2023 payment rates confirmed for H&W plans

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (Nov. 8, 2022) — Late last week, members of the Cooperating Railway Labor Organizations (CRLO) and the National Carriers’ Conference Committee (NCCC) convened to review and renew the payment rates for the nationally negotiated health & welfare plans including medical, dental, vision, and life/accidental death & dismemberment (AD&D) benefits.

Prior to last week’s meetings, SMART-TD and BLET mailed ratification ballots to eligible members who are covered under the above plans. If ratified, the agreement would restore the 15% monthly employee cost-sharing contribution (based on the monthly payment rates set annually) that was included in the past three National Agreements. The Tentative Agreement also would provide additional benefits for hearing, speech therapy, and autism-related therapies that are not currently covered by the plans. There are no other H&W cost increases in the Tentative Agreement.

Accordingly, SMART-TD and BLET members are advised that the following payment rates (and monthly employee cost-sharing contribution rate, if ratified) will become effective January 1, 2023:

BenefitMonthly Payment Rate
Medical + Rx (non-hospital association rate)$1,972.43
Dental$68.50
Vision$8.16
Life/AD&D Coverage$12.30
Total$2,061.39
15% Cost-Sharing Contribution (proposed)$309.21
Note that the above payment rates do not include costs for on-duty coverage or other administrative costs that are paid 100% by the carriers

The above confirmed payment rates, and therefore the proposed monthly employee cost-sharing contribution rate, came in lower than the previously provided estimates, which projected the 2023 monthly employee cost-sharing contribution rate to be $319.00. As further information, as part of the last National Agreement, the monthly employee cost-sharing contribution rate has been frozen at $228.89 since July of 2016. Had that freeze not been in effect, the 15% monthly employee cost-sharing contribution rates would have been as follows;

2016: $228.89

2017: $261.37

2018: $245.07

2019: $248.59

2020: $248.59

2021: $262.10

2022: $287.46

The 2023 15% monthly employee cost-sharing contribution rate of $309.21 represents a $21.75 increase over 15% of the 2022 premium rate, had the 15% monthly cost sharing not been capped in the last National Agreement. The Tentative Agreement under consideration now includes a similar cap that takes effect at end of 2024 and that cap is an improvement over the recommendations of the Presidential Emergency Board.

Voting on the 2022 Tentative Agreement will remain open until 11:59 p.m. on Nov. 20, 2022. Tabulation is set to occur and results will be announced on November 21.

“Your Track to Health,” the web portal that distributes national railroad health and welfare plan information to SMART Transportation Division members, has added a new shorter URL for members to access.
To get the latest info on these railroad H&W plan offerings, TD members can go to either www,yourtracktohealth.com or to the shortened www.ytth.com in their web browsers as an alternative. Both addresses lead to the same site.
On the site, a page, “NEW BENEFITS FOR 2018: WHAT’S IMPORTANT TO KNOW”, presents healthcare modifications that accompany the new National Rail Agreement that was ratified by members last year.
Among the features:

  • An overview of benefits grid which outlines Medical and Prescription Drug benefit details;
  • A Summary of Benefits and Coverage (SBC) lookup option, which will let members know whether their benefits have changed and will take them to the applicable SBC; and
  • Links to access the Summary of Material Modification (SMM) Letters that were sent to members of the Railroad Employees National Health and Welfare Plan and the National Railway Carriers and United Transportation Union (NRC/UTU) Health and Welfare Plan.

Registration on the “Your Track to Health” site also allows members to access and make changes to their benefits and coverage, get contact information for benefits providers and provides healthy living tips.

healthcarenews2Rail labor organizations and rail management through the National Carriers Conference Committee have reached an accord to extend medical, dental and vision benefits to same-sex couple spouses, effective Jan. 1, 2014.

The plans affected are the National Railway Carriers/UTU Health and Welfare Plan, the Railroad Employees National Health and Welfare Plan, the Early Retirement Health and Welfare Plan, the Railroad Employees’ National Dental Plan and the Railroad Employees National Vision Plan.

The NCCC states that there is no requirement under applicable law or under the current collective bargaining agreement to provide this coverage, but the change was agreed upon based on recent changes to federal law allowing same-sex couples to access federal tax benefits provided to other married couples.

Railroads participating in the aforementioned health care plans will be announcing these changes on their company websites and will notify employees in the near future by mail.

The announcement comes one day after a lawsuit was filed Dec. 3 in U.S. District Court in Seattle that said same-sex spouses were routinely denied medical coverage. The employees filing the suit worked for BNSF Railway.

SMART Transportation Division President John Previsich said the parties had recently concluded the discussions to extend benefits to same sex married couples, and formal announcement was on hold pending the resolution of final details. That announcement was moved up, said Previsich, to inform affected members and avoid unnecessary litigation on the matter.

The Seattle lawsuit was filed by two engineers – one man and one woman – and their same-sex spouses. It says BNSF had a “stated policy” that “one man and one woman” is what constitutes marriage. “BNSF does not get to judge what marriage is,” the suit said.

BNSF, which is owned by Omaha’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc., said the matter was properly handled through the National Railway Labor Conference, which could have handled it either through collective bargaining or, as it did, via the governing committee.

“This was the correct way to deal with the issue, as our prior statement indicated,” said Steve Forsberg, BNSF’s director of external relations. “Changes to the plan must come through the collective bargaining process or through the plan’s governing committee because the agreement involves multiple employers and multiple unions.”

Spouses of salaried employees in same-sex unions, Forsberg said, are eligible for health care coverage if they were married in a state where such marriages are legal. Such unions are not legal in Nebraska, where BNSF employs about 5,000 people.

The summary plan description booklets for both the National Railway Carriers and UTU Health and Welfare Plan (NRC/UTU) and the Railroad Employees’ National Health and Welfare Plan are now available on the SMART TD website.
Both booklets give information on the Comprehensive Health Care Benefit (CHCB); the Managed Medical Care Program (MMCP); the Mental Health/Substance Abuse Benefit (MH/SA), the Managed Pharmacy Services Benefit (MPSB), plus additional information on all aspects of the medical benefit plans covering railroad operating employees and their eligible dependents.
All employees should have received a copy of the applicable plan book in the mail; this web posting provides an alternate source for this important information.
Click here to be directed to the NRC/UTU booklet; click here to be directed to the National Health and Welfare plan book.