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Howard school board delays implementing new retiree Medicare

Retirees in the Howard County Public School System will be able to stay under their old Medicare insurance plans, after the Board of Education unanimously voted Tuesday to suspend the implementation of the United Healthcare Medicare Advantage plan for one year.

The new insurance was set to take effect Jan. 1, 2014 for Medicare-eligible retirees, but concerns were raised that United Healthcare was not accepted at local medical systems like Howard County General Hospital, Johns Hopkins Hospital or University of Maryland Medical Center.

“Very late last week we made the decision, because there were so many concerns, that pending providers’ acceptance of the plan it would be best to suspend the implementation,” said Katrina Burton, the school system’s executive director of business and finance.

According to a letter sent to retirees on Friday, Dec. 13 from school officials, retirees will be able to stay on their existing Medicare plan from either Aetna or Care First for 2014. Medical premiums will not increase during that year. There will be a special enrollment period for impacted retirees from Jan. 21, 2014 to Feb. 7, 2014.

The United Healthcare plan, pending a review, validation and approval of medical providers and a resolution to other concerns expressed by retirees, will go into effect Jan. 1, 2015 “if it’s viable,” Burton said.

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