State failed to research impact of drug coverage

Once again, Andrea McDaniels did an excellent job discussing issues relevant to state retirees losing their prescription coverage in her recent article, "Ruling leads Md. to extend retiree drug coverage,” (Oct. 12). While her article informs retirees that we will not lose these benefits in 2019, there is no guarantee what will happen to our prescription drug insurance coverage in 2020 and beyond. If we had been forced onto regular Medicare Part D drug insurance, it would have cost many of us thousands of dollars.

I have the following thoughts regarding our drug insurance benefits. First, at a minimum current state retirees should never lose these benefits. I believe that losing these benefits is a breach of contract and age discrimination. In addition, the legislative decision process resulting in our losing these benefits was flawed: Retirees were never made adequately aware that the legislation was being considered and as a result, we were robbed of the opportunity to inform our elected representatives of our concerns. This is contrary to our civil rights of open government and due process.

Second, it does not seem that an adequate cost analysis was performed to assess the negative impact of this policy on retirees. Some retirees might have to cut other necessary expenses such as food to pay for their drugs or would no longer be able to afford certain drugs due to their cost. To date, Democrats have accused Republicans of such treachery regarding removing necessary health care insurance. The Democratic leadership trying to rob state retirees of a crucial health benefit is inconsistent with their alleged concern to provide citizens with health care.

At a minimum, current retirees should be allowed to continue receiving these promised benefits. In addition, it would not be fair to take these benefits from current state employees who are vested in the retirement system.

If the state must cut expenses by eliminating the drug insurance coverage, it should limit its focus and action to new job applicants or, if necessary, also include employees who have not worked for the state more than a specified period of time and are not vested. And, in a timely manner, the state should inform employees they will be losing their drug coverage. Also, the state needs to be aware that its sneaky attempt to take away drug insurance from retirees might result in potential employees, and current employees that are not vested, deciding that the state cannot be trusted to deliver on their health care promises and wonder what other benefits might be taken away from employees and retirees. As a result, how many talented potential employees or current employees might decide it is not in their best interest to apply for or continue state employment? With the growing economy there are a lot of jobs available with competitive salaries.

Finally, I would like to see the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the American Association of Retired Persons work together with the state to find a fair manner of addressing any change in the drug insurance program that would not penalize retirees.

Martin Schugam, Owings Mills

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