County considering new healthcare plan, could affect retirees and employees

The Cortland County Legislature Government Operations committee will hear a proposal to switch retiring and retired county employees to a Medicare Advantage healthcare plan at tomorrow’s meeting. 

The measure, if approved, is meant to cut costs for the county, but would change the way some retirees can seek care. Benefits, including retirement healthcare, have long been touted by legislators as an edge the county has as an employee over others in the private sector.

The proposed Medicare Advantage and Prescription Drug benefit plans (MAPD) would run through United HealthCare. The county would be buying into the plan through the Broome County Purchasing Alliance (BCPA), but have its own separate contract with United that would start next January if approved by the County Legislature, a resolution proposed for tomorrow’s Government Operations meeting states.  The resolution adds that the county reviewed four different proposals for MAPD plans. Readers can find the meeting’s agenda here.

Typically, Medicare Advantage plans help employers save on healthcare benefits, while also covering some specific gaps original Medicare plans do not cover. For instance, a Medicare plan would not cover dental or vision care. 

However, often Medicare Advantage plans can also introduce networked coverage for those seeking care. An original Medicare plan can allow individuals to seek care at any facility in the country that takes Medicare insurance, according to Under some Medicare Advantage plans, individuals would be under rules applied to private insurance holders, meaning some providers could be outside their network, resulting in further out-of-pocket costs. 

The Medicare website also states providers can join or leave a plan’s network at any time during the year. Plan administrators can also change the providers in the network at any time during the year. 

How a recent judicial ruling was handled in NYC

These private insurance components of MAPD plans were the subject of a recent judicial ruling in New York City, where a local judge barred the city from switching its retirement healthcare plan to an Advantage plan administered by Aetna. The plan would have saved the city $600 million.

State Supreme Court Judge Lyle Frank noted in his decision last week the city had made promises to workers that their post-retirement insurance plan would be Medicare. New York City workers have said in the past the plan would make it more costly to seek care and get approved for more complex procedures.

Presentation on the MAPD plans

Cortland County Legislators will hear a presentation on MAPD plans tomorrow. If they greenlight the measure, the whole Legislature could vote on the switch to MAPD plans at their Aug. 24 meeting.

Laurie Leonard, the county’s personnel officer, did not respond for comment on the MAPD plan’s benefits to workers and the county by the time of publication.