State Employee and Retiree Health Benefits in Flux: The Controversial Decisions of the SEBC

Health premiums for Delaware state employees set to increase

The State Employee Benefits Committee (SEBC) recently announced that it would not vote on continuing enhanced COVID-19 benefits for state employees, meaning that they will now have to pay pre-COVID-19 costs for services such as primary care visits, hospital stays, and telemedicine. In a separate decision, the SEBC awarded the operation of the Medicare Supplement Plan for retirees to Highmark Delaware for a two-year term starting January 1, 2025, with an optional one-year extension.

This decision follows a lawsuit by retirees who opposed a previous attempt by the committee to move them to a Medicare Advantage Plan through Highmark, which was successfully blocked by the advocacy group RiseDelaware. Shaun O’Brien, policy director with the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, voted against the decision, citing concerns about the reliability of the SEBC and lack of transparency. State Rep. Paul Baumbach supported the decision virtually and expressed concerns about the lack of confidence in the committee’s actions, emphasizing the importance of keeping promises made to retirees regarding their healthcare benefits.

In other news, the SEBC approved changes to ensure equal access to care for individuals with mental health or substance abuse disorders. The committee also approved wigs and mastectomy bras as enhanced women’s benefits but did not approve cooling caps. The total cost of these changes to employee health plans was estimated to be between $507,000 and $557,000. These decisions highlight how important it is for state employees and retirees to have access to quality healthcare benefits.

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