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At Board Meeting, UMaine System Employees Air Concerns About Changes To Retiree Health Insurance

An aerial view of the University of Maine in Orono.

Former and current Maine university employees are urging the system to reverse what they say are costly changes to retiree health insurance.

On Monday, dozens of employees spoke at a board meeting of the University of Maine System, criticizing a decision to transition about 3,000 retirees away from a group plan and instead provide a stipend for an insurance exchange.

Jim McClymer, president of the Associated Faculties of the Universities of Maine, says the decision was made with little input from stakeholders, yet could significantly increase costs for some retirees.

“You need to understand, acknowledge, and repair the many many things you did, or allowed, to happen,” he says.

Laurie Cartier, an administrative specialist at the University of Maine, says she had planned to retire next year, but may now hold off, as the new plan could force her to pay significantly more for needed procedures.

“Now I am very concerned about what my prospects will be for health insurance. I am feeling that the security of my years at UMaine will be jeopardized,” she says.

University officials say they understand those concerns but plan to continue with the changes. On Monday, System Vice Chancellor Ryan Low said the system will hire an ombudsman to help retirees with any issues moving forward.

“Assure that they are being addressed, and make regular reports to trustees about the progress of implementation, and any issues that are unresolved. We expect to do that very soon,” he said.

In a recent letter, Chancellor Dannel Malloy apologized for how the changes were rolled out, but officials say they will save the system $2.5 million and offer more flexibility for many retirees.

“Chancellor Malloy and the Board of Trustees understand the concerns of beneficiaries and are monitoring communication and enrollment programs closely to ensure that no retiree loses supplemental coverage as a result of this transition,” system spokesperson Dan Demeritt said last month.

Democratic state lawmakers have criticized the plan in recent months and have recently announced legislation to maintain health coverage for retirees.