Genesee Co. retiree: “Lives are on the line” due to loss of healthcare

Genesee County retirees are facing the reality that it’s another day closer to losing their health insurance.
Published: Jan. 24, 2023 at 4:37 PM EST
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GENESEE CO., Mich. (WNEM) - Genesee County retirees are facing the reality that it’s another day closer to losing their health insurance. This came after Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) of Michigan notified Genesee County in December that their service would end after May 31.

TV5 reported Monday evening that major changes were coming to retiree healthcare, and today, Tuesday, Jan. 24, we’re hearing from one of the retirees that will be affected by the change.

Gerald VanWormer said that if a new healthcare provider isn’t found, people are going to die.

“I’ve had three hip replacements, I’ve had three si-joint fusions, I’ve had back fusion surgery all as a result of my service at the Genesee County Sheriff’s department.”

VanWormer retired from the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office in 2008. He said he thought he’d have BCBS health insurance for the rest of his life, but that changed earlier this month. VanWormer received a letter stating that Genesee County was notified by BCBS that they would no longer provide service for Genesee County retirees effective June 1.

“It’s just not right. It’s not the right thing to do,” he said.

Genesee County said it is believed that the decision could be related to the healthcare coalition’s decision to change active union employees to a self-insured plan. The healthcare coalition is made up of representatives from each union Genesee County works with, which was formed to bargain for active union healthcare insurance. The board of commissioners accepted the healthcare coalition’s recommendations.

“We don’t have any bargaining rights after we retire, nobody can bargain for or against us. So anything the healthcare coalition does should only affect current employees or retirees that have language in their contract where they agree to mirror whatever the active employees bargained for,” VanWormer explained.

BCBS said it does not permit retiree-only contract enrollment, so retirees will not be insured with them after May 31.

Genesee County said it will meet with its union partners to discuss possible options for those retirees that do not have health insurance that mirrors their active employees.

VanWormer hopes a reliable option is found. He said lives are on the line.

“If people don’t have a way to get covered, they won’t go to the doctor. Now that little lump they have in their neck, they’re not going to get checked and then who knows what that might turn into,” he said.

VanWormer said he plans to meet with his legal team on Friday to explore options. Meanwhile, Genesee County said they have no further comment.