Period Extended for Lab Retirees to Sign Up for Health Care



By Independent News


Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory retirees are concerned that they may not be able to sign up for health care benefits by the deadline. Because of that concern, the Lab is extending the open enrollment period.

Currently, the retirees are being asked to sign up for the benefits by Nov. 27. The problem is that many people cannot get through to Extend Health, the company hired to take on the task. Waits of up to two to three hours on the telephone have been reported, with no one ever answering.

Jeff Garberson, a member of the retirees organization, said people are upset and scared. "Someone has to step in."

Lynda Seaver, from the Lab's public affairs department, said, "There has been some difficulty in signing up. It is taking longer than originally anticipated. The problem is the massive number of retirees." She added that 30 percent have been enrolled, so the system is working.

Seaver added, "We know that people are concerned. We are trying to do what we can to improve the situation."

In order to make sure, all those who want to sign up are able to do so, Seaver said the open enrollment deadline is being extended to mid-December. People will still receive their health care I.D. cards in time with the later deadline. In addition, people can call in to set up exclusive personal appointments.

There is also concern that benefits are being changed.

Seaver said nothing is really changed. Rather than being a group insurance, as in the past, it is now individual insurance.

Under the new system, each person will have $2400 placed into a health care reimbursement account. The cost of care and premiums will be withdrawn each month. "There will be no change in the quality of care," said Seaver.

She also said that it is estimated there would be no out of pocket expenses that retirees would have to pay.

However, one retiree pointed out that the money is not sufficient to cover Medicare Part B. People could end up $200 in the hole at the end of the year.

Part B of Medicare is intended to fill some of the gaps in medical insurance coverage left under Part A. After the beneficiary meets the annual deductible, Part B will pay 80% of the "reasonable charge" for covered services, the reimbursement rate determined by Medicare; the beneficiary is responsible for the remaining 20% as "co-insurance."

Seaver said that under most scenarios involving Part B, retirees would have no out of pocket expenses. If the most expensive plan were selected, there would be a small amount. She said the $200 a year mentioned was in the ballpark.

Seaver explained that what retirees are not factoring in is that some of the services are now paid for that retirees had to pay under UC. She added the cost of health care is going up everywhere. "We are providing the same dollars for health care. There is just a different way of delivering it."