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Some past county staffers can stay insured

Mar 19, 2014 - By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

Not all retirees have reached the age to be eligible for Medicare.

Some former county employees will be able to stay on Fremont County's health benefit plan beyond the end of the year. Fremont County commissioners voted unanimously to allow retirees who do not yet qualify for Medicare to stay on the county's insurance.

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.

Those retired workers pay the whole cost of their health benefit plan, but in the past three years, the cost of insuring them overran the contributions they made.

Between the net cost to the county and the availability of cheaper alternatives, some commissioners believed the economics did not add up, and three voted to end offering insurance to retirees.

Some retirees are have not reached the age to be eligible for Medicare, however. The county's other elected officials signed a letter presented at the commission's meeting March 4 asking the county board to allow those retirees to stay on the county's plan. The vote to permit it came March 11.

"They're kind of caught," commission chairman Doug Thompson said in an interview. "They don't have those less costly supplements available until they become medicare eligible."

The board also received letters and e-mails from concerned employees on the issue, Thompson said.

The new policy also affects spouses of retirees.

Spouses of employees and retirees currently can receive insurance from the county. Under the new policy, a married partner of a retiree would be able to receive insurance if the retiree is not eligible for Medicare, regardless of the spouse's age.

If the retiree is eligible for Medicare, the spouse would not be able to receive county insurance.

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