Officials & retirees weigh in on insurance "mess"

Retirees at Tuesday's city council meeting
Retirees at Tuesday's city council meeting

By Lindsey Connell - bio | email

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) -  Billy Watson, a retired Battalion Chief with the Columbus Fire Department, say he and other retired city workers have found themselves in a tight spot.

After Congress passed the Medicare Improvement Act, the city's insurance provider, Blue Cross Blue Shield, informed the 650 retirees that their insurance premiums would be going up more than $800 a year.

Watson says that's more than some retired city workers can afford on a fixed income.

"The fact of the matter is, is that our pension and our social security is based on our salary from many years ago. Government salaries at the time were real low. Many of the minorities were only making shortly above minimum wage at that time so you can imagine what they've been put through now. This is the biggest mess I've ever been involved in. Senior citizens don't know what to do," Watson said.

City officials are negotiating with Blue Cross to reduce the hike and in the meantime, they're looking at other vendors to compare prices. The city is also paying the difference in costs until February to help absorb out of pocket costs for retirees.

"When you are in a position when you have to have medication on a regular basis and you have to go to the doctor on a regular basis, not to have the assurance that the insurance that they have will provide for that, it adds to that anxiety," said city councilwoman Judy Thomas (District 9, At Large).

"They are those that have served us for so very long so I feel that it's an obligation of ours as elected officials to see things through," added Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson.

City officials will be bringing back a price comparison on insurance plans at the end of the month in hopes of deciding whether not the city will stay with Blue Cross Blue Shield or go to another vendor.

City Manager Isaiah Hugley says the city was notified of the increase in November.

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