Howard County Public School System retirees 65 and over are outraged and scared because of a three-year health plan assigned to them starting Jan. 1. The Howard County General Hospital, Johns Hopkins Hospital, as well as University of Maryland Medical Center are not recognized by this plan. Yet all other retirees and employees continue to get good coverage, the same coverage that Medicare eligible retirees once had.

HCPSS employees grew up with the Columbia Medical Plan developed by Johns Hopkins in the early '70s. Retirees have been benefiting from the Hopkins expertise for over 40 years. Now at the most vulnerable time of their life, HCPSS has taken this benefit away from them. HCPSS is claiming that they were unaware of the problems. On Oct. 10 at a health care meeting, many retirees asked a United Health Care [UHC] and a HCPSS representative if they could still receive care from the JH network. UHC replied that if an agency or a doctor accepts Medicare, they would accept UHC. Retirees immediately reported loudly that their JH doctors were telling them otherwise.

It took the research of a small group of retirees to find out that Hopkins would not accept this plan, and neither would they accept HCGH nor UMMC. As late as Nov. 23, an official newsletter still stated that HCGH would accept this plan. UHC is still claiming as of Dec. 5 that hospitals and doctors will treat us, even if they are not under contract. A HCGH representative disputes this claim saying that in an emergency, the hospital will stabilize and transfer us.

Retirees are well aware that UHC has grossly misrepresented themselves. Minimally, HCPSS is guilty of choosing a plan without doing their homework, but why didn't they examine the claims of the retirees at the Oct. 10 meeting? As of Dec. 6, HCPSS is trying to fix the problem. Still retirees aren't sleeping well these days, but sleep will be the least of their problems, if this plan goes into effect on Jan. 1.

Nancy Scoville

Former HCPSS retirement specialist

Ellicott City