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Retirees Bring Forth Solution to Health Insurance Quagmire

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Photo courtesy: GERS website

Retirees from the St. Croix Government Retirees, Inc. (SCGR), which includes AARP members on St. Croix, are diligently working to support Senator Nereida Rivera-O’Reilly’s Bill Number 31-0016 which will resolve a long-standing political and funding issue related to the VI Government’s negotiations to purchase employee and retiree health insurance coverage.

The Government Employees Service Commission (GESC) traditionally works with insurance companies to develop a health plan at a cost the government can afford. The process of approving the plan has been extremely problematic for at least a decade. The process calls for the draft plan to be submitted to the Governor for review and approval early in each year prior to any input from the Legislature. In the past this process consumed valuable time while the Governor reviewed the plan; and was especially problematic if he rejected it. If rejected, the GESC had to go back and re-negotiate the problem areas with the vendor all over again.

Too often the delays stalled the plan’s arrival until very late in the annual funding cycle, usually in September. The lateness of the plan’s arrival to the Legislature for funding approval caused legislators and the public to feel they were being forced to accept a plan which needed close scrutiny yet they had no time to review or have input into its contents.

By changing the law to allow for both the Governor and the Legislature to receive the draft simultaneously, the legislature and the public will be better able to understand the scope of what is being covered as well as any reasons for rate changes.

The timing of receipt of the drafted health plan will also enable the Legislature to develop a more holistic/realistic perspective on the government’s upcoming fiscal year expenditures. Thus also enabling them to identify and shift funding to better accommodate the myriad of VI government obligations.

SCGR was originally formed as a St. Croix-based insular response to concerns retirees had related to their government sponsored pension plan, also known as GERS. The group has expanded their advocacy efforts to include issues that also impact their financial security. Some members of the SCGR are also members of AARP VI.

The AARP VI State Office supports and applauds the retiree group’s efforts to identify VI challenges and help advocate for realistic solutions. If you too, support Bill # 31-0016 as the right solution to this troubling issue, please attend the legislative hearings, or contact your legislative representative and ask them to vote YES for Bill # 31-0016.

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