Health Insurance Board says no lapse took place; no retirees will be without insurance
Published: October 18, 2013
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The government health insurance board released a statement on Thursday saying that no government retirees will experience any lapse in insurance coverage as a result of the transition from CIGNA to United Healthcare.
"The board has taken every precaution to ensure that no lapses occur," the release said.
The statement was in response to what it described as "misinformation" in a press release that was issued by Government House on Wednesday.
Gov. John deJongh Jr. had criticized the insurance 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 and urged board members to reconsider plans to leave for a conference in Las Vegas today.
"It is worked out," Clemmie Moses, chairwoman of the Government Employees Services Commission - Health Insurance Board, told The Daily News on Thursday night.
"We, the board, never had any doubt that it would not work out," she said. "Our only purpose is to make sure we provide the active employees and the retirees, pre- and post-65, with the very best coverage at the most reasonable rates we can find."
The board also raised questions about the V.I. Personnel Division's ability to maintain accurate eligibility data and said it has become "increasingly concerned about attempts by the Governor's Office and the Director of Personnel to discredit the GESC Health Insurance Board and to undermine its independence and authority as granted under Title 3 of the V.I. Code."
The Daily News sought response from Government House to the board's statement on Thursday night.
This was all Government House released:
"The Division of Personnel and Government House are reviewing the statement put forth by the GESC Health Insurance Board of Trustees concerning insurance coverage for retirees under the government's health insurance plan. A response will be provided once the review is completed."
The issue surrounds supplemental insurance coverage for 189 government retirees who are 65 or older and not currently enrolled in Medicare Part B.
Enrollment in Part B had not been mandatory under CIGNA, but it is required under the new United Healthcare coverage that the government is using this year for retirees 65 and older. The government insurance is a supplement to their Medicare.
According to the board, the 189 government retirees who currently do not have Medicare Part B will continue to be covered under their CIGNA plan through Nov. 30 and then will be transitioned to United Healthcare on Dec. 1.
Starting Dec. 1, the retirees will have the choice of enrolling in a low-cost United Healthcare prescription drug-only plan or a United Healthcare "Senior Supplement Plan" that covers prescription drugs and medical expenses normally covered under Medicare Part B.
Effective Jan. 1, all post-65 government retirees are required to enroll in Medicare Part B to continue to be eligible for health insurance benefits under the government's plan.
The Medicare Open enrollment period runs from Jan. 1 through March 31, and the Medicare Part B coverage will become effective July 1. At that time, the 189 retirees will be eligible to enroll in the standard United Healthcare AARP Medicare Supplement plan with prescription drugs, the same plan that the rest of the government's retirees over 65 are participating in.
Moses said she did not have the numbers in front of her, but CIGNA is going to continue coverage for the 189 retirees without Medicare Part B during November for the same price they paid in October.
As for the cost of the two choices for the transitional plans until Medicare Part B begins July 1, Moses said she did not have the specifics of the rates at this point.
"I would rather give concrete information when we have it," she said. "The rates will be slightly higher, but not that much higher."
Moses said that she had received word on Wednesday about the continuing CIGNA coverage through November for the 189 people affected and that the board had an emergency meeting Thursday.
The Government House release "was issued without approach and or verification of actions being undertaken by the board, thus pre-empting the board's ability to convey appropriate responses and unduly alarming those that the board is obligated to serve," the insurance board's statement said.