Deadline moved back for proof of retirees' dependent eligibility

Deadline moved back for proof of retirees' dependent eligibility

In response to recent concerns raised by state retirees, the deadline for retirees to submit proof of dependent eligibility to a state contractor has been pushed back due to the protracted federal government shutdown.

Late last month, the state launched the Dependent Eligibility Verification Audit, or DEVA, to make sure dependents covered under four of the state's different health insurance plans were eligible to receive health benefits.

The first batch of letters went out to retirees on Sept. 30 and informed them they must provide certain information, such as a federal tax transcript, to prove their dependents' eligibility, by Oct. 25. The state recently extended the deadline to Dec. 6. Members do not need to request an extension prior to Oct. 25, according to the state.

Earlier this year, the state hired HMS Employer Solutions of Jeffersonville, Ind., through a bid process, to conduct the eligibility check. HMS Employer Solutions is a subsidiary of HMS Holdings of Irving, Texas. The firm will be paid $360,000 over three years for the work, according to Anjali Julka, spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Central Management Services.

CMS did not run an estimated savings calculation and Julka said she would not want to speculate on how much the state expected to save by verifying approximately 183,000 dependents. In the past the state has come across spouses and dependents who should no longer be carried on a plan, she said.

To prove eligibility for dependents, members will have to provide a number of documents to HMS. For example, for a spouse, the member needs to provide a copy of the front page of his or her 2012 federal tax return, plus a document, such as a property tax statement or bank statement, within the last 60 days showing the couple's current relationship status. To prove eligibility of a child, a copy of the birth or adoption certificate should be supplied or a copy of the court order naming the member as the legal guardian.

Because of the federal shutdown, some members of the Illinois Retired Teachers Association and State Universities Annuitants Association contacted staff in those offices with concerns about obtaining copies of IRS forms that thay may not already have in their possession.

"Because of the federal shutdown, they were unable to get through to the IRS and get the document the state was looking for," said Jim Bachman, executive director of the Illinois Retired Teachers Association. He said his members welcomed the extension.

But there also have been some concerns expressed about the request itself for members to provide all this documentation.

"People were confused. I don't think some understood why there had to be such an invasive amount of information asked for," said Linda Brookhart, executive director at the State Universities Annuitants Association. Especially when seniors often read or hear on television that they should guard their personal information, such as credit card numbers, she said.

"I've gotten a lot of calls (from SUAA members) just making sure HMS is a legitimate company," Brookhart said.

"People are also asking, 'Why do they think I'm dishonest?' It's not that they think you're dishonest. They're doing this for everyone," she said.

Those who will be affected by the audit are members of the State Employees Group Insurance Program, College Insurance Program, Teachers Retirement Insurance Program and Local Government Health Plan. As of Sept. 30, there were a total of 265,114 members; 104,515 of them had dependents, according to Julka.

Later this fall, HMS is expected to send letters to current state employees, excluding those who work at state universities. The last group to undergo the audit will be state university employees. The mailing date for those letters is planned for Jan. 22, 2014.

According to CMS, when supplying a tax form or credit card statement, people can black out information such as income and account numbers.

People can mail the documentation to HMS or they can upload the items to a secure website; its address is provided to members in the mailing.

Also according to the state, all documents will be securely stored for six months after the audit. HMS will destroy documents and electronic files and a certificate of that destruction will be sent to the state.

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