County board may rethink decision dropping retirees from insurance

Mar 11, 2014 By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

Some retired county employees may be able to stay on the county's health benefit plan after the Fremont County Commission decided to readdress the issue.

On Feb. 4, commissioners voted to stop its decades-long practice of offering the county's health insurance to retired employees. The action would have taken effect Dec. 31.

The county board heard that most of the retired individuals used the county plan to supplement their Medicare and could find cheaper options on the private market due to the Affordable Care Act.

At its meeting March 4, commissioners considered entertaining a motion to continue offering health insurance to retirees who have not reached the age to be Medicare eligible. In the end they decided to table the issue and take it up another time.

Only two retired individuals on the health benefit plan are not Medicare eligible, according to a report from deputy county treasurer Jim Massman.

Treasurer Scott Harnsberger told the county board March 4 that county-elected officials, besides the commissioners, unanimously supported offering insurance to retirees ineligible for Medicare. He brought a letter he wrote on the group's behalf.

"Although we wholeheartedly agree with the decisions to eliminate retirees that qualify for Medicare, we propose that county retirees who receive Wyoming Retirement and do not qualify for Medicare be given the option of remaining on the county's health plan," he stated.

Offering the health benefit plan to those people might not be a net loss, Harnsberger said. In 2014, the cost of insuring all employees and retirees between 60 and 64 years old, the age range of retirees who are ineligible for Medicare, would be less than the premiums contributed for that age group, according to his letter.

At the meeting Feb. 4, Massman said the cost of insuring retirees this year and the last two years exceeded the premiums the retirees paid into it. Commissioners cited the cost and the availability of cheaper alternatives as reasons to stop insuring retirees.

On Feb. 4, Commissioners Stephanie Kessler and Keja Whiteman voted to continue offering the health benefit plan to all retirees who had worked for the county for at least 10 years. The motion failed, however, when the other three commissioners voted against it.

Another motion was made to discontinue offering insurance to all those retirees Dec. 31. Kessler voted for the motion but only to support the Dec. 31 date. After the first motion failed she thought continuing to offer insurance to retirees was a lost cause but wanted to give retirees as much advance notice as possible.

"I voted to keep them on, and then I thought I was voting to give them the most notice when they were (kicked off)," she said.

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