After more than a year of seeking answers about the potential changes to Savannah River Site retirees' medical benefits, current and former SRS employees finally got some answers Monday and, at least upon initial review, were pleased with the news.The proposed changes would remove employees 65 and older from the site's insurance plan and give a stipend amount for the retirees to purchase their own insurance.Retirees have long expressed concerns over what the stipend amount will be and whether it would be enough for retirees to shoulder the cost of purchasing insurance. SRS Retirees Association chairman Andy Cwalina said Monday that he believes the stipend amount, $2,400 for a single retiree or $4,800 for a retiree and one additional person, will be adequate."It is a generous stipend," Cwalina said. "On the surface, it looks like it is quite generous and that we should be able to make it work."In addition to the $2,400 annual stipend, a one-time initial contribution of $500 for a single retiree or spouse or $1,000 for a retiree plus one additional person will be given as "seed" money, according to Savannah River Nuclear Solutions spokesperson Barbara Smoak."We know it is going to be an adjustment for the retirees and (the one-time contribution) is just to take the pressure off and go ahead and start them off with a little bit of additional money," Smoak said.If not used, the stipend amounts will roll over from one year to the next, she said.The changes are slated to take effect in January.The updated information was sent in a letter to all current SRS retirees on Monday and shared during a meeting with SRNS management, members of the SRSRA and representatives of both South Carolina and Georgia Congressional delegations who have been asking for a meeting to discuss the potential benefit changes for several months.Also under the changes, retirees under 65 would be moved to a separate group and be charged a premium based on their health care needs.Monday's SRNS letter shows that the rate for retirees in SRS' prime plan for 2013 would be $392 (a $51 increase) for one retiree, $784 (a $102 increase) for a retiree plus one additional person and $1,179 (a $154 increase) for a retiree plus two or more additional people.The rates for the standard plan would be $109 (a $14 increase) for one retiree, $219 (a $29 increase) for a retiree plus one additional person and $412 (a $54 increase) for a retiree plus two or more additional people.The basic plan would be $0 (no increase) for one retiree, $31 (a $4 increase) for a retiree plus one additional person and $68 (a $9 increase) for one retiree plus two or more additional people.Cwalina said the proposed changes would require further review by the SRSRA to determine whether the retirees will continue to protest the changes or accept them but said, ideally, the retirees would still have their previous medical benefits honored."We would have preferred grandfathering (the existing benefits for retirees), but I believe we can make this stipend work.," Cwalina said.Retirees older than 65 will be contacted by the My Medicare Advocate service to aid them in selecting insurance coverage.Town hall meetings are planned in various location in July and August to answer retirees questions and hear feedback about the changes, and enrollment will take place in October and November.Anna Dolianitis is a reporter for the Aiken Standard. She covers the Department of Energy's Savannah River Site, as well as court and legal matters affecting Aiken County. She has been with the Aiken Standard since August 2010.Town hall meeting dates and times for retirees affected by the over 65 changes:USC Aiken Etherredge Center - July 16, July 17, Aug. 6 and Aug. 7 (all meetings are at 8 a.m., 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.)North Augusta Community Center - July 18, July 19, Aug. 8 and Aug. 9 (all meetings are at 8 a.m., 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.)Barnwell Primary School - July 20 and Aug. 10 (all meetings are at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m.)
Notice about comments:
Aiken Standard is pleased to offer readers the enhanced ability to comment on stories. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point.