone terminated 10/10 or 10/17 would be covered and paid through for 10/31.

(2) For coverage to extend after the calendar month of termination, you must elect for coverage through COBRA. The firm must offer you the option of remaining covered under your current plan, so long as that plan exists.

Corollary b: Any terminated employee, to be covered from 11/1 through 11/30, must elect COBRA. In any event the cost must be borne by the employee.

Corollary c: COBRA coverage through Cigna will no longer be available after 11/30, since the plan won’t exist anymore.

Corollary d: COBRA coverage through Kaiser may continue to be available after 11/30, but Heller might not know when it will expire until 30 days beforehand.

Health Insurance

Coverage provided under our group health insurance plans with Kaiser and CIGNA remains in effect, including COBRA coverage available through those plans. Over the past month we have engaged in extensive negotiations with CIGNA that were complicated by the fact that the firm owes CIGNA a substantial amount of money. Those negotiations resulted in an agreement — reached earlier this afternoon — whereby CIGNA consented to continue health insurance coverage in force for all plan participants but only through November 30, 2008. We do not expect CIGNA to agree to continued coverage on a group basis beyond that date. Termination of the CIGNA plan effective November 30, 2008 will result in termination of COBRA coverage for CIGNA plan participants effective on that date, as well as termination of coverage for the spouses/partners of retired shareholders insured through CIGNA effective on that date.

If you are insured under the CIGNA group health insurance plan you will receive a separate formal communication from the firm announcing the termination of the CIGNA coverage. That communication will also outline health insurance options available to you, including options potentially available to you for converting your CIGNA coverage to an individual policy, as well as options available to you under HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996).

The Kaiser group health insurance plan remains in force. We are not able to predict at this time whether or when that plan might terminate, but under the plan Kaiser is obligated to provide the firm with at least 30 days notice of its intent to terminate coverage. We will promptly advise all Kaiser participants in the event we receive such termination notice.

Retirement Plans

We are pleased to report that the work required to “unfreeze” the Heller Ehrman LLP 401(k) Retirement Savings and Profit Sharing Plan has been completed. You will be able to take a distribution from the Plan beginning Friday, October 31. With the exception of a small Vanguard record-keeping fee ($3.75), no costs or fees associated with the Plan have been assessed against participant accounts.

All participants are required to take a distribution by November 30. If you wish to pay off all or part of a loan before taking a distribution, please visit http://www.hellerehrman.com for the loan payoff form and instructions. You will receive a more formal announcement of this information from the Plan Administrator.

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20 Responses to “Important Benefits Announcement 10/29/08”


  1. 1 dob 30 October 2008 at 12:35 pm

    My understanding is that:

    (1) Health insurance coverage from Heller is provided on a monthly basis, and when employment is terminated (voluntarily or otherwise) you continued to be covered through the end of that calendar month.

    Corollary a: Anyone terminated 10/10 or 10/17 would be covered and paid through for 10/31.

    (2) For coverage to extend after the calendar month of termination, you must elect for coverage through COBRA. The firm must offer you the option of remaining covered under your current plan, so long as that plan exists.

    Corollary b: Any terminated employee, to be covered from 11/1 through 11/30, must elect COBRA. In any event the cost must be borne by the employee.

    Corollary c: COBRA coverage through Cigna will no longer be available after 11/30, since the plan won’t exist anymore.

    Corollary d: COBRA coverage through Kaiser may continue to be available after 11/30, but Heller might not know when it will expire until 30 days beforehand.

    Agree? Disagree?

  2. 2 HELLish 30 October 2008 at 2:12 pm

    By Nate Raymond
    The American Lawyer

    Subscribe to The American Lawyer

    The former chairman of Heller Ehrman has finally found a new home.

    Matthew Larrabee, the former head of the now-dissolved Heller, will join Dechert’s San Francisco office, the firm announced today. He’ll practice in the litigation group.

    “Dechert’s litigation practice is recognized as one of the best in the country,” Larrabee said in a statement. “I have had the privilege of knowing and working with many of Dechert’s trial lawyers and I feel fortunate to be joining such an outstanding team.”

    Larrabee moved into the San Fransisco office today, though a partnership vote on Larrabee officially joining is still underway, a spokeswoman says. The vote will take one to two weeks to complete, the spokeswoman says.

    Larrabee, 53, took the reins of Heller Ehrman in 2004 when the firm’s popular chairman at the time, Barry Levin, came up against term limits. Larrabee was reelected to the chairman’s post in January, despite the departure of several partners and a downturn in firm finances. As more partners continued to decamp, Larrabee spent much of the last year trying to arrange a white-knight merger with such firms as Baker & McKenzie, Winston & Strawn, and Mayer Brown before partners voted to dissolve Heller.

    At Dechert, Larrabee will practice in the white collar and securities litigation group, with an understanding that he can cross over into other areas such as class action and antitrust, a spokeswoman says.

    “Matt’s experience is unusually diverse,” Dechert chairman Barton Winokur said in a statement. “Perhaps most importantly, Matt will provide yet another highly experienced and sophisticated first chair litigator to Dechert’s already impressive group of trial lawyers. I think everyone would agree that Matt is one of the most respected trial attorneys in the nation and we welcome him to the firm.”

  3. 3 Observer 30 October 2008 at 6:06 pm

    If you have been on CIGNA coverage, I would check with them directly before assuming that you have to move to COBRA coverage between now and Nov. 30. dob’s reading of the situation has logic, but doesn’t make much practical sense (a bunch of people move to COBRA via CIGNA only to have to move again to HIPAA within a few weeks?). If you are off CIGNA coverage, you should have got a formal notice either from the firm or CIGNA directed personally to you. And that notice should have told you what your options, and their timing, are.

    I haven’t been on CIGNA, so this isn’t precisely my situation. But it’s very important for those who are, so check with your insurer.

  4. 4 Maria Cusmille, CFP 30 October 2008 at 6:32 pm

    Health Insurance:

    Given that group plan has disbanded, COBRA is not option. For the state of California, ex- employees have the following options:
    1). Buy a Health Net Short Term plan or Anthem Blue Short Term. The deductibles/ rates vary and are subject to limited underwriting.

    2. Buy a HIPPA plan from any of the carriers which offer a plan. Anthem Blue Cross, Blue Shield and Aetna have plans; however, prices vary. This would be a guaranteed issued plan (not subject to underwriting) and you could not be declined assuming you have a). a certificate of creditable coverage from CIGNA show 18 months of coverage ( you can call the customer service dept. and get them to email you a copy); and, b). letter on company letterhead sign by a person within the firm stating “no COBRA is offered due to the company disbanding and no longer operating as a group plan”.

    3). Apply for an individual insurance plan. This would take up to 10 business days and is subject to underwriting.

    You can apply directly with the insurance company or though an agent. The plan price will be same either way. If you go through agent, make sure they are an agent all state carriers.

    If I can help you in anyway, please call me at 805-444-8889 or email at mariacfp@sbcglobal.net.

    Maria Cumsille, Certified Financial Planner®
    Managing risk through the effective use of insurance.
    Insurance Specialist
    CA LIC. # OE16215
    Health, Life, and Long Term

  5. 5 Need Insurance Advice 30 October 2008 at 6:37 pm

    I have CIGNA. I spoke with PayFlex the COBRA carrier for Heller. PayFlex has Heller as a client, but didn’t have my name. According to PayFlex Heller has 30 days after terminating an employee to notify PayFlex of the names of terminated employees. PayFlex then has 7-14 days to send information to the employee. According to PayFlex, COBRA coverage will be retroactive to Nov. 1. You must exhaust COBRA before you can apply for coverage under HIPAA. Even though this process doesn’t make practical sense, I believe this is the process. By way of background, if you call CIGNA, they have an incorrect number on file for PayFlex. The correct number is 800-284-4885.

  6. 6 Observer 30 October 2008 at 7:21 pm

    Hasn’t Ms. Cumille jumped the gun a little on the timing? The CIGNA plan has not yet terminated, even though the date when it will do so is known.

    I continue to think you should speak with CIGNA as to your personal status, if CIGNA has been your health carrier.

  7. 7 Maria Cusmille, CFP 30 October 2008 at 9:51 pm

    You may apply for a HIPPA plan in California if your ex-employer doesn’t offer COBRA benefits because the employer’s group plan has disbanded.You must apply within 63 days of your coverage loss. HIPPA plans are the top selling plans for each carrier. You are a guaranteed issue; however, choose a plan you can live because you can’t apply to another HIPPA unless you have another qualifing event.

    For a insurance carrier to offer COBRA to its ex-employees, the business must be an ongoing concern and each employee would get 18 months by simply electing their COBRA options. The ex-employer can administor their COBRA benefits its self or contract a COBRA company to comply with the federal COBRA law.

    I suggest watching your mailbox because you should get written notice of your options.

    As far calling CIGNA, that might not yield the correct answer. For groups of over 20 employees, the employer is responsible for COBRA benefits.

    If you are going to another position with benefits and those benefits start prior to the end of your current benefits, this may be a non-issue. However, I suggest researching your options to avoid undo stress.

    Maria Cumsille, Certified Financial Planner®
    Managing risk through the effective use of insurance.
    Insurance Specialist
    CA LIC. # OE16215
    Health, Life, and Long Term Care
    Office # 805-444-8889
    Email: mariacfp@sbcglobal.net

  8. 8 Observer 31 October 2008 at 12:58 am

    Ms. Cumsille’s additional comments make it fairly clear that you should check with Payflex about the availability, or not, of COBRA in our circs. Somebody in another thread posted the current Payflex phone no., but I don’t have it.

    As she, and I, have pointed out, HIPAA coverage is guaranteed acceptance. (Pre-existing conditions, your current health — don’t matter) It can be expensive, though.

  9. 9 Observer 31 October 2008 at 3:20 am

    from another poster:

    “if you call CIGNA, they have an incorrect number on file for PayFlex. The correct number is 800-284-4885.”

  10. 10 Anon2 31 October 2008 at 9:55 pm

    Did everyone see the updated Heller page today – 10/31? Now it says Kaiser coverage terminated today 10/31. Typical bulls*** communication!! One day we have coverage. Next day – oops – your coverage ends today, in spite of yesterday’s message that we would have at least 30 days notice. I am so sick of being whipped around here. Terminated by email with 7 hrs notice and losing health benefits in 3 hours notice.

  11. 11 Take Action 1 November 2008 at 12:29 am

    Anon2: Give the class-action lawyers a call. I know from first-hand interaction that they’re smart and feisty. We can’t expect Heller management to do the right thing without real advocates working for us.

  12. 12 Mary Sunshine 1 November 2008 at 10:06 am

    Anon2 – My understanding is that both the Kaiser & CIGNA plans are still in effect for the month of November, but if you want to continue your coverage past Oct. 31 you have to take and pay for COBRA.

  13. 13 Need Insurance Advice 1 November 2008 at 2:37 pm

    I agree with Mary Sunshine. Plus, if you have CIGNA and elect COBRA and want coverage after Nov 30, you need to go out and get it privately (and do it now because the application process takes 1-3 weeks). If you have a pre-existing condition you should probably apply for insurance under HIPAA. I have been reading the HIPAA rules carefully lately and am not an expert, but understand that to be eligible for HIPAA you need to have had employer insurance most recently, you need to exhaust COBRA and you need to apply under HIPAA within 63 days (though I am not sure when the 63 days starts ticking). I am submitting my insurance application under HIPAA next week.

  14. 14 Observer 1 November 2008 at 3:21 pm

    63 days window to get HIPAA starts when your COBRA coverage ends.
    HIPAA rules are somewhat difficult to decode; the Cal Dept of Insurance web site has useful info and some useful further links.
    I agree you should start the process well ahead, though.

    I was on HIPAA for a couple of years in the past; not cheap, but no fuss whatever about past medical history, no medical exam to get on, etc. Coverage for my spouse too.

  15. 15 Hellboy 2 November 2008 at 2:23 pm

    Can anyone explain the 10/30/2008 Notice to Participants and Beneficiaries under the Heller Ehrman LLP Floor Pension Plan? I thought HEWM discontinued the pension fund…

  16. 16 NB 2 November 2008 at 4:31 pm

    Hellboy, do you have a copy of what pension plan notice you are talking about? Haven’t seen such an item.

  17. 17 Hellboy 2 November 2008 at 6:42 pm

    It references Heller Ehrman LLP Floor Pension Plan No. 007 – Contact Carol Budinger 772-6187. Plan termination 12/31/08. (“Benefits did not accrue for 2008”). I don’t have an electronic copy.

  18. 18 anon2 2 November 2008 at 10:30 pm

    Hellboy, I believe this pension plan is for attorneys only – don’t know why they bother to send this to all staff – like, who cares? This is not something that relates to us anyway. Sheez. Give us something we want to know – like VSP coverage? or how about WageWorks transportation expenses, like parking? Now that is something I would like to know.

  19. 19 Another Former Associate 3 November 2008 at 10:37 am

    Actually, unless it relates to the 401(k), I don’t think it even relates to the associates.

  20. 20 anon2 14 November 2008 at 11:56 pm

    I finally got my Cobra packet today – Nov. 14. It had a premium amount for Kaiser and something called HDHP. Of course there was no information about VSP. But I got lucky when Cheryl Vance (firmwide benefits) returned my phone call! She said the HDHP is an error anda to ignore it. She said if I want to include VSP coverage, to write it in and the monthly fee is about 8 bucks. I just ordered new glasses – wow, are they expensive nowadays – and my savings with VSP was about 50%. So I definitely needed to have VSP coverage at least through Nov. 30. If anyone else is interested in keeping VSP, just write it in and the cost for one month (single) is $8.12.


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