COAERS IS HERE FOR YOU

HOW COAERS IS ADDRESSING COVID-19 AND KEEPING YOUR BENEFITS SECURE

 The City of Austin and the State of Texas have taken extraordinary actions to prevent the spread and impact of the Coronavirus, known as COVID-19, in the region. On March 24, the City of Austin joined a growing list of municipalities in the United States and across the world to issue a “Stay Home - Work Safe” order to protect our community's health. This measure requires all Austinites to stay at home, with exceptions for essential work and activities.

During this time, the City of Austin Employees’ Retirement System (COAERS) has been actively monitoring the rapid developments surrounding COVID-19.  In response to the recommendations by the CDC and local authorities, COAERS has taken critical steps to protect the health and wellbeing of our valued members and our dedicated staff. While we adapt to this ever-changing situation, rest assured the COAERS team is here for you and working diligently to ensure the continuity of our service, and to deliver benefits on schedule.

 

COAERS IS OPERATING REMOTELY

COAERS offices are temporarily closed to the public to safeguard the welfare of our staff and our members. As part of our business readiness plan, all functions of the organization, including investment management, have fully transitioned to remote operations to maintain seamless continuity of our services to members. COAERS will continue to assess the latest information from government and public health officials to update you when in-person operations will resume. 

 

BENEFITS WILL BE PAID ON TIME

Your benefits are secure. COAERS will maintain continuity of retirement benefit payments as scheduled and without interruption. Our staff is working diligently to ensure all retirees and payees receive retirement benefits on time.

 

COAERS INVESTMENTS AND IMPACT ON THE FUND

While global financial markets have experienced significant fluctuations, the COAERS Trust Fund is invested for the long-term. COAERS has a highly diversified portfolio designed to withstand market volatility. Our prudent and strategic approach serves the long-term interests of our members by consistently achieving best-in-class results.

COAERS member accounts and benefits are not affected by swings in the market. It is important to remember that market upheavals do not affect the retirement benefit that you have earned. As we navigate through the current cycle, our Investment staff is meticulously monitoring the markets and we will continue to uphold COAERS’ mission to provide reliable retirement benefits. You can find more information about our Investment Policies at www.coaers.org/Investments.

 

INFORMATION SECURITY

COAERS continues to operate with the safety and security of your information in mind. As we work remotely, we want members to feel confident when sharing personal and confidential information through our secure file transfer portals. If you need to submit a form or document that contains personal or confidential information or have question about how to do so, please contact Member Services at (512) 458-2551 or member.services@coaers.org to learn about our secure file transfer option.

 

EDUCATIONAL SEMINARS AND EVENTS

While COAERS remains in remote operations as a result of COVID-19, all events and pre-retirement seminars have been postponed until further notice. Participants who previously registered for a seminar were notified with more information. If you have any questions about retirement, please contact our Member Services team for assistance at 512-458-2551 or member.services@coaers.org.

In the meantime, please click here to view our Pre-Retirement Seminar Presentation.

 

TRAVEL

In the best interest of COAERS staff, members, and vendors, we have restricted all non-essential travel. Any travel deemed essential is being carried out with the utmost care and consideration.

 

COMMUNITY RESOURCES

The City of Austin and the State of Texas have important links and community resources available for residents to stay up to date on COVID-19.

For more information, please visit www.austintexas.gov/COVID19.

For information about COVID-19 from the State of Texas, visit gov.texas.gov/coronavirus.

 

WE’RE HERE FOR YOU

As always, the health and safety of the members of our community are our utmost priority. COAERS will continually monitor the COVID-19 situation and evaluate additional measures as needs arise. We will continue to communicate updates and changes here on our website at www.coaers.org/covid19 and on facebook.com/coaers.

We thank you for your understanding and patience.

 

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT COAERS AND COVID-19 RESPONSE

  • Is COAERS Open?

    COAERS is open and operating all business functions remotely. At this time, our offices are temporarily closed to public visitors in order to protect our team and our members. There are many ways that you can reach us:

    • Our Member Services team is available to assist you Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. by contacting (512) 458-2551 or Member.Services@coaers.org.
    • Our website also includes resources and publications to help answer many of your questions. You can find helpful information about your membership, retirement, service purchases and planning for life events here:

    • COAERS Member Services will continue to process documents, forms and applications received by our secure file transfer portals. As we adhere to public health and safety guidelines, COAERS currently has limited access to documents sent via mail. If you have questions about sending forms or documents, please contact our Member Services.
  • Will I get my benefit payment on time?

    Yes. The COAERS team will continue to disburse benefit payments to current retirees and payees on schedule and without interruptions.

  • How can I ensure I get my benefit payment on time?

    COAERS highly encourages retired members to sign up for direct deposit of their monthly benefit payment. COAERS offers direct deposit to members to ensure that monthly benefit payments and refunds are securely delivered. Electronic transfers via direct deposit are efficient, reliable, safe, and eliminates the possibility of delayed payments or lost checks. While COAERS strives to provide timely monthly benefits to members, COAERS is not responsible for possible postal service or other delays or loss once your check is mailed.

  • How do I sign up for direct deposit?

    If you currently receive your monthly benefit payment by mail as a paper check and would like to sign up for direct deposit, please complete the form and return it to our Member Services team along with a copy of your current driver’s license or state ID to our office using one of the following methods:

    How to Submit Your Direct Deposit Form:

     

    If you have any questions about your benefit payment, please contact the COAERS Member Services team at (512) 458-2551 or Member.Services@coaers.org.

  • What will happen to my scheduled office appointment or counseling session?

    Our Member Services team will work with you to reschedule any in-person appointments to be conducted via telephone conference. Please contact the COAERS Member Services team at (512) 458-2551 or Member.Services@coaers.org for any information about scheduling an appointment. We appreciate your patience and understanding.

  • Is it taking longer for COAERS to process member requests?

    There currently are no changes to the time it takes for a service retirement, disability retirement, service credit purchases, survivor benefit determinations or other member requests.

  • What if I’m a retiree who is considering going back to work, what do I need to know?

    During these unprecedented times in our city, state, and country, we appreciate your interest in serving the Austin community and your unwavering dedication to the City of Austin. If you’re a retiree and are thinking about getting back into the workforce with the City of Austin during this time, here are a few important things to remember:

    • 1,508-hour limit -- To ensure that there is no impact on your retirement benefits, retirees seeking to return to work must adhere to the 1,508 hours of work during a rolling 12-month period, as defined by the COAERS statute.
    • Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) applies to rolling hour limit -- If a retiree returns to work and receives paid leave under the FFCRA, those hours will be counted against the rolling 1,508-hour limit. 
    • No exceptions to rolling hours limit during COVID-19 response -- Whether you’re seeking to assist the City in the ongoing crisis and to return to part-time work, the rolling 1,508-hour limit still applies to retirees working part-time for the City after retirement.
    • For any retiree who returns to full-time work, your current pension benefits would be suspended until your full-time service ends. You can reapply for retirement to resume your benefits when your full-time service concludes. At that point, COAERS would recalculate your retirement benefit.

    Only the City of Austin can decide on the re-employment status of a retiree, so it is best to contact your supervisor or HR department liaison first to determine if you are eligible to help.

    For more information about working after retirement, please visit www.coaers.org/Retirees/Retiree-Return-to-Work.

  • How can I receive up-to-date information?

    The best way to receive the latest information for COAERS is to sign up for our email updates. Click here to sign up for updates.

  • Retiree Medical Insurance Information Related to COVID-19

    The City of Austin in partnership with BCBS began covering the following services on March 18, 2020. Originally scheduled to end on June 30, 2020, these services have now been extended through August 31, 2020.

    Have questions?  Call (512) 974-3284.

     

    Testing-Related Visits

    • COVID testing is covered at 100% on all City medical plans (CDHP, PPO & HMO)
    • Must use in network providers 
    • No copays, deductibles or coinsurance for visits related to COVID-19 at a provider’s office, urgent care clinic, emergency room or by telehealth
    • Testing must be consistent with CDC guidelines and at the direction of a doctor
    • Prior-authorization is not required to test for COVID-19

     

    Treatment

    • Covered at 100% on all City medical plans (CDHP, PPO & HMO)
    • In-network providers, facilities and out-of-network emergencies.
    • Employees, retirees, dependents will not pay copays, deductibles or coinsurance for visits related to COVID-19 at a provider’s office, urgent care clinic, emergency room or by telehealth

     

    Virtual Visits

    • Covered at 100% for all City medical plans (CDHP, PPO, HMO)
    • MDLIVE Virtual Visits with BCBS: Board certified physician for both general health and behavioral health conditions.  Physicians are available 24 hours, 7 days a week and can send prescriptions to your local pharmacy when necessary
    • Common conditions include: allergies, asthma, behavioral health (by appointment), general health, pink eye, sinus infections & COVID-19
    • Access telemedicine services at: bcbstx.com/coa

     

    Telehealth

    What is telehealth?

    • You can connect to your primary care physician, specialist and/or mental health provider by using your webcam, smart phone or tablet 
    • You don’t have to travel to get the care you need 
    • Services must be provided through a BCBS network provider
    • Covered at 100% on all City medical Plans (CDHP, PPO & HMO), in-network providers
    • Out-of-network will be paid at the current level
    • HMO: referrals are still required to see a specialist

     

    Pharmacy

    BCBS temporarily lifted restrictions on getting early prescription fills

    • You can contact your pharmacy directly to ask for an early fill
    • Pharmacists have approval to provide an early fill on some medications
    • You can use your 90-day mail order for delivery to your home using Alliance RX Walgreens Prime

    Note: All safety measures, prior authorization reviews, as well as prescribing and dispensing laws, still apply.  Early fill may not be available for all types of medications

     

    HEB Prescription Delivery Service

    HEB Prescription Delivery Service offers free prescription delivery to your home in the Austin area

    How does it work?

    • Call your HEB pharmacy and ask for prescription delivery
    • Pay the applicable RX copay/coinsurance by a credit card, debit card or your FSA/HSA debit card
    • Have someone 18 years or older at home to sign for the delivery
    • Provides delivery of prescriptions filled Monday-Friday by 4 pm, except for on major holidays
    • Delivery medications as late as 8 pm

     

    Extending Prior Authorization on Previously Approved Elective Surgeries, Procedures, and Therapies

    BCBS is temporarily extending approvals on services with existing prior authorizations until December 31, 2020

    • A member may reschedule an approved procedure to a later date within 2020 without a new prior authorization
    • Prior authorizations are approved through December 31, 2020, so approved procedures can be rescheduled before December 31, 2020
    • Therapy sessions and home visits authorized for a specific number of occurrences between January 1, 2020 and April 1, 2020 will have the same number of occurrences available through the end of the year
    • These rules apply to current members for a benefit that is currently covered under the plan

     

    NurseLine

    • 24/7 NurseLine Services are designed specifically to help you make health care decisions

    These nurses will provide you with:

    • Immediate answers to your health questions
    • Access to experienced registered nurses

    NurseLine: 800-581-0368

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