UMaine system pauses altering medical health insurance for retirees after worker sue

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Retired University of Maine system employees on Thursday filed a class action lawsuit over health benefits changes proposed by the system. In response, the system announced that it would “pause” to speak to agents and address their concerns.

In August, the university system announced that it would cut its nearly 3,000 retired employees from group health insurance and instead give them scholarships for an insurance exchange. Officials touted flexibility and cost savings in the new plan, but many former employees met with an outcry, saying they will face a huge, unexpected surge in healthcare spending.

On Thursday, eleven retirees filed a lawsuit demanding the changes be halted, saying the move violated their rights under a union agreement.

“We hear story after story of people who have significantly more expenses that they didn’t plan for because they won’t have the same insurance that we say they were guaranteed at the time of their retirement,” he said Ben Grant, an attorney who represents retirees.

In response, the system announced that it would take a break to address concerns and work with union leaders and representatives of retirees to see if they could be better served in their current group plan.

“We remain committed to our retirees and provide them with affordable, high quality healthcare. We will be running our review quickly to address the concerns raised and to ensure that retirees make a clear decision in time by January 1, 2021, “UMS Chancellor Dannel Malloy said in a statement.

“We are pleased that the University of Maine system finally understands that there are serious health plan conversion problems for our most vulnerable retirees,” said Jim McClymer, Associate Professor of Physics and President of the Associated Faculties of the Universities of Maine . “This transition break is a step in the right direction and unions are keen to speak to the administration about the change, its impact on retirees and how they can hopefully address the issues this transition is facing for retirees and current employees brings itself. ”

Systems officials said the new plan will give many retirees more flexibility, and Malloy said it could save the system $ 2.5 million a year and take some of the financial strain off the pandemic.

Earlier this week officials announced that the Board of Trustees had hired an independent ombudsman to assist retirees with the new system and help them with any questions.

Democratic lawmakers have criticized the move and pledged to introduce laws to protect retirees’ health benefits.

Updated Thursday, November 19, 5:42 pm.

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