Legislative leaders oppose plan to move retirees insurance into Medicare Advantage plans

Vermont Business Magazine Today Senate President Pro Tempore Philip Baruth and Speaker of the House Jill Krowinski issued the following statement:

“We are deeply concerned about the Administration’s stated intention to move Medicare-eligible state retirees from the State of Vermont’s insurance plan into Medicare Advantage plans without the support of state retirees. We are particularly concerned about the potential legal, financial and health implications and believe this shift undermines collective bargaining rights.

“In November 2022, the Vermont’s Retired Employees Committee on Insurance (RECI), established by 3 V.S.A. § 636 to advise and make recommendations to the Secretary of Administration on state employee retiree health insurance benefits, voted to oppose the Administration’s proposal. Additionally, the Vermont State Employees Association (VSEA) and the Vermont Retired State Employees Association (VRSEA) have publicly opposed this shift.

“We share the concerns raised by many state retirees that access to essential health care services could be threatened. In April 2022, the Office of Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released a report highlighting a pattern of delayed or denied coverage for services through a Medicare Advantage plan. Investigators estimated that, in 2019, approximately 85,000 requests for prior authorization of care were likely to have been improperly denied and approximately 1.5 million payments for services were improperly denied.

“Additionally, we are concerned about the legality of such a shift. 3 V.S.A. § 479(a) is clear that Medicare-eligible state retirees must be covered by the same medical plan as current state employees, stating that ‘a member who is insured by the respective group insurance plans immediately preceding the member's effective date of retirement shall be entitled to continuation of group insurance…in the group medical benefit plan provided by the State of Vermont for active State Employees.’

“Shifting the decision-making power to the private insurance industry, without support of state retirees, undermines the decades of protections that state retirees have enjoyed as a result of the state employees’ collectively bargained contract. We share the concerns of many retired state employees about the legality and the financial and health implications for our state’s retired public servants. State retirees have dedicated years of service to the State of Vermont and they deserve the assurance that the healthcare benefits they were promised will be protected.”

1.20.2023. Montpelier. Office of the President Pro Tempore