Retiree benefits

State benefits committee may extend retiree health plan again

Sam HautGovernment, Headlines

Retiree benefits

State committee to vote on extending current health plan

A state committee will vote April 24 on whether to once again extend retirees current health insurance for another six months.

The State Employee Benefits Committee will vote on a recommendation from its retiree subcommittee about whether to extend the current plan, as it did in October amid an uproar over a planned change.

The need for the plan to be extended stems from an uproar over the benefits committee’s plan to move all retirees into a Highmark Medicare Advantage plan instead of the generous Medicfill plan that operates more like a standard supplement plan.

Retirees sued to stop the move, which they characterized as done in secret – it wasn’t – and violated promises made by the state to retirees.

A Delaware Supreme Court judge agreed, ordering a temporary stay on the proposed Medicare Advantage plan. 

According to the retirees’ RISE Delaware website, they want to stay on the Medicfill plan for the next three years while the committee and subcommittees look at other options.

Claire DeMatteis, secretary of the Delaware Department of Human Resources, has said that it would cost the state an additional $6.8 million to $7.5 million a month to keep the current retiree health plan compared to the proposed Highmark Medicare Advantage program. 

Under the old plan, the state picked up the full cost of health plans for those who retired on or before July 1, 2012, paying monthly $459.38 for the Highmark BCBS Delaware Special Medicfill plan with a prescription plan and $260.44 for the plan without prescription coverage.

For those who retired after July 1, 2012, the retirees paid $22.96 per month for the plan with prescriptions and $13 for the one without prescription coverage, while the state paid $436.42 for the plan with prescriptions and $247.44 for one without prescriptions. 

This plan will run throughout all of 2023, and there are currently 24,556 retirees on the Medicare Supplement Special Medicfill Plan, with the majority of retired pensioners, 15,581, being fully covered by the state and retired on or before July 1, 2012.

The second highest category of people on the Medicfill Plan are 5,818 retired pensioners who are fully covered by the state and retired after July 1, 2012.

Public comments in hearings have urged the state to more closely examine what is being offered and what it will cost retirees.

Diana Nooman said the Medicare Advantage plan requires prior authorization for ambulance services, that emergency services need to be pre-approved, and that retirees would be liable to cover the first and last days of hospital stays.

Former State Sen. Karen Peterson said that based on Highmark Advantage’s medical benefits chart, members would still have to pay costs for copays, coinsurance, deductibles, and cost-sharing fees.

Ray Seigfried, a former state representative, said that he believes the Medicare Advantage plan is a good plan until you get sick, and hopes the subcommittee will continue to compare costs between the state’s current group health insurance plan three different Medigap plans, and two different Medicare Advantage plus prescription drug plans.

Sign up to listen to the hearing here.

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