Jan 25, 2024
A lifetime of coverage
Amid a rising tide of aging Baby Boomers, employers are increasingly seeing a competitive advantage in offering health coverage to their retirees as well as their employees.
“The benefits offered in the municipal space – including things like retiree medical coverage and a pension program – are very important in helping municipalities hire and retain great employees,” said Chris Bailey, director of the Massachusetts Interlocal Insurance Association Health Benefits Trust, which provides insurance to 160 cities and towns in the state and is one of the largest joint purchasing pools in the country. “If you are in the public or private sector and competing for talent, offering a great benefits package for both the short and long term is very attractive to candidates.”
The population eligible for Medicare is expected to increase to more than 80 million beneficiaries in 2030, up from 54 million in 2015.
Today, nearly one-quarter of Medicare beneficiaries nationwide get coverage through their employers, and municipal employers in Massachusetts cover about half of the cost of the plans for their retirees.
Health plans are collaborating with those employers to meet their evolving needs.
“We work with public and private employers to offer retiree medical coverage to roughly 110,000 members,” said Gloria Paradiso, a vice president on the Medicare team at the nonprofit Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, which counts MIIA among its customers. “When making a decision about which job to take in a competitive environment, knowing you’ll have health care coverage when you retire can be a game-changer.”
Paradiso noted that the health plan designs a suite of affordable plans for each employer.
“In addition to our Medicare supplemental plans that provide great value, we have Medicare Advantage plans that offer strong coverage and additional benefits, such as hearing, vision, dental, a weight loss and fitness allowance and meal-delivery services post hospitalization – all for a lower premium,” she said.
MIIA members can choose between Medicare supplemental and Medicare Advantage plans for their coverage, Bailey said, and unlike most carriers, Blue Cross allows retirees to change their plan each year as their needs change.
“The flexibility offered by Blue Cross is unique,” he said.
The trend of more beneficiaries choosing a Medicare Advantage plan is reflected in MIIA’s retiree population, he added.
“Our retirees want to make sure their doctors are in network and their prescription drugs are covered first and foremost,” Bailey said. “As Medicare Advantage gets more competitive by offering a broad provider network and drug coverage along with other benefits at a lower cost, it’s becoming a popular choice, especially among our younger retirees.”
Perhaps the feature MIIA’s retirees appreciate most about their medical coverage is the smooth transition to Medicare, Bailey said.
“Even after they retire, these folks know they can show their Blue Cross card and be covered at the doctor and the pharmacy,” he said. “Our retirees have a great comfort level with the plans offered by Blue Cross, and we even have a special team at MIIA to help retirees pick and enroll in a plan.”
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PHOTO OF CHRIS BAILEY BY CHRIS EVANS AND PHOTO OF GLORIO PARADISO BY JIM GOFF