Government retirees living outside V.I. must contact insurer or risk losing coverage
Published: October 24, 2013
Font size: [A] [A] [A]
ST. CROIX - V.I. Government retirees 65 and older who are living outside the territory, on the mainland, need to contact United Healthcare soon to ensure that their supplemental insurance coverage outside of Medicare continues uninterrupted, according to V.I. Personnel Director Kenneth Hermon Jr.
The issue is arising as the V.I. government transitions from CIGNA to United Healthcare insurance for its retirees who are older than 65. For those retirees, the United insurance will act as a Medicare supplement. Those younger than 65, both active government employees and retirees, will remain with CIGNA.
Hermon said Tuesday that guidelines from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services prohibit the territory from automatically enrolling V.I. government retirees who are 65 and older and living stateside into a Medicare supplement plan.
"They must, on their own, opt in. They must call United Healthcare and make a selection," he said.
For retirees older than 65 living in the territory, the local insurance office waived the requirement, enabling the automatic enrollment, Hermon said. However, that waiver does not apply to retirees who live in other jurisdictions, he said.
V.I. government retirees older than 65 and living stateside must contact United to choose whether they want the basic Medicare supplement, AARP Medicare Supplement Plan N; whether they want to buy up to a higher level of Medicare supplement, United's Medicare Supplement Plan F; or whether they want to opt out entirely, Hermon said.
If those retirees do not contact United, they could lose supplemental coverage at the end of the month, according to Hermon.
The Daily News was unable to reach Clemmie Moses, the chairwoman of the Government Employees Services Commission-Health Insurance Board, on Wednesday about the issue.
Last week, the board issued a statement saying it had taken "every precaution" to ensure that no government retirees would experience any lapse in insurance coverage as a result of the transition to United Healthcare.
The release was part of a back-and-forth between Government House and the board, and was in response to what the board described as "misinformation" in a Government House statement concerning the possibility of lost supplemental insurance coverage for a different subset of government retirees.
Hermon, who is an advisory, non-voting member of the GESC Health Insurance Board, said the current issue is entirely different and concerns a completely different group of government retirees.
United Healthcare has used the resources available to it to try and reach the post-65 retirees living stateside, and the Personnel Division also has tried to reach them through their last known contact information with the Government Employees Retirement System, Hermon said.
Still, an estimated 533 post-65 V.I. government retirees living stateside have not yet contacted United, according to Hermon.
"The last option that we have available to us, that the board needs to approve, is to run those names within the various local media to see if that generates some kind of contact with those retirees," he said.
However, Hermon said that the board needs to approve the concept of publishing the names and also needs to approve paying for it, because Personnel does not have the budget for it.
The board has been aware of the issue, but had been relying on United "to figure out a way to make contact with these individuals," Hermon said.
"That has not panned out, and we have this population that has not opted in," he said.
The board attended an International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans conference in Las Vegas this week.
Hermon said those retirees age 65 and older who are living stateside can reach United by calling 866-832-9517.
In the back-and-forth between the board and the executive branch last week, Government House released a statement criticizing the board's "inability to make a decision necessary to ensure a seamless transition from CIGNA Insurance to United Healthcare" for a small subset of government retirees who were not enrolled in Medicare Part B.
The governor in the statement also urged the board to reconsider going to the Las Vegas conference to deal with the issue.
However, the following day, the board released a statement saying that the issues the governor raised were resolved and suggested that the executive branch was trying to undermine the board's independence and authority.
- Contact Joy Blackburn at 714-9145 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.