Watching for Health Insurance Changes


hey everybody I’m Shawn Duhamel from Mass
Retirees. Welcome to our weekly update. Today’s Friday, November 8th. I’m going to talk primarily about health care today, but I also want to update you just on a
few other things that are going on with our Association. Starting with the fact
that we have two more area meetings coming up for the remainder of 2019.
Every year we have 16 or so meetings across Massachusetts, along with a
handful (three of them) now down in Florida, to attend to our Florida members.
And we have two more left. One being in just in two weeks, down it in Westport at
White’s of Westport. Again on Friday November 22nd the meeting starts at
11:00 a.m. It’s one of our larger meetings. If you are in the Southeastern
Mass area please come on by and say hello. It’s one of my favorite things to
do. Let’s get out in the field, directly talk to our members, hear from you, answer your questions and being able to put a name with a face. It is great, so come on down following that meeting our final meeting of 2019 is in Central Mass at
the Auburn Elks, also at 11:00 a.m. Super convenient location. If you’re
anywhere in the Worcester or Central Mass area come on by it’s the same
format we have door prizes we have Q&A it just gives you an opportunity to meet
with us directly and see that we’re real live human beings. If you have any
complaints, or suggestions, or concerns you can speak with one of us one-on-one
and we’ll do all we can to help you out. You know just as long as it’s an issue
directly related to public retirement and your health insurance and those
sorts of things we’ll do everything we can to help you out. Before I get into
what’s going on with healthcare and then what’s heating up in terms of healthcare
policy, I just want to recap where we’re at in terms of the Windfall Elimination
or Social Security WEP reform legislation, which of course is HR4540.
And we’ve been talking about this now for forever, but in terms of HR4540
this bill was filed about six weeks ago by Congressman Richie Neal from here in
Massachusetts. Right now were approaching 50 co-sponsors from what I
understand of the legislation. And the momentum that continues to build around this this legislation is because of the work that you are doing. You’re answering
our call to contact your local member of Congress and ask them to get behind this
legislation and it’s making all the difference in the world! So again, if you
haven’t already done so please take a moment contact your local member of
Congress. Specifically ask for two things: 1) that they become a co-sponsor of HR4540, that’s Richie Neal’s bill. The second thing we need to ask them is to
please make WEP reform a personal priority for the current congressional
session. Now we all know there’s a lot going on in Washington, D.C. right now
those things are beyond our control we’re not involved in it we’re not
taking positions one way or the other our focus is strictly on working for you
helping you in making sure that this legislation doesn’t get lost in the
shuffle now we’ve gone down that road before in previous years. Right before
the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001, the opening stages of the George W. Bush
administration there was some interest in doing some social security reform
back then in regard to WEP/GPO. 9/11 happened it changed everything and it
pushed this issue right off of the radar screen and we need to make sure that
regardless of all the other important things are going on right now the focus
stays on on bipartisan efforts to help you and that’s what HR4540 stands for
and we’ll have a more up-to-date update a week from now with other information
that’s happening with with that legislation but that’s where we are
where we are at for today now the focus of today I want to talk about health
insurance because right now is when the planning starts to take place for next
year things are always happening in advance and next July may seem like a
lifetime from now but in terms of public policy and healthcare policy is really a
blip in time right now both the state and cities and towns across
Massachusetts are looking their budgets for fiscal year 2021, which
begins on July 1st of 2020. Confusing? Yeah I know! It’s keeping up with all
these dates and particularly calendar changing it’s very confusing so just
bear with me for a moment but this fall in November where we’re at right now is
when the planning really gets underway right now we are not anticipating any
dramatic changes anywhere across Massachusetts with your health insurance
plans but we can’t be sure that we can ever just sit back and assume that we’re
all set because the minute we start to do that all heck is going to break loose
and bad things are going to happen so we’ve got to stay on top of what’s happening
in terms of health insurance because it’s really the one area where we have
the most vulnerability with your benefits changes can be made to your
healthcare plans and they’re not usually good changes so right now the state
Group Insurance Commission they are meeting on Thursday, November 21st and we should start to get somewhat of an idea at that point what the GIC is
considering for next year those plans will come together in December in
January and early February and by the mid to late February and certainly into
March we’ll know what the plan design is going to be will know what the
co-payments and deductibles are going to be and we’ll know what the monthly
premiums that you’re going to be charged are going to be by March all of that’s
going to happen pretty quickly cities and towns will then look at what the
state has done and in many cases mimic what the GIC is doing and take action
very quickly so we are closely monitoring and we will be present at all
of these meetings here in Boston regarding the GIC but what I need to ask
you to do is keep an eye on things locally for us if you hear of something
happening in the community that you live in even if you’re not retired from that
city or town let’s say you’re a state retiree but you live down on the town of
Plymouth you hear about changes taking place in
Plymouth that would impact Plymouth retirees reach out give me a call give
Cheryl or bill or Frank or anyone in our office a call or descend in an email and
say hey you may already know about this but
just in case you don’t here’s a heads up you know sometimes we already know about
it but oftentimes we don’t and if we’re if we receive advance notice we can then
reach out to our local members and engage them in the process and more
often than not do a pretty darn good job of defending our local retirees if we
have advance warning and and those are the kind of things they’re gonna happen
over the coming months now the big focus for us in terms of health care policy
and we’ve been saying this over and over again is affordability particularly for
our non-medicare retirees there’s not a day that goes by that we don’t hear from
one of you who’s not eligible for Medicare and right now at the state
level believe it or not there are 34,000 retirees who are not in the Medicare
program and guess what those 34,000 retirees are in the exact same health
insurance plans that all of the active employees are in paying the same
co-payments the same $500 a person or $1,000 per year for the family
deductibles as the active employees and as tough as it is for the active workers
to be paying these costs it’s even worse for retirees living on a fixed income
and something needs to be done about that
we are doing all we can to encourage and work with the GIC to see if there is a
way to enroll those retirees into the federal Medicare program with everybody
else the would be no $500 a year deductible there’s only a $10 co-payment
for a doctor’s visit so the out-of-pocket costs on Medicare are
dramatically lower than what our non Medicare retirees are paying now over
the last two years more than 12 municipalities in Massachusetts have
done this exact same thing with great success we have yet to hear a single
complaint from any of our local members who have been transferred into Medicare
yes they’re always going to be minor differences and there are pros and cons
to everything and those pros and cons always need to be weighed but at the end
of the day what we have found is our members are far better off under
Medicare than being stuck in the traditional general health insurance plans and being
forced to pay those huge out-of-pocket costs so that’s what we’re focused on
that’s what we’re working on I know I’ve gone on now for about nine minutes so
I’m going to end this today but thank you again so much for all the support
that you give us if you’re watching this on Facebook please share it share it
with your network make sure you have liked our Facebook
page in this post but let your friends know our Association is strength in
numbers the more retirees and active employees we have involved in these
issues the stronger all of you are going to be
and the far better off you’re all going to be. So thank you, again!

3 comments

So good to hear that you are keeping the non-medicare retirees a priority. You are doing a great job keeping us informed. Much appreciated.

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