City Taking 2nd Look At Changing Insurance Carriers After Retirees Express Concerns

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

City officials said Tuesday night they will take a second look at details of a switch to a new insurance provider after retirees raised concerns about United Healthcare.

Police retiree Vince Dean said retirees have been getting "inconsistent" answers on coverage provided by United Healthcare.

He said they were told that CHI Memorial's Heart Institute as well as Contin-U Care are among those not accepting United Healthcare. He said retirees were also advised that the pharmacy at the city wellness center would not accept United Healthcare.

City official Tina Camba said proposals from the current provider, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and United Healthcare were the same. She said there will be no reduction in benefits and providers will remain the same.

However, she said in light of all the concerns expressed, that she will reaffirm that United Healthcare can provide the same coverage as the current carrier.

Stacy Richardson, the mayor's chief of staff, also said that will be double-checked. She said a report will be given to the council at its 1:30 p.m. meeting next Tuesday.

Mr. Dean, a former state legislator who is now Criminal Court Clerk, asked the council not to confirm the contract until the coverage issue is resolved.

He said retirees got low pay, but were always promised they would get monthly pension checks, annual cost of living raises, and that their coverage would be the same as all other city employees.

Mr. Dean said the annual cost of living raises went away earlier. He said retirees do not want to lose access to any of their healthcare providers or their pharmacy benefits.

Officials said the contract with United Healthcare is due to go into effect Jan. 1, but has not yet been signed.

However, some employees have already begun enrolling with the firm.

Ms. Camba said United Healthcare has some offerings that are better than the current provider, and many employees are happy about that.

She said United Healthcare was the choice of a committee that studied both insurors.

Councilwoman Carol Berz said she has been hearing the same concerns about gaps in the network of United Healthcare. She said, "I'm really angry about this. I think we have received fraudulent information - misleading information."

She added, "I don't want to be stuck with a contract that is detrimental to some of our employees."

Noting that Mr. Dean said retirees only learned of the change at a late hour, Councilwoman Demetrus Coonrod said the council often is asked to make hurried votes without having the proper information.

She said, "This keeps coming back up that we are not getting the information we need and we are rushed to a vote."  


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