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LTD / Cobra

Jeff Louwers's picture
on May 3, 2012 - 8:20am
Blue Pilot Fund Participants, The Trustees recently passed an interim amendment to the Charter allowing aid to those pilots on their first 18 months of Long Term Disability while also experiencing an increase in health care costs due to a transition to COBRA insurance premiums. The amount of aid is based on pilot-wide BPF participation levels. That scale and all details of this new program can be seen in the “Amendment 12J” attachment. Thank you for the overwhelmingly number of positive comments but there were two main concerns about this new idea. The following is admittedly like Roots and Winds of War combined, but we took all comments seriously and want to answer the most common ones in full. There was indeed one major change to the initially proposed idea based on feedback. LTD / COBRA Aid Feedback Issue #2 The second most pressing concern, in terms of volume of responses, was that someone who truly didn’t need the aid would receive it. As we mentioned previously, that is possible but we expect it to be an extreme rarity. Our cursory analysis is that, for over 95% of the pilot group, a pilot on 60% or 66 2/3% of normal pay and also spending as much as $1000 more in monthly health care costs (depending on size of family) would not be able to laugh all that off without serious penny pinching. The reason we don’t want to evaluate each case is one of simple manpower. We want to respond to the many member requests for LTD/COBRA assistance but a fund award type of evaluation is fairly intensive and we want to keep the BPF manageable without monetary compensation for Trustees. Hence, we have devised this streamlined program. One excellent suggestion was for a sub-committee to handle LTD aid evaluations. But there would be no recourse for the BPF if someone leaked sensitive information or “tried to hook up a bud” on LTD. Giving a sub-committee Trustee status would be a major re-write of the Charter, a member-wide vote, a notable cost to our registered agent to officially add the new officers, and an IT effort. Just know we will maintain a mindful watch over this new program and, if there are more rich LTD pilots out there than we realize, we will change or completely strike the program. In short, we definitely don’t want to waste our own time & money by handing out unneeded cash. LTD / COBRA Aid Feedback Issue #1 By far the most negative comments were that the BPF would be wrongfully excluding certain pilots based on health insurance. It is true that this aid would only be for those on their first 18 months of LTD and using COBRA health insurance, but we reject the exclusionary precept because 100% of JetBlue pilots have access to COBRA on LTD should they desire it in their annual selections. We surmise the reason many pilots are on “other plans” is because they are more affordable and/or better coverage, and we congratulate them on earning those plans. In fact, our Chairman is retired military and our Vice-Chairman is active military reserve. But we are simply reacting to the factual numerical nature of the situation, a guaranteed no-questions-asked $600 - $1000 monthly increase on COBRA. It is absolutely true that any pilot regardless of health insurance type can get in a nasty financial situation on LTD depending on the disability or other financial stressors that afflict the pilot at exactly the wrong time. But that could happen to anyone, not just pilots who wouldn’t qualify for this program. For the very unusual condition when a distressed pilot with an “other plan” sees an automatic increase in health care bills due to disability, we hope he or she recognizes the oddity of their situation and our requirement to deal with it via the normal fund award process. An Amendment to the Amendment But because the concern of exclusion was notable, we want to respond to it with an equalizer of sorts so someone who doesn’t qualify for this aid has an advantage of their own. Please note in the attachment that we’ve added Subsection Five. It establishes a maximum award for a pilot who does qualify for the aid on the day of their initial aid request. Since BPF funds historically & consistently increase in quantity over any three month period, and assuming both types of pilots (one who qualifies for the aid and one who doesn’t) submit a Hardship Notification on the same day months later, the pilot who does NOT qualify for the aid will likely have a higher fund award maximum limit. A higher fund award is not guaranteed and based on an evaluation but, assuming two identically severe situations, the pilot who did not receive the automatic aid would probably receive a higher fund award even when including the other pilot’s LTD aid. This type of equalizing is administratively easier and, although pilots with different health care plans are treated differently, each type of pilot has a special advantage. One has the ability to get small aid stipends right away while the other has the potential to receive more total money from the BPF. Unafraid to Delete We know this isn’t perfect because of our logistical limitations. We know it’s not a panacea because it’s help but only some help. We also realize it’s not “insurance” because there is no underwriting and we’ve reserved the right to change the program at any time. We obviously hope to limit changes since a harried LTD aid program will only reduce membership levels, but changes are possible. We will continually assess LTD/COBRA aid and if it adversely affects distressed pilots (our priority) more than helps them then we will happily extricate Section 5Q from the Charter. That would be less work for us after all. Do You Qualify? If you are on your first 18 months of LTD and paying COBRA health insurance premiums, please read the Amendment to determine if you might qualify. If there is the slightest chance, please contact us and we will start your monthly aid payments in May should this program apply to you. Our email address is below. In closing, please pass the word to non-members about this new aid program. They need to join up now so they qualify later. In no instance can a pilot receive this aid when they initiate participation in the BPF after their disability occurs. Most pilots require, based on date of hire, two years in the BPF to qualify for this aid. Remind them they could be the healthiest pilot at JetBlue and all it takes is one mindless driver or something as benign as sleep apnea to force a disability situation. Thank you for taking an inordinate amount of time to read this announcement & explanation! Regards, Blue Pilot Fund Inc.