Lee Enterprises will plunder your Medical Retirement Account

Say, remember when we alerted our Post-Dispatch members about money they might have sitting in Medical Retirement Accounts?

Astrid Garcia

Never mind. Rather than merely hope that people forgot about those MRAs and never accessed them, the company decided to shut them down completely effective Dec. 31, 2017. Lee Enterprises VP for Human Resources and Legal Astrid Garcia sent you a letter to that effect this week. (If it makes you feel any better, this shutdown impacts P-D managers and everybody else across the Lee chain.)

Retirees and former P-D employees eligible to access their accounts can hurry up and spend the available money. Time to replace that hip! But current employees with money tucked away in their MRA are screwed. The company is taking away your vested benefit — a benefit you paid for by selecting the higher premium plan.

To review, UMG members who signed up for the Low-Deductible Medical Plan or Mid-Deductible Medical Plan had a Deductible Account to draw from. The company credited money to that account for reimbursements for incurred medical expenses which count toward the plan deductible.

The unused money from each given year went into a Medical Retirement Account. Employees who met vesting requirements were to access that money for medical expenses after they left the Post-Dispatch and were 55 years old or older.

As our benefits expert noted in a Q&A on our website, the Summary Plan Description described the Medical Retirement Accounts as notional. As our expert noted, Lee Enterprises claimed the right to terminate them at any time.

Our contract does allow the company the ability to modify medical plans. But does the company have the legal right to strip away a vested benefit under our Collective Bargaining Agreement? Our lawyers are starting to review that.

It seems like we’ve been down this road before with Lee Enterprises . . .

In the meantime, we would like all of our members scheduled to lose their MRA money Dec. 31 to check on their amount and send the total in an e-mail to UMG Business Rep Shannon Duffy at sduffy@unitedmediaguild.org.

Every member impacted needs to know just how much money the company is taking from them. (In my case, it was $7,882.39.)

As of 5:03 p.m. Wednesday, that information was still available on the Link Lee site in the Tri-Star Systems section, although not real easy to find. (Click on “Account Summary” and scroll down to Plan Year: 02/01/2008 – 12/31/2017 and Medical Retirement Account button should appear.)

We need to document the full economic impact to our members and react accordingly.