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UPDATED (03/29/16): Furloughed members: FAQs about medical benefits

By SMART -TD | Feb 24, 2016

Members who have been furloughed should be aware that their health care coverage benefits from their employer extends through the end of the fourth month after being furloughed. Below are Frequently Asked Questions that may be useful to our furloughed members.

Q. After an employee is recalled from furlough how many starts will be required to re-establish Health and Welfare Benefits?

A. If an employee returns to work from furlough, suspension, dismissal or disability (including pregnancy), or commences work as a new hire, at a time during a
   month when there is not an opportunity to render compensated service on at least seven calendar days during that month, the employee will be deemed to
   have satisfied the seven-day rule, provided that he/she is available to work, or actually works, every available work opportunity during that month.
 
 
 Ex. 1 - Employee is recalled from furlough on May 10th and is placed on the extra board. Employee stays marked up and makes 4 starts before being furloughed again on    May 17th. Employee did not have the required 7 starts but did not lay off before being furloughed again. The employee and dependants will have their health and   welfare benefits for an additional 4 months.

 Ex. 2 - Employee is recalled from furlough on May 10th and is placed on the extra board. Employee makes 4 starts and lays off sick once before being furloughed again   on May 17th. Employee did not have the required 7 starts but did lay off before being furloughed again. The employee and his dependants will not have their health   benefits reestablished because the employee did not have the required 7 starts or stay available before being furloughed again. Additionaly if the employee had any   balance of time left for Health and Welfare before being recalled from furlough that employee will forfeit the remainder of time left.

Q: How long does my insurance coverage last if I am furloughed?
A: Employee and eligible dependent coverage extends through the end of the fourth month following the month in which you last render compensated service. For example, an employee last rendering compensated service in January, who is then furloughed in February, will have coverage extended through the end of May.

Q: Will vacation pay extend coverage beyond four months?
A: With regard to furlough – no.

Q: Will I be able to continue coverage under COBRA when coverage for me and/or my dependents end?
A: The COBRA eligibility period (18, 29 or 36 months) is measured from the date of the “qualifying event.” For the health and welfare plans, the “qualifying event” is the date you last worked, NOT the date your coverage ends.

The COBRA eligibility period, therefore, runs concurrently with the extended coverage as state above so that COBRA continuation is available for the remaining months, if any, after the extended coverage ends.

For example – An employee is furloughed in January and coverage extends through May. COBRA continuation is available beginning June 1 and thereafter for an additional 13 months. In these circumstances, no more than 18 months of COBRA is available, less the five months during which the employee remained covered by the Plan after the qualifying event in January.

Q: How will I be notified that COBRA is available to me and/or my dependents?
A: When the railroad reports an employee as not being eligible for benefits, a COBRA notice is automatically sent to the employee’s address of record. The form must be completed and returned to UnitedHealthcare in a timely manner in order to establish COBRA coverage.

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For other benefits that furloughed members may be eligible for click on the following links:

http://utu.org/2015/07/24/furloughed-members-may-be-entitled-to-benefits/

http://www.utu.org/worksite/newspdfs/2015/October_2015_TD_News_center_final.pdf

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It should be noted by all furloughed members that it is your responsibility to keep your contact information up-to-date not only with your employer, but also with your union. This includes your phone number, mailing address and email address.