Newport News Shipyard Retirees Losing Medicare Coverage

I am concerned about the amount of “unease” and lack of choices being expressed by retirees of Newport News Shipbuilding about the loss of their supplemental Medicare coverage.   There been several articles in the Daily Press about the letters that Huntington Ingalls Industries sent to their former retirees informing them that they need to use ExtendHealth to counsel them about their Medicare options.

I wish to share some important information that should have been explained to those affected.  I can offer this information because I have a reputation as a Medicare insurance “subject matter expert.” I am a licensed independent insurance agent who has specialized in helping Medicare eligible beneficiaries over the past 9 years, understand all the options available in the local market.

Because these Medicare eligible retirees are losing their supplemental insurance through no fault of their own, Medicare requires that insurance companies that offer Medicare Supplements, Medicare Advantage Plans and Prescription Drug Plans, offer plans that are guaranteed issue.  In other words, the retiree can purchase, an excellent plan, regardless of existing medical conditions, at a more competitive premium. Many of the plans use Medicare as the primary insurance and as long as a doctor or healthcare provider “accepts” Medicare, the Medigap plan will pay most, if not all the remaining charges. There is no need to worry about networks and the medical coverage will be as good as what they now have.

The prescription drug coverage, however, may or may not be as good. All reputable agents “shop” for the best prescription plan to meet each individual’s needs.  However, all of the available plans are subject to a gap in coverage, also known as the “donut hole.” The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) will not allow any marketing of the approved 2014 plans until October 1, 2013.  This explains ExtendHealth’s reluctance to discuss specifics until then.

What remains unclear to me is whether the retirees must go through ExtendHealth in order to receive any funds from their retiree reimbursement accounts. If this is the case, then obviously HII is limiting the retirees’ choice of using a local, knowledgeable, reassuring and face to face agent.