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Ongoing Health Insurance Contract Status Becomes Public

VI Government employees and retirees can breathe a little easier now, thanks to Senator Nereida Rivera-O’Reilly’s commitment to fulfilling a promise she made to the St. Croix Government Retirees, Inc.

Bill 31-0016, an Act to require simultaneous submissions of a copy of the government’s proposed health insurance contract be sent to the Governor and the Legislature upon completion of the GESC’s negotiations, streamlines the process to obtain adequate funding and keeps the public aware of the contract’s status.

The Bill, suggested by the “St. Croix Retiree Group” and sponsored by Senator Nereida Rivera-O’Reilly with the full support of AARP Virgin Islands, ends the impression of secrecy that traditionally surrounded the annual process to finalize the single largest health insurance contract in the territory. When the Bill goes into effect with the forwarding of the insurance contract to both parties, tensions among beneficiaries and providers will ease since this year both groups will have full knowledge of the contract’s status.

In the past, the laborious process that takes months examining all the variables and narrowing the selection down to the best services for the best possible cost, analysis of new services to be added to the plan, the elimination of old services, and any changes that occurred to the actual cost of providing certain routine or extraordinary services were then forwarded to the Governor for review and, hopefully approval. The process begins early each calendar year and culminates in late May with the selection being sent to the Governor in June.

The Governor then has to accept the plan and determine how he will make the cost of the plan fit into the government’s overall budget that begins October 1 or reject the plan and have the Government Employees Service Commission (GESC) begin negotiations again. The Act also requires the Governor to send a notice to the Legislature if he decides to reject the proposal and cause the GESC to begin negotiations again.

For years, Virgin Islanders had the impression that the government was being held hostage by greedy health insurance companies who waited until the eleventh hour to agree to the following year’s contract solely because that is when the contract was forwarded to the Legislature for ratification and thus, became public.
Now, thanks to Senator O’Reilly, the GESC will submit the proposed contract to both the Governor and the Legislature as required in June. This will enable the Legislature to also become actively involved in the process to identify funding and will also help to shed light on where the negotiation process stands.

The St. Croix Retirees Group is an association of retirees who initially gathered to work on issues related to the territory’s public pension system. Its advocates include many AARP members residing on St. Croix. The group has since widened its scope of interest to other topics that impact the retirees’ financial resilience, such as the cost of health care and health insurance.

AARP VI urges all VI residents to visit our AARP website at: www.aarp.org/vi to learn more about the status of the government’s health insurance contract while the new process unfolds.

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