Retired Montgomery County employees will see a change in their health insurance coverage at the start of next year.
The County Board of Supervisors approved a resolution last week to switch 227 retirees over 65 from the current Medicare plan to a cheaper, government-subsidized Medicare Advantage plan.
The new plan is projected to save a total of $410,000 over 2013.
“We have to look for every little dollar that’s around,” said St. Johnsville Town Supervisor and Dominick Stagliano, who was part of the majority to approve the switch.
According to Board President Shayne Walters, roughly 70 percent of the savings, or about $360,000 will go to the county, helping to close a nearly $4 million gap in the prospective 2013 budget.
It is estimated that retirees will also save about $17 a month on premiums.
“It saves them money and is saves us money,” he said.
Under the current plan retirees are charged a co-pay for doctor visits, but through CanaRx, generic prescription drugs are free.
The new plan charges between $10 and $40 co-pays for drugs, but no co-pays for doctor visits. That change caused some heated debate.
“If people are on more than one or two prescriptions, it’s going to cost them a fortune,” said Amsterdam Fourth Ward Supervisor Barbara Wheeler, “I think this is going to force some retirees to choose between food and medication.”
She said further that before the vote she spent many hours on the phone with worried county retirees.
“They’re wondering how they’re going to afford their medications,” she said.
Wheeler was joined by Amsterdam Town Supervisor Tom DiMezza and Amsterdam Third Ward Supervisor Ron Barone in voting against the change.
Stagliano acknowledged the worry.
“With lower premiums [retirees] will save money. The question is, in the long term will the majority save enough to cover the co-pays?”
Wheeler recommended more cost analysis be done, but most supervisors thought the savings were worth the risk, passing the resolution 11-3.
The switch marks the end of many months of board discussions.
According to Walters, talks have been in progress since February, helped along by insurance consulting company Benetech.
“We had to look at ways to save money,” he said. “With a few more changes like this we can tighten up our budget gap.”
Stagliano said that with the county’s projected $4 million deficit, the Medicare Advantage shift is just one way they’re trying to save money. As many as 35 positions might be cut as well.
“Every little bit like this helps,” he said.