UMaine System reinstates previous health care plan after complaints from retirees

Published: Nov. 25, 2020 at 3:46 PM EST
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ORONO, Maine (WABI) - The UMaine System is reinstating its old health care plan after retired employees protested a proposed switch.

The change, which rolled out in August, would have transitioned about 3,000 people from an existing plan to a new benefit plan.

Former employees complained about the high costs of the switch and last week 11 of them filed a lawsuit, then system officials announced they would pause the change.

Now, the system is offering retirees the option to continue with their existing health care plan or switch to the new plan.

Those who choose to re-enroll in the old plan will have to do so before December 31st.

The Unions representing several of the retirees released a statement in part saying, “The UMaine System retirees are collectively breathing a sigh of relief learning they can keep their group health care plan.”

UMaine System Chancellor Dannel Malloy released a statement saying, “The marketplace is changing, and we owe it to Maine’s taxpayers and the university community to find a better, more affordable way to meet the supplemental health insurance needs of our former employees.”

The full release can be read below:

University of Maine System To Retain Aetna Group Health Plan and Cap Out-Of-Pocket Prescription Drug Expenses at $1,500 for Participants Who Switch to Exchange Plans

Responding to retiree and union concerns and resolving their legal challenges, UMS will commit to more options including the retention of the existing University-sponsored Aetna group health plan and a $1,500 cap on prescription drug expenses for retirees transitioning to an HRA-funded exchange-based plan administered by Aon

Orono, Maine -- The University of Maine System is responding to concerns expressed by retirees and UMS labor unions and resolving them by retaining options for both new exchange-based individual health plans and the current University-sponsored group health plan offered by Aetna for eligible retirees who feel they are better served by their existing coverage. In exchange for these commitments, three UMS unions and several retirees will withdraw their legal challenges to the retiree health changes. The existing supplemental group health plan has been in place since January 1, 2014, providing healthcare coverage and Medicare benefits for UMS’s 3,000 retirees and their spouses.

Retirees will still have the option of transitioning to marketplace exchange-based plans administered by Aon that may offer more flexible coverage options and better affordability. These plans will continue to be supported by a University contribution into a Health Reimbursement Account of $2,100 for retirees and $800 for eligible spouses. Retirees transitioning to the new plans will also have the option to add protection for prescription drug coverage that caps out-of-pocket expenses for prescription medications at $1,500 annually.

“Many of our former employees and our bargaining units have engaged with the Board of Trustees over the last several weeks expressing both support for our existing group plan and concern that the individual exchange does not provide an affordable solution for everyone,” said James Erwin, Chair of the Board. “The Board has heard these concerns and commends Chancellor Dannel Malloy and his team for the options they have developed to provide coverage consistency and prescription drug protections for our retirees.”

“The marketplace is changing, and we owe it to Maine’s taxpayers and the university community to find a better, more affordable way to meet the supplemental health insurance needs of our former employees. And we need to find that solution together,” said Chancellor Malloy. “In the upcoming year we will be retaining our group health plan while also providing new exchange-based options with prescription drug protections to make sure our commitment to retiree health coverage is met.”

Summary of Options and Steps for Retirees Based on Enrollment Status

The University of Maine System will begin communicating today with retirees about their new options for supplemental insurance coverage starting January 1, 2021. Benefit specialists and a new retiree health insurance ombudsman will be available to assist retirees with questions. UMS will also be offering a series of webinars to help explain the new options to its retiree population.

Actions retirees should consider include:

  • Enroll by December 7, 2020 in an Aon Retiree Health Exchange supported with an HRA contribution and a $1,500 limit on out-of-pocket for prescription expenses. Coverage begins January 1, 2021. Retirees who have already enrolled will also be able to take advantage of the $1,500 limit on prescription expenses;
  • Unenroll from an Aon Retiree Health Exchange plan by December 31, 2020 and remain enrolled in the University-sponsored Aetna group plan as of January 1, 2021; and,
  • Retirees who have not engaged with Aon can do nothing and be automatically renewed in the existing University-sponsored Aetna group plan as of January 1, 2021.

Important Resources for UMS Retirees

Easy to Follow Infographic -- Link to Document

Webinar(s) and Schedule

  • Tuesday, December 1 at 10:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m. (Eastern Time)
  • Wednesday, December 2, at 10:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m. (Eastern Time)

UMS Employee Benefits Center -- 1-207-973-3373

Aon Retiree Health Exchange -- 1-833-704-1028 (TTY 711)

The following is a joint statement from the three Unions (AFUM, UMPSA, ACSUM*) that represent University of Maine System Retirees

“University of Maine System retirees are collectively breathing a sigh of relief learning they can keep their group health care plan. This change to restore their group plan means our most vulnerable Mainers do not have to choose which prescriptions to fill or worry they won’t be able to afford to see their doctor. The Unions that represent our UMaine System retirees worked hard to share the negative impacts of the UMS decision with the Board of Trustees, and are pleased the System finally understood a change of this magnitude required negotiation. In the future, the Unions look forward to working with the University System to discuss any issues that impact employees, past and present.”

Neil Greenberg, School of Marine Sciences, University of Maine, UMPSA President,

Cheryl Spencer, Scientific Research Specialists, University of Maine, ACSUM President,

Jim McClymer, PhD, Associate Professor of Physics, University of Maine, AFUM President,

*AFUM-Associated Faculties of the University of Maine- the only faculty organization that has a contract with the University of Maine system

*ACSUM-Associated COLT Staff of the Universities of Maine, represents the hourly COLT (clerical, office, laboratory, technical) staff in the University of Maine System.

*UMPSA-Universities of Maine Professional Staff Association, representing professional staff who are not faculty

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