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RiseDelaware rallies to stop private healthcare for state retirees

Rachel Sawicki
Delaware Public Media
State retirees and future retirees to demonstrate their unwillingness to have their health care benefits and access to doctors and treatments limited by a private, for-profit company such as Highmark.

More than 50 state retirees rallied in Wilmington Tuesday to oppose moving their healthcare coverage to a Medicare Advantage plan.

Though lawmakers approved the switch as part of the 2023 state budget in June, many say they were not fully informed of the details.

Former State Senator Karen Peterson says she was misled too, with newsletters sent to her touting a plan better than what she has now.

“Medicare Advantage is quick to deny, deny, deny," Peterson says. "That's how they make their money. I think that the legislators were duped. I truly do this thing when you're under the radar. Very quietly. I would say sneakily.”

RiseDelaware filed a lawsuit in Superior Court last week seeking to stop the move to a Medicare Advantage plan managed by Highmark Delaware.

And the group’s founders, State Rep. John Kowalko and New Castle County Councilwoman Lisa Diller are using rallies to build support and awareness.

“I also know that every retiree that I’ve ever encouraged in my elections, I know that they care about their fellow retirees," Kowalko says. "And I think that is a motivational factor that brings them out.”

Kowalko warns legislators refusing to revisit the agreement that seniors typically have a 60-70% turnout rate at the polls, and have “always had the power.”

Delaware’s Department of Human Resources Secretary Claire DeMatteis claims this is not privatizing retiree’s healthcare, but Kowalko and other RiseDelaware members like Peterson, disagree.

“They also didn't know what to believe," Peterson says. "Because the state was up there saying, 'Oh, no, you're gonna love this plan. It's better than what you already have.' Well, and then we had to then start digging into the documents as they started releasing them. And we started finding out that no, that's not true. It's not what we have now. It's nowhere near what we have now.”

RiseDelaware plans to hold another rally at Legislative Hall in Dover October 12 at noon.

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