Frederick looks to help retirees

Three aldermen are moving ahead with a plan to help the city’s Medicare-eligible retirees pay for some hospitalizations through December.

The city’s new insurance coverage, which went into effect in January, requires those covered under the Medicare Advantage plan to pay $250 per hospitalization. They did not have to pay for hospitalizations under the former policy, and three aldermen believe the city did not give retirees much notice that their costs could go up.

Aldermen Shelley Aloi, Carol Krimm and Michael O’Connor said Wednesday they want to set up a fund to pay the copays after the patient pays one. The plan year runs through December.

Based on previous years’ hospitalizations, they estimated that $10,000 would cover copay costs though December. If $10,000 is not enough, aldermen said they would consider adding money to the fund.

They plan to phase out the fund over a couple of years, they said, when retirees will have an opportunity to plan for the expense.

“We didn’t want to affect these folks that are in this pool now,” Aloi said.

She suggested paying 50 percent of hospitalization copay costs the second year, 25 percent the third and phase out the fourth.

Krimm, who participated in the workshop from Annapolis, said she would like to look at the fund’s operation yearly and hear from affected retirees.

“They just did not have the opportunity to plan,” Krimm said via Skype video communication.

The aldermen left it to the human resources office to administer and determine eligibility for the reimbursements. Kathryn Nicolato, human resources manager, said retirees will have to disclose some medical information to her office and receive reimbursement from the finance department.

She told the aldermen that other employees may claim unequal treatment because they have to pay their copays, and because they have to pay a higher percentage of their insurance premiums.

Medicare-eligible retirees pay about 5 percent of their premium costs, while other retirees and employees pay 25 percent, she said.

O’Connor said he would be willing, at some time in the future, to increase the percentage of premium cost that Medicare-eligible retirees pay.

Enrollees on the city’s Medicare Advantage policy include 79 retirees and 51 spouses or widows, Nicolato said.

Between now and July 2013, she estimates that 20 more will be added.

The money to cover the hospitalization copays this year would come out of the $219,000 the city saved on the new insurance policy.

Alderwomen Kelly Russell and Karen Young did not participate in the discussion because they could be affected by the policy.

Russell is a city retiree, not yet eligible for Medicare. Young is married to former Mayor Ron Young, who is covered, and she could be covered in the future as his spouse.

Aldermen will vote on the fund at a future public meeting.

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