State Employees and Retirees Face Changes to Health Benefits Amid Political Tensions and Healthcare Concerns

Health premiums for Delaware state employees set to increase

The SEBC recently voted against continuing enhanced COVID-19 benefits, which means that employees will now have to pay for pre-COVID-19 costs for services such as primary care visits, hospital stays, and telemedicine. However, in a related decision, the state employee benefits committee awarded the operation of the Medicare Supplement Plan for retirees to Highmark Delaware for a two-year term starting January 1, 2025, with an optional one-year extension. This decision follows a lawsuit by retirees who opposed a previous attempt by the committee to move them to a Medicare Advantage Plan through Highmark, which was successfully blocked by the advocacy group RiseDelaware.

Shaun O’Brien, policy director with the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), voted against the decision due to concerns about the reliability of the SEBC and lack of transparency. He stated that he believes it is essential to have trust in these decisions and that they must be made with input from stakeholders. On the other hand, State Rep. Paul Baumbach supported the decision virtually but expressed concerns about keeping promises made to retirees regarding their healthcare benefits. He emphasized that it is crucial to have accountability within this committee and has been sponsoring legislation to increase transparency and accountability within it.

In addition to this decision, the SEBC also approved changes aimed at ensuring equal access to care for individuals with mental health or substance abuse disorders. The committee also approved wigs and mastectomy bras as enhanced women’s benefits but did not approve cooling caps. The total cost of these changes was estimated between $507,000 and $557,000 further highlighting how significant these decisions are for state employees and retirees.

Overall, these decisions by the SEBC have had a significant impact on state employees’ health plans and highlight how important it is for there to be transparency and accountability within this committee.

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