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Delaware Senate passes bill addressing proposed changes to state retiree benefits, some retirees oppose the legislation

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Joe Irizarry
/
Delaware Public Media

A bill seeking to address concerns about proposed changes to state retirees health care benefits passed the State Senate Wednesday.

State Senators voted 17-3 in favor of the bill - with 1 ‘absent.’ If it also clears the House, it would add a state retiree and an additional representative from public sector unions to the State Employee Benefits Committee.

It also establishes an advisory subcommittee that will include three state retirees and four members of the General Assembly, which would evaluate options allowing state retirees to maintain their current health care coverage.

RISE Delaware Board Member Connie Merlet says a subcomittee is not enough.

“The proposed creation of an advisory subcommittee to hold meetings and issue recommendations would be laughable if the situation were not so life threateningly serious," Merlet says. "This advisory subcommittee would have no authority and wouldn't be tasked with engaging the public despite the fact that SEBC has that responsibility and chose to ignore it.”

But RISE DE founder and former State Rep. John Kowalko says state retirees were not consulted about the bill as it was drafted.

“This piece of legislation appears to be an attempt by the General Assembly leadership and this administration to avoid or ignore their responsibility and obligation to retirees," Kowalko says.

Other RISE members like Linda Hasting took issue with the bill’s timeline.

“How much thoughtful consideration can any brand new committee give to such a complex issue between now and the end of May, for changes you want to make next January?” Hastings says.

Retirees are pushing back against plans to transfer 30,000 retirees from standard Medicare plans to Medicare Advantage - a move the state deferred for a year last fall after a court ordered a pause to it.

Rachel Sawicki is Delaware Public Media's New Castle County Reporter. They are non-binary and use they/them pronouns.