Frustration and Concerns: State Employee Healthcare Benefits at the Forefront of a Growing Debate

Health premiums for Delaware state employees set to increase

The recent decision by the State Employee Benefits Committee (SEBC) not to vote on continuing enhanced COVID-19 benefits has left many employees feeling frustrated. Starting from January 1, 2025, employees will now have to pay pre-COVID-19 costs for services like primary care visits, hospital stays, and telemedicine. In a related decision, the SEBC awarded the operation of the Medicare Supplement Plan for retirees to Highmark Delaware for a two-year term.

However, this decision was met with opposition from retirees who had previously opposed a previous attempt by the committee to move them to a Medicare Advantage Plan through Highmark. The advocacy group RiseDelaware successfully blocked this move, and the SEBC has since reversed its decision.

Shaun O’Brien, policy director with the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), voted against the decision citing concerns about the reliability of the SEBC and lack of transparency. State Rep. Paul Baumbach supported the decision virtually and expressed concerns about keeping promises made to retirees regarding their healthcare benefits. He is sponsoring legislation to increase transparency and accountability within the committee.

The SEBC also approved changes to ensure equal access to care for individuals with mental health or substance abuse disorders. Additionally, wigs and mastectomy bras were approved as enhanced women’s benefits but cooling caps were not. The total cost of these changes was estimated at between $507,000 and $557,000 further illustrating how important these decisions are for state employees and retirees.

Overall, it seems that there is still much work that needs to be done in order to ensure that state employees and retirees receive the healthcare benefits they deserve.

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