Some 189 retirees who were left temporarily without complete health insurance coverage by the latest government contract with UnitedHealthcare will again be fully covered once Gov. John deJongh Jr. signs a bill approved by the V.I. Legislature on Tuesday.
The government’s latest health insurance contract, negotiated by the Government Employees Services Commission Health Insurance Board, moves retirees older than 65 from CIGNA insurance to UnitedHealthcare insurance. During the transition, the Division of Personnel determined that about 189 retirees did not have Medicare Part B coverage, making them ineligible for coverage under the AARP Medicare Supplement Agreement.
Enrollment in Medicare Part B was not mandatory under the CIGNA Insurance coverage, but it is a requirement for retirees over 65 under the UHC insurance coverage.
Government House negotiated an amendment to the original agreement for UnitedHealthcare to provide coverage. The legislation authorizing the change, which was requested by Government House, says the bridge coverage is contingent on the V.I. government finding the funds to pay for it. [30-0305]
Coverage is retroactive to Dec. 31, 2013, eliminating a gap in coverage for the relatively small number of affected retirees.
In other legislation, V.I. criminals motivated by group hatred and bigotry will face more jail time due to that hatred, so long as the penalty for the underlying crime is less than five years in prison, if a bill approved by the Senate is signed into law by the governor.
The bill [30-0280] sponsored by Sens. Craig Barshinger and Clarence Payne is similar to "hate crime" legislation in a number of mainland states. It increases the penalty for crimes "motivated by prejudice of the victim’s actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, sex, ancestry, age, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity."
If the underlying crime is punishable by up to one year in prison, then prosecuting it as a hate crime would mean the sentence could be up to two years and a fine of up to $20,000. If the maximum penalty is more than one year but less than five years, a hate crime conviction will mean a sentence of up to five years and a fine of up to $50,000.
The Legislature also approved several legislative items that:
– addressed the bottom floor of the shuttered Enid M. Baa library, passing legislation saying it may be leased out for a gift shop or other commercial outlet with proceeds to help finance a territorial archive in the library’s upper floor. The bill sponsored by Sens. Myron Jackson and Shawn-Michael Malone says the second and third floors must be used for archives.
– added a definition of sexual conduct and change the definition of sexual contact [30-0109]. VIPD officials requested the changes to the law, testifying in committee hearings that the changes were needed to help police and prosecutors show that particular abusive actions are prosecutable criminal offenses.
– and authorizing the Property and Procurement commissioner to ratify a purchase order and pay Betteroads Asphalt Corporation $274,000 for additional work performed for the Virgin Islands National Guard on behalf of the Government of the Virgin Islands. The job became larger than expected due to unsound soil that had to be hauled away. [Bill 30-0303]
The Legislature approved a number of other bills, resolutions, nominations and leases Tuesday, which are discussed elsewhere in the Source.