© 2024 WSKG

601 Gates Road
Vestal, NY 13850

217 N Aurora St
Ithaca, NY 14850

FCC Public Files:
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

WSKG thanks our sponsors...

Cortland County Legislature walks back change to retirees' health insurance

The votes comes amid a drawn-out legal battle over the plan, after retirees sued in Cortland County Supreme Court to oppose it.
Phoebe Taylor-Vuolo
Cortland County Courthouse.

The Cortland County Legislature voted Wednesday to rescind its decision to change retired county workers’ health insurance.

The county had initially hoped to switch its retirees from a traditional Medicare plan over to a Medicare Advantage plan. Medicare Advantage plans are administered by private insurance companies.

Officials say the move to the new plan would be less costly. Currently, Cortland County pays for secondary health insurance to supplement retirees’ federal Medicare benefits.

In August, legislators voted 10 to 6 in favor of the proposal.

During a special meeting Wednesday, the legislature voted unanimously, with one member absent, to walk back the change.

This comes amid a drawn-out legal battle over the plan, after retirees sued the county.

Donna Johnson, who worked for the county for 13 years, is the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit. She said it was a relief to see the county reverse its decision because the deadline to either enroll or opt out of the new plan is in early December.

Johnson said one retiree rescheduled serious heart surgery so that it would be done before the proposed new insurance set in. Another retiree began dialysis treatments. Johnson said they're worried about what to expect.

“They were frightened. They still wanted to do the research and be sure they were ready for the [enrollment] deadline. And I could just feel the tension and the feelings that they were going through. It's so emotional.”

The county legislature said in a press release before the special meeting that it was considering rescinding the change due to the looming open enrollment deadline.

According to court filings, the deadline for the county to provide UnitedHealthcare, the Medicare Advantage insurer, with a list of eligible participants in the new plan was December 6.

The county legislature said because of the lawsuit, it has not had enough time to properly inform retirees ahead of the deadline. Johnson objected to that.

“They're blaming us as litigants, and wanting us to take the blame for it. It is not that we are holding up the process,” Johnson said. “It's that they weren't prepared with the process to present it to us right from the beginning.”

It is unclear what comes next for the lawsuit. Attorneys for the county would not comment on the vote due to the pending litigation.