Medicare seminars available for eligible EBR school retirees

The East Baton Rouge Parish school system has scheduled a series of two-hour seminars over the next month to explain to an estimated 2,900 Medicare-eligible retirees the benefits of switching to a Medicare Advantage plan.

In May, the School Board voted to select Humana to serve retirees on its Medicare Advantage plan, in the process covering both primary and secondary medical coverage for these retirees. Humana representatives will be leading the seminars.

The board allowed retirees who don’t want to go with Humana to continue to get their secondary insurance through the school system’s self-insured group plan administered by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana. Retirees who stay, though, will pay higher premiums than those who move to Humana, for some retirees as much as three times what they pay now.

The first 10 of 20 seminars are scheduled Monday through Thursday, and the second set of 10 seminars are scheduled Sept. 9-12. Each of these days will feature sessions in the morning, from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., and in the afternoon, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

The school system has mailed each Medicare-eligible retiree an invitation to attend one of the seminars. Those who miss their assigned seminar can attend two evening sessions, the first on Wednesday from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., the second on Sept. 11 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

All seminars are taking place at the Instructional Resource Center, 1022 S. Foster Drive.

The school system also plans to hold two more sessions, at Scotlandville and Woodlawn high schools, but has yet to settle on dates and times for those sessions.

Superintendent Bernard Taylor pushed unsuccessfully to force all Medicare-eligible retirees to switch to a Medicare Advantage plan, but board members balked in the face of widespread opposition from retirees.

The shift is estimated to save the school system $2.9 million during the first six months of 2014, more if more retirees make the switch. Taylor had hoped for much bigger annual savings of $10 million.

The way Taylor has set it up, retirees will automatically shift to Humana on Jan. 1. Those who don’t want to move to Medicare Advantage will have to opt out to return to the group plan run by Blue Cross Blue Shield.

Almost 2,000 retirees not eligible for Medicare won’t have the option of moving to Humana. Instead, their premiums in 2014 are increasing by 25 to 54 percent, depending on the plan. Premiums for active employees are unchanged.