SEBC’s Decision on COVID-19 Benefits and Medicare Plan for Retirees: Controversies, Concerns, and Implications

Health premiums for Delaware state employees set to increase

The SEBC recently made a decision not to vote on continuing enhanced COVID-19 benefits, which means 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 state employee benefits committee awarded the operation of the Medicare Supplement Plan for retirees to Highmark Delaware for a two-year term starting January 1, 2025, with an optional one-year extension. This decision comes after a lawsuit by retirees who opposed a previous attempt by the committee to move retirees to a Medicare Advantage Plan through Highmark, which was successfully blocked by the advocacy group RiseDelaware.

Shaun O’Brien, policy director with the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, 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 the lack of confidence in the committee’s actions while emphasizing the importance of keeping promises made to retirees regarding their healthcare benefits. Baumbach is sponsoring legislation to increase transparency and accountability within the committee.

In addition to these decisions, the SEBC also approved changes to ensure equal access to care for individuals with mental health or substance abuse disorders. The committee also approved wigs and mastectomy bras as enhanced women’s benefits but did not approve cooling caps. The total cost of these changes to employee health plans was estimated to be between $507,000 and $557,000 further highlighting how important these decisions are for state employees and retirees.

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