Medicare-age Town of Massena retirees to retain coverage under AARP plan
BY JEFF CHUDZINSKI
North Country This Week
MASSENA — Medicare-age Town of Massena retirees will retain coverage under their AARP United Healthcare Supplement with prescription drugs plan.
Retirees had voiced frustrations with a potential policy change, arguing the town was attempting to “balance the budget on the backs of retirees.”Officials approved some changes to the retiree health care plan, while tabling one action to conduct further research, following a special meeting held on Nov. 9.
With retirees continuing coverage under the AARP United Healthcare Supplement plan, retirees must notify town officials and United Healthcare representatives if they move to a permanent residence outside of New York.
Retirees must also notify EPIC in the event their permanent residence is no longer in New York. The program only provides assistance to residents of New York, officials said.
During the special meeting board members also approved another change which will require retirees to be responsible for out-of-pocket expenses for prescription drugs. The previous $500 to $1,500 reimbursement was eliminated with the measure.
Retirees are also responsible for covering the annual membership fee for AARP, a continuation of the previous policy.
Though board members opted to take action on those measures, a measure to automatically enroll all new retirees into the Medicare Advantage Plan beginning Jan. 1 was tabled.
Deputy Town Supervisor Pat Facteau made the motion to table the measure to conduct further review in more detail.
“I agree with that because I’ve been having a lot of providers coming to me with other ideas of other plans in particular that might be more satisfactory. So, let’s table that until we get more research,” Town Supervisor Sue Bellor said.
Bellor also encouraged members in attendance to assist in conducting research to ensure the best possible solution would be found.
According to town officials, the 2023 budget has been incredibly difficult to balance due to trailing liabilities from the sale of Massena Memorial Hospital.
Bellor said the changes initially proposed for the retiree healthcare plan were put in place in an effort to balance the budget.
As for the expense to the town with the plan, those figures include $87,354 for the annual premium for retirees and $27,898 for prescriptions.
Bellor said the assessment of healthcare plans led the board to making the initial choice to change the plan, with officials thinking the new plan would offer more for retirees.
“Knowing that there may be questions on the change from Medicare Supplement to Medicare Advantage, we didn’t want to go with it. We could have. That’s not our style,” Bellor said.
Bellor said a letter was distributed on Oct. 11 to encourage people to attend the board meeting on Oct. 19.
Following initial backlash from a group of roughly 12 retirees, Bellor said a second letter was sent on Oct. 20 to establish another meeting with retirees so they could voice concerns with a health care agent and discuss options.
“From that feedback, we evolved these resolutions. We’re dealing with a lot. We appreciate your coming on. We do want feedback, that’s why it’s important for us to do this right. We’re all taxpayers, we’re all concerned with what we have,” Bellor said.