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Senate Bill Would Put Retirees on Insurance Panel

May 18, 2009 — The Senate Health Committee on Monday voted forward a bill giving retirees two seats on the Health Insurance Board's advisory committee, sending the bill on to Rules and Judiciary with plans to amend it and make the retirees voting members of the board.
The Health Insurance Board is comprised of members of the Government Employees Services Commission, whose task it is to negotiate and contract for government employee and retiree health benefits with private insurers. Chaired by Superintendent of Elections John Abramson, it has seven members — five appointed by the governor, divided among the three major islands, and two elected from among V.I. government employees. The advisory committee is a non-voting group with representatives from government agencies, insurance companies, government employees and others with whom the board consults.
Sen. Nereida "Nellie" Rivera-O'Reilly, the bill's sponsor, said government retirees needed to have a seat at the table because they are among the most affected by decisions about the health-insurance plan. Denyce Singleton, speaking on behalf of AARP Virgin Islands, agreed, but pushed for more than just a seat.
"AARP Virgin Islands sees the need not just to have a retiree sit on an advisory committee, but instead to be an independent, strong voice for retirees who will be able to fully participate in both discussions and decisions of the Health Insurance Board," Singleton said.
The growing pool of younger, Baby Boomer retirees have unique health insurance concerns, she said.
"People in the age group 50 to 64 generally do not meet the age requirement for Medicare," she said. "Yet this is the age when health-care issues begin to change for most individuals. … This is the period when intervention is cost-effective and most medically efficient."
Sen. Usie Richards asked Singleton if AARP supported the bill even though it was limited to the advisory committee and not the voting Health Insurance Board.
"We are willing to take the first step and we understand that," Singleton said.
Before and after voting, the senators discussed amending the bill in Rules and Judiciary to elect the two retirees from among government retirees registered with the insurance plan and give them voting seats. Voting yea on the motion to send the bill out of committee were O'Reilly, Richards, Sens. Neville James and Patrick Simeon Sprauve. Absent were Sens. Craig Barshinger, Louis Patrick Hill and Alvin Williams. No one voted nay.
Shortly after, the committee voted to hold a similar bill from Hill in committee because its intent and effect overlapped with the O'Reilly bill it had just passed.
Earlier in the day, Senators also received status updates from local officials on the operations of the St. Thomas East End Medical Center and Frederiksted Health Clinic. Most of the discussion centered on the closing of the Ingeborg Nesbitt Clinic, and when it will reopen.
The Frederiksted Health Clinic has been closed since last year due to persistent problems with mold, operating in the meantime out of facilities several miles away at the Herbert Grigg Home for the Aged. At the time, the cleanup was expected to cost about $250,000 and the initial phases of that work had begun. But when the ceiling tiles were pulled away and a closer examination made, officials realized the trouble was far more extensive.
Leaking pipes, water dripping in through the roof and other problems have delayed the reopening from a few months to more than a year now. A request for proposals is to go out this week, and the work may be complete before the end of the year. (See "Government Seeks Bids on Clinic Rehab Work."
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May 18, 2009 -- The Senate Health Committee on Monday voted forward a bill giving retirees two seats on the Health Insurance Board's advisory committee, sending the bill on to Rules and Judiciary with plans to amend it and make the retirees voting members of the board.
The Health Insurance Board is comprised of members of the Government Employees Services Commission, whose task it is to negotiate and contract for government employee and retiree health benefits with private insurers. Chaired by Superintendent of Elections John Abramson, it has seven members -- five appointed by the governor, divided among the three major islands, and two elected from among V.I. government employees. The advisory committee is a non-voting group with representatives from government agencies, insurance companies, government employees and others with whom the board consults.
Sen. Nereida "Nellie" Rivera-O'Reilly, the bill's sponsor, said government retirees needed to have a seat at the table because they are among the most affected by decisions about the health-insurance plan. Denyce Singleton, speaking on behalf of AARP Virgin Islands, agreed, but pushed for more than just a seat.
"AARP Virgin Islands sees the need not just to have a retiree sit on an advisory committee, but instead to be an independent, strong voice for retirees who will be able to fully participate in both discussions and decisions of the Health Insurance Board," Singleton said.
The growing pool of younger, Baby Boomer retirees have unique health insurance concerns, she said.
"People in the age group 50 to 64 generally do not meet the age requirement for Medicare," she said. "Yet this is the age when health-care issues begin to change for most individuals. ... This is the period when intervention is cost-effective and most medically efficient."
Sen. Usie Richards asked Singleton if AARP supported the bill even though it was limited to the advisory committee and not the voting Health Insurance Board.
"We are willing to take the first step and we understand that," Singleton said.
Before and after voting, the senators discussed amending the bill in Rules and Judiciary to elect the two retirees from among government retirees registered with the insurance plan and give them voting seats. Voting yea on the motion to send the bill out of committee were O'Reilly, Richards, Sens. Neville James and Patrick Simeon Sprauve. Absent were Sens. Craig Barshinger, Louis Patrick Hill and Alvin Williams. No one voted nay.
Shortly after, the committee voted to hold a similar bill from Hill in committee because its intent and effect overlapped with the O'Reilly bill it had just passed.
Earlier in the day, Senators also received status updates from local officials on the operations of the St. Thomas East End Medical Center and Frederiksted Health Clinic. Most of the discussion centered on the closing of the Ingeborg Nesbitt Clinic, and when it will reopen.
The Frederiksted Health Clinic has been closed since last year due to persistent problems with mold, operating in the meantime out of facilities several miles away at the Herbert Grigg Home for the Aged. At the time, the cleanup was expected to cost about $250,000 and the initial phases of that work had begun. But when the ceiling tiles were pulled away and a closer examination made, officials realized the trouble was far more extensive.
Leaking pipes, water dripping in through the roof and other problems have delayed the reopening from a few months to more than a year now. A request for proposals is to go out this week, and the work may be complete before the end of the year. (See "Government Seeks Bids on Clinic Rehab Work."
Back Talk Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.