Government retirees have been given an extra week, until Oct. 12, to decide whether to retain their government health insurance, while current employees must decide by Friday, according to V.I. Director of Personnel Kenneth Hermon Jr.
The annual open enrollment period for the government health plan was extended for retirees because of the decisions they'll need to make following sharp increases in their premiums, Hermon said.
The open enrollment period for current employees closes Friday, he said. For them the decision is easier. Under the terms of the contract of the medical and prescription drug plan with Connecticut General Life Insurance Company (CIGNA,) current employees are automatically included in the plan unless they can show they have an alternative health plan.
Failing that, and given the difficulty in acquiring private health insurance, Hermon called that "unlikely." The employees have to decide whether they want medical coverage, or medical and dental, and whether they will include family members under their coverage.
At the end of September, Gov. John deJongh Jr. signed insurance renewal contracts recommended by the Government Employees Services Commission/Health Insurance Board, locking in new rates and coverage for the 2013 fiscal year. The new plan raises the premium health insurance rates for the 6,873 retirees covered by the program to reflect their share of coverage, as compared to the 8,301 active government employees who have been paying more of the overall burden over the past years, according to a statement issued by Government House.
Premiums for retirees younger than 65 years old increased more than 42 percent for both individuals and families. Retirees 65 years and older – those who are eligible for Medicare – will see increases of roughly 64 percent in their premiums. Active government employees, by contrast, will experience a premium rate increase of 1.6 percent.
The decision, coming only a week before the end of the enrollment period, prompted a letter from Denyce Singleton, state director of the AARP Virgin Islands, asking for an extension of the enrollment period.
Hermon said that letter was part of the impetus for granting the extension. He said the division is also putting together an informational session for any retirees who want help in deciding what they want to do, but the gathering has not been finalized so he couldn't give a time or place Thursday morning. As soon as the session is scheduled, Hermon said the division would issue a statement.