Guide to Retirement

Congratulations on your upcoming retirement from Penn State! The Employee Benefits Division would like to provide you with the most current information for a smooth transition into retirement and outline your benefits that you may retain upon your retirement. Employees are encouraged to attend our "Thinking About Retiring" presentation in-person or online, six months to a year out from your planned retirement date. Additionally, HR has prepared the following resources in an effort to help you understand the benefits you have after retirement, as well as alleviate some of the uncertainty during this important decision-making process. 

Retirement Resources
Retiree Kit 65+ and Medicare Disability Info & Forms Additional Resources
2020 Rates Retiring and Medicare-eligible Checklist Retiree Summary Plan Document
Frequently Asked Questions Freedom Blue Informational Packet Phased Retirement Policy
Retiree Programs & Privileges  2020 Freedom Blue Summary of Benefits Phased Retirement Application
COBRA Rates for Dental and Vision Freedom Blue Application Lifetime Benefit Solutions
Looking to Retire Presentation Request for Employment Information CMS-L564
(retirees over the age of 65 yrs and 4 mo)
Stepping Stones: By Matt Kaplan 
Highmark FreedomBlue -Existing Members
1-866-918-5285
 2020 Highmark Freedom Blue Network Sharing Highmark Freedom Blue for Non-Members: 1-866-456-7739; Reference Code: 20FB178428
Non-Medicare Summary of Benefits
2020 PPO Summary of Benefits
2020 PPO Savings Summary of Benefits
Aetna Concierge Team: 1-855-878-4197

Active employees, also have the ability to utilize Penn State's Employee Assistance Program, HealthAdvocate, to have them help review your specific options.

Medicare Basics Flyer by HealthAdvocate.

Eligibility to retire with Medical Benefits

If you were hired prior to January 1, 2010 you are eligible to retire with medical benefits if you are:

  • At least 60 years of age you have 15 years of continuous full-time service in addition to being enrolled in a Penn State sponsored medical plan for 15 years immediately preceding retirement.
  • Eligible at any age if you have 25 years of regular full-time service and have been enrolled for the past 10 years in a Penn State sponsored medical plan immediately preceding retirement.
  • Enrollment in the Penn State sponsored medical plan is either as the primary subscriber or via a spouse as a dependent.

If you were hired after January 1, 2010 you are eligible to access your Retirement Health Savings Account if:

  • At age 60, you have completed 25 years of continuous full-time service immediately preceding retirement.
  • At age 65, you have completed 15 years of continuous full-time service immediately preceding retirement.

Retirement Process

Step 1: Review Income

Employees should start by meeting with a retirement planning specialist from TIAA or SERS to review income projections and income options. Many facing retirement underestimate their net retirement income by overlooking items currently deducted from their paycheck that will no longer be withheld in retirement.

Taking these withholding items into account can significantly increase an employee’s projected spendable income. For instance, in retirement, employees will no longer have Social Security and Medicare taxes withheld from their retirement checks.

In addition, the following will not be withheld from retirement checks:

  • Unemployment Insurance
  • Medical, dental and/or vision insurance (if you currently participate)
  • FSA or HSA Contributions (if you currently participate)
  • Short-term and/or Long-Term Disability (if currently participate)
  • Parking
  • SERS or TIAA Monthly Contribution
  • Life Insurance and/or Accidental Death and Dismemberment (if currently participate)
  • State & Local Tax

Step 2: Review Personal Information in Workday

Employees should review their covered eligible dependents, as well as the benefits in which they are currently enrolled, to determine if those benefits are applicable after retirement.

Employees should update their Beneficiaries in Workday, as your current Beneficiary(ies) listed for your employer-paid Basic Life Insurance will be carried through to the employer paid $5,000 retiree life insurance policy. The employer-paid retiree insurance policy will remain in place for anyone retiring prior to December 31, 2020.

Employees should also ensure their time and attendance is up to date.

Employees and their eligible dependents are automatically enrolled in the retiree medical plan, if they meet the eligibility requirements to retire with medical benefits. No additional forms are necessary to enroll, unless

  • The employee is Medicare eligible and/or spouse is Medicare eligible
  • The employee is changing their family status, examples include going from Retiree Only coverage to Retiree and Spouse or going from Family coverage to Retiree Only
  • The employee wishes to refuse medical coverage into retirement.  Retirees who refuse coverage will not be able to re-enroll at a later date.

If you experience any of the three scenarios above, please complete a Retiree Request for Change Form.

Step 3: Retiring and Medicare Eligible Benefits Enrollment Process

If you and/or your spouse are Medicare eligible, it is recommended you begin this process 3 months prior to your retirement. You and/or your spouse will need to be enrolled both parts A and B of Medicare effective the first of the month following your retirement, in order to transition into the Highmark Freedom Blue PPO plan through the University. 

Part A is provided at no cost, while there is premium associated with Part B, which is determined by Social Security annually and could be indexed based on your income. Please contact your local Social Security Office with any questions regarding Medicare Parts A or B.

1. Apply for Medicare Parts A and B by contacting your local Social Security Office. Do NOT enroll in a separate Medicare Part D program for prescription drugs. Freedom Blue PPO includes coverage for Part D prescription drugs.

The Social Security office will need the Request for Employment Information form, CMS-L564E, completed ONLY if you are older than 65 years and four months. If you are applying for Social Security three months prior to turning 65, or three months after turning 65, you are considered in your Special Enrollment period and this form is not necessary.

  • Complete a Request for Employment Information form, CMS-L564, for Social Security.
  • Request for Employment Information forms are available above in the reference chart or can be obtained from medicare.gov by searching for “Request for Employment Information” or “CMS-L564” under forms.
  • Complete Section A - Applicant Name, PSU Employee Name, Social Security Number
  • Send Request for Employment Information form to Penn State Employee Benefits to complete Section B. We are located at Penn State Employee Benefits, The 331 Building, Suite 136, University Park, PA 16802
  • Be sure to let us know how to return the completed form to you, either via Intercampus Mail or the US Postal Mail and provide a return address
  • Submit the completed Request for Employment Information form to the local Social Security Office.

2. Once you confirm your Part A and Part B effective date, complete a Freedom Blue application and return it to Penn State Employee Benefits.

Failure to follow the process outlined could result in a disruption of your medical coverage, and you could be subject to a Late Entrant Penalty from Highmark. This process must be followed PRIOR to your retirement date to ensure your continued coverage. Failure to return the Freedom Blue applications within 60 days of retirement will be considered voluntary dis-enrollment in retiree medical benefits offered. Once dis-enrolled, retirees are not able to re-enroll at a later date.

Your unit will initiate your separation in Workday upon your retirement; your record will be updated to “retired” status. Your medical plan will be updated only after we receive your completed Freedom Blue Application. Please understand that if you are eligible to be enrolled in the Medicare plan upon your retirement, but do not complete the enrollment process prior to your retirement, you will not automatically remain in the Aetna non-Medicare plan. This will result in having a period of NO Penn State medical coverage until you are enrolled in the Highmark Freedom Blue PPO Medicare plan.

Becoming Medicare Eligible After Retirement

Upon becoming eligible for Medicare Parts A and B, your medical coverage is required to change to the University-sponsored Medicare Advantage plan, Freedom Blue PPO offered through Highmark.  You will need to visit the local Social Security office to apply for Medicare Parts A and B. The Freedom Blue application must be received in the Penn State Employee Benefits office PRIOR to your 65th birthday with a copy of your Medicare card. If the Freedom Blue application is not received PRIOR to your 65th birthday, your Freedom Blue effective date will be the first of the month following receipt. Failure to enroll within 30 days of turning 65 could result in a cancellation of retiree benefits due to not being enrolled in the correct plan based on Medicare eligibility. Once dis-enrolled, retirees are not able to re-enroll at a later date.

Freedom Blue PPO will become your primary coverage for medical and prescription services. Do NOT enroll in a separate Medicare Part D program for prescription drugs. Freedom Blue PPO includes coverage for Part D prescription drugs. Should you enroll in Medicare Part D, this could result in your Freedom Blue enrollment request being denied, as Per Medicare regulations, you should not be enrolled in more than one Medicare sponsored product at a time.

Step 4: Retirees who have spouse as an active Penn State employee

Retirees who carry a spouse who will remain actively employed by Penn State, will need to remove their spouse from their benefits as per Penn State policy, retirees must be covered via retiree medical benefits and active employees must be covered under the active employee coverage. Prior to retiring, you will need to compete a Retiree Request for Change Form to remove spouse upon your retirement. While your spouse must log into Workday to request enrollment in the Penn State active plan.

Note: Active spouses can add the retiring employee to dental and vision.

BECOMING MEDICARE ELIGIBLE DUE TO DISABILITY

If a retiree becomes Medicare eligible due to disability, and has not yet turned 65; Part A will pay as primary for hospital services and Aetna will pay as primary for Part B expenses.

Medicare-eligible retirees due to disability will have the option of remaining in Part A and continuing on the non-65 retiree plan until they reach age 65. Retirees will want to consult with Social Security/Medicare regarding any late entrant penalties that may apply if you need to enroll in Medicare Part B prior to your 65th birthday but AFTER initially becoming Medicare eligible.

If retirees are enrolled in both Medicare Parts A and B upon becoming Medicare eligible due to disability, they will be required to move to our Medicare Advantage plan.

Medical Coverage

As a benefits-eligible, non-Medicare- eligible retiree, what health plan options do I have? 

You have the choice of either the PPO Savings Plan or the PPO Plan. You may choose to keep the same plan in which you are currently enrolled into retirement, or you have the ability to switch plans at the time you retire, however, if you switch plans, you DO NOT receive deductible credit from one plan to the other. 

As long as you, the retiree, are not eligible for Medicare, you could participate in the PPO Savings Plan with the Health Savings Account (HSA). Your contributions to the HSA as a retiree will be made through the HSA vendor website. The triple-tax savings would be accounted for on your taxes and should be discussed with your accountant/tax advisor. 

If you want to remain in the same plan in which you are currently enrolled as a non-Medicare eligible retiree, you do not need take any action when you retire. If you want to change plans when you retire, you will need to complete a Retiree Request for Change Form prior to your retirement. 

As a benefits-eligible, and Medicare-eligible retiree, what health plan options do I have?

If you or your spouse are already or will be eligible for Medicare, you need to contact your local Social Security office three (3) months prior to your retirement. 

You and/or your spouse will need to be enrolled both parts A and B of Medicare effective the first of the month following your retirement, in order to transition into the Freedom Blue PPO plan through the University. Detailed instructions are listed above under "Step 3" and can also be printed from the resource chart from the Retiring and Medicare-eligible Checklist. 

If you have questions pertaining to how Freedom Blue will cover specific services or regarding the prescription coverage, please call the non-member line at 1-866-546-7739 seven days a week, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. with REFERENCE CODE: 20FB178428

Adding eligible dependents after retirement requires a Qualifying Event

Retiree dependent coverage can be added ONLY if the eligible dependent experiences an IRS qualifying life event change. Changes must be requested within 31 days of the event by completing a Retiree Request for Change Form. You can also contact Penn State HR Services at 814-865-1473 and have a copy of the form mailed to you. The following are examples of IRS-defined life event changes when you are able to add an eligible dependent:

  • Your retirement from the University
  • Employee's legal marital status changes, due to marriage, divorce, legal separation, or the death of a spouse;
  • Changes in employment status of a spouse, which can include the ending of their employment, new or different working hours resulting in a change of their employer-sponsored benefits

If you are retiring at the age of 65 ½ or older AND enrolled in the PPO Savings

If you are currently enrolled in the PPO Savings plan with the Health Savings Account, plan to retire within the next year, and are age 65 ½ or older, please read and take action as needed regarding a conflict between IRS regulations and Medicare requirements. 

An explanation of the issue and the solution is outlined below:

Issue: Anyone age 65 ½ or older who is enrolled in a qualified high-deductible health plan (PPO Savings plan) with a Health Savings Account (HSA), who retires and enrolls in Medicare Part A, will experience a Medicare-required “look-back period” of 6 months. That “look-back period” overlaps with the timeframe during which you may have had either or both employer and employee contributions made to your HSA. IRS regulations state that an individual cannot receive or contribute to an HSA if covered by Medicare or any other health care insurance. If the individual were to be audited by the IRS, taxes and penalties could apply to the amount contributed to the HSA.

The proposed solution: In order to avoid potential tax issues, you want to STOP YOUR HSA CONTRIBUTIONS so that you have 6 months of NO contributions before you FILE FOR MEDICARE. For example, if you are retiring as of December 31 of any given year, you need to stop your contributions beginning with the June payroll of that same year. In order to move into the University-sponsored Medicare plan after you retire, you must first enroll in Medicare parts A and B.  Therefore, you must “file” for Medicare during the month of your retirement, which is December in this example. Social Security uses the filing date in December as part of the look-back period, which means you need to have NO HSA contributions from June – November.    

Please log into Workday through the Worklion portal to stop, start, or change your HSA contributions.  Any questions relating to Medicare guidelines, please contact your local Social Security office or your tax advisor.

Retiring and Over Age 65-Creditable Prescription Coverage

If you are over the age of 65, you may receive a letter from the Department of Health and Human Services stating “it appears you did not have prescription drug coverage that met Medicare’s minimum standards.”  The letter goes on to indicate you may be subject to a late enrollment penalty.

If you receive this letter, please complete the form and send it back to Highmark. They will adjust their records accordingly to ensure they reflect your credible coverage during the time you were enrolled in a Penn State sponsored medical plan. 

Retiree Billing

We have contracted with Lifetime Benefit Solutions to administer, bill, and collect the health care premiums from all of our retirees who have the Penn State medical benefit.

For new retirees, after your retirement has been processed electronically in Workday, your retiree medical billing information will automatically be sent to Lifetime Benefit Solutions.

Your first Retiree Bill should come approximately two to three weeks AFTER your retirement. Payment is due within 60 days of receipt of your first Retiree Bill.

Retirees have the option to set up a monthly automatic withdrawal from a designated bank to pay for your retiree billing premiums.  The information to establish the automated payments will be included in your first retiree bill.  

If you do not set up automatic payment, you will be billed on a quarterly basis. Your premium payments are due on the 1st day of each calendar quarter and you will have a 60 day grace period. Premium due dates are: January 1, April 1, July 1 and October 1; your 60 day grace period will begin on the date after the payment due date. Please call Lifetime Benefit Solutions to discuss all of your payment options.

NOTE: You will receive a COBRA Notification extending coverage for medical, dental and vision; this notice is required by law, even if you are eligible for retiree medical coverage. If you are retiring with Penn State Retiree Medical, you should decline the offer for extended medical coverage. Failure to complete the COBRA Enrollment within 60 days is considered an automatic decline of the coverages offered.

SPLIT PLANS – RETIREE WITH MEDICARE AND NON-MEDICARE MEMBERS ENROLLED

Once a retiree and/or spouse becomes Medicare eligible and the remaining spouse is under 65, your benefits then become a “split plan” retirement medical plan.  

The newly Medicare eligible retiree or spouse will be transitioned to the University-sponsored Medicare Advantage plan Freedom Blue with Highmark. The Freedom Blue Member will receive a new ID card from Highmark.

The remaining dependents will stay with Aetna and new ID cards will be issued as follows:

  1. Penn State retiree moves to Highmark with non-Medicare spouse
    • Spouse will remain with Aetna and become the primary subscriber under Aetna insurance.
    • Covered dependent children under the age of 26 will become dependents listed under the new primary subscriber.
    • A new ID card with new Member ID will be sent after the effective date.*
  2. Penn State retiree moves to Highmark with non-Medicare child/ren (no spouse coverage)
    • Dependent child/ren remain with Aetna and the oldest covered child under the age of 26 becomes the primary subscriber under Aetna insurance.
    • Any younger sibling(s) will be listed as dependent(s) under the oldest child.
    • A new ID card with new Member ID will be sent after the effective date.*
  3. Penn State retiree remains on Aetna with Medicare-eligible spouse
    • Retiree will receive a new ID card based on the tier change, but the Member ID will remain the same.

*Should you need to call the vendor to inquire about benefits, members should provide the new primary subscriber’s information such as SSN and date of birth.

Changes will be electronically sent to the insurance vendors and to the retiree billing vendor. It is recommended you pay your quarterly bill as invoiced and the appropriate credits will follow once the retiree billing vendor receives the changes.

Dental and Vision Coverage

Option 1:

Although dental and vision coverage are not benefits provided to Penn State retirees, you may choose to continue either or both of those plans under COBRA. The maximum period of coverage under COBRA is 18 months. Employees eligible for COBRA will receive information and payment premium coupons following their qualifying event directly from Lifetime Benefit Solutions, Penn State's COBRA partner. All questions regarding COBRA benefits after an individual is enrolled in COBRA should be directed to Lifetime Benefit Solutions at (800) 828-0078.

Option 2:

Retirees can take advantage of a FREE vision discount program available through EyeMed. Enjoy discounts on eyeglasses, accessories, and examinations. Simply present the card at a participating Insight provider.     

Option 3:

Pennsylvania Association of Retired State Employees (PARSE) is available for additional dental and vision benefits after COBRA benefits end, if elected at time of retirement. For more information on PARSE, please visit their website.

Option 4:

If your spouse is an active Penn State employee, they may cover you and eligible dependents under their Dental and Vision plan, which may be more cost effective than electing COBRA. If this is the case, please have your spouse login to Workday to make the appropriate changes.

Additional Benefits - All Retirees who meet the years of service requirements (as outlined in Policy HR54)

Life

  • For employees hired on or before April 30, 1954: $10,000 life insurance policy will be provided to you after retirement.
  • For employees hired on or after May 1, 1954: A $5,000 life insurance benefit will be provided to you after retirement at no cost.

Please review your beneficiary designation in Workday.

Voluntary Life

Voluntary life insurance (beyond the $5,000 at no cost) will end upon retirement, unless you convert to an individual policy.  You must complete and return the UNUM conversion form within 31 days of your retirement date.

To obtain an application, please contact UNUM at (866) 220-8460.

Long-Term Disability

Long-Term Disability coverage ends upon retirement. However, if you begin working elsewhere after retiring from the University, you may convert your coverage to an individual policy within 31 days following your retirement.

To obtain an application, please contact UNUM at (866) 220-8460.

Accidental Death and Dismemberment

Accidental Death and Dismemberment (AD&D) coverage will end upon retirement, unless you convert to an individual policy. You must complete and return the conversion form within 31 days of your retirement date to the Hartford address listed on the form.

To obtain an application, please contact UNUM at (866) 220-8460.

Physical Activity Programs

Highmark Blue Shield offers a variety of online programs; Medicare-eligible retirees can contact Highmark at (866) 918-5285. Their website is also a valuable resource, at highmarkblueshield.com.

Silver Sneakers is one of the nation’s leading exercise programs designed exclusively for older adults. It is a unique physical activity, lifestyle, and social-oriented health and wellness program specifically designed for Medicare-eligible members of all fitness levels. Freedom Blue PPO members receive a complimentary membership at a participating fitness center, plus access to any participating location across the United States. Members have free access to all amenities included with a basic fitness center membership. Members, who live more than 15 miles from a participating center, can still take advantage of the Silver Sneakers Steps self-directed walking and physical activity program. To learn more or to locate a participating provider, visit the SilverSneakers website.

Retiree ID Card

In accordance with HR102, all retirees will be required to surrender their active Faculty/Staff id+ card to their department supervisor. Retirees who meet the years of service requirement are eligible to obtain a new Retiree id+ card after their official retirement date.  For more information, please visit Penn State id+ website.

Educational Benefits

Educational privileges are available to full-time faculty, staff, technical service employees, retirees, and those with Emeritus status, their spouse, and dependent children up to the age of 26. The grant-in-aid benefit is a 75% discount on the tuition charge and applies to World Campus, Penn State resident instruction at all campuses, and Pennsylvania College of Technology. Please see University policies HR36 and HR37 for additional information.

If you have not already completed the dependent verification program within Workday, you will be required to do so in order to maintain the dependent tuition discount. For information on dependent verification, please review information provided in the WorkLion HR portal or contact HR Services.

For more details about the dependent verification program please refer to Eligibility and Dependent Information. Dependents who do not successfully complete the verification will have the tuition discount removed from their accounts and will be responsible for the entire tuition amount.

Please contact HR Services if you have any questions regarding the Grant-in-Aid benefit. After your Grant-in-Aid request is approved, you will see the discount reflected on your next student account statement in LionPATH.

Application Procedure

Retirees wishing to use the tuition discount for themselves do not need to submit any forms. The discount will automatically be applied through the Bursar's office. Retirees wishing to extend the tuition discount to an eligible spouse and/or eligible children must complete a Retiree Application for Dependent Grant-in-Aid form.

  • All forms must be submitted within the dates outlined below. (this schedule applies to all eligible Penn State, World Campus, and Pennsylvania College of Technology Classes)
  • A separate grant-in-aid request must be made on behalf of EACH dependent.
  • A new grant-in-aid request must be made for EACH semester or summer session.
  • Grant-in-aid approvals will not be applied retroactively to previous semesters.
  • Students will be responsible for the full cost of tuition, in accordance with University Bursar policies, if the application procedure is not followed, and/or the application deadlines are not met.
Grant-in-Aid Application Deadlines - Faculty, Staff, and Retirees
Semester First Day to Apply Last Day to Apply
Summer 2020 Tuesday, February 4, 2020 Wednesday, August 12, 2020
Fall 2020 Wednesday, March, 25, 2020 Sunday, August 20, 2020

Retiree Healthcare Savings Account, employees Hired AFTER January 2010

For anyone who was hired after January 2010, the university will contribute $144 monthly into a Retiree Savings Account, administered by TIAA, to help pay for qualified medical expenses in retirement. Funds can be used to purchase health insurance and other qualified medical expenses for you and your eligible dependents.

Retirement Healthcare Savings Plan Advantages:

  • Money is set aside for your healthcare expenses at retirement while you are working
  • Money accumulated in your account can be used for a variety of healthcare expenses, such as healthcare insurance, co-payments, deductibles and long-term care insurance
  • Healthcare savings plan can be used yourself, spouse and eligible dependents
  • Tax-free growth on any earnings on the contributions Penn State makes on your behalf
  • Tax-free reimbursement of qualified healthcare expenses at retirement
  • On-line access to healthcare savings account, when you meet Penn State’s eligibility retirement qualifications.
  • Check Status of Claims
  • Submit a premium payment to health insurance provider
  • Access health and wellness tools

Retirement Healthcare Savings Plans Fact Sheet

For additional information or questions regarding retirement, please contact HR Services at 814-865-1473 or log an inquiry via the WorkLion portal.