Anoka County seeing reduced costs for benefits to retirees

Medicare supplemental insurance for eligible retired Anoka County employees will cost both them and the county less next year.

The Anoka County Board Nov. 13 voted 6-0 to switch providers from Medica to Blue Cross/Blue Shield (BCBS).

County Commissioner Andy Westerberg recused himself from the vote because as the owner of an insurance agency, he provides BCBS products.

Retiree health insurance benefits on the regular county plan are available to Anoka County employees who started work with the county before Jan. 6, 2007, according to Melanie Ault, county human resources director.

Once the retiree becomes Medicare eligible, they can move on to a county-offered Medicare supplemental health plan, which coordinates with Medicare, Ault wrote in a report to the county board.

“The Medicare supplemental plans are typically at a substantially lower premium than insurance for employees,” she wrote.

There are currently 700 retired county employees enrolled in Medicare supplemental insurance.

Medica and BCBS were the two insurers who submitted proposals and both were lower than the current Medica plan, according to Ault.

But by going with the BCBS proposal, the county and retiree/spouse will save a combined $734,076, Ault said.

The BCBS plan that includes prescription coverage for retirees in the BCBS service area has a $91.50 per month reduction from $264 to $172.50 a month, while there is a $25 a month reduction from $110 to $85 without prescription coverage, according to figures provided by Ault.

Medica’s proposal had a $44 a month reduction for the plan with prescription service and $23 a month with no prescription coverage, Ault wrote in her memo to the county board.

There is also a second plan offered by BCBS for retirees outside the BCBS service area, she wrote.

That has a premium increase from $264 to $281 a month with prescription coverage and from $110 to $193.50 a month without prescription coverage, Ault wrote.

But that plan was not offered under the existing Medica supplemental insurance with the county, she said.

And the BCBS premiums for outside the area coverage are still a lot less than the county’s regular health insurance plan premiums that retirees living outside the service area currently pay, according to Ault.

Benefits of the BCBS plan outlined by Ault include:

• Co-pay decrease from $20 to $15 in the service area and eliminating out of service area co-pays.

• Inpatient hospital is covered at 100 percent compared with a $50 co-pay.

• Supplemental drug coverage with 25 percent coinsurance is provided.

But there will less coverage for eyeglasses ($150 to $125), hearing aids ($500 to $450) and durable medical equipment (100 percent coverage to requiring 20 percent coinsurance), while the medical out-of-pocket maximum jumps from $1,000 to $3,000.

While no physicals will be required of retirees with the switch in provider, all those covered will have to fill out a new enrollment form, according to Ault.

The form were be available online on the Anoka County website, said Anoka County Board Chairperson Rhonda Sivarajah.

And county staff will be doing their best to contact all retirees currently covered under the Medicare supplemental insurance to notify them of the changes and about the need to submit a new enrollment form, Ault said.

At the same time, BCBS has an employee who will be providing outreach to retirees covered by the plan, she said.

Peter Bodley is at [email protected]