By Katie Dahlstrom
Herald Staff Writer
More than 150 DuPont retirees who will be losing their current health insurance as of Jan. 1 attended presentations in Clinton on Tuesday to learn what their new health care options will be.
DuPont at the end of this year is replacing the current group coverage for retirees with a health reimbursement arrangement, which retirees can use to purchase individual health insurance plans and pay other expense.
This will be the only medical and dental benefit available to Medicare-eligible retirees, their spouses and dependents. DuPont is partnering with Extend Health, Inc. to assist with the transition.
“We are providing our retirees access to affordable, quality post-retirement benefits while simplifying DuPont plan administration and stabilizing plan costs,” Tara Condon-Tullier with DuPont Global HR communications, said via e-mail Tuesday.
These retirees will also be able to make different choices for Medicare coverage, which were discussed during Tuesday’s presentations.
The presentations were given by Sue Wittmack of Senior Health Insurance Information Program in order to give the retirees a better understanding of what the changes will mean to them.
“They have to make all new health care coverages decisions. As of Jan. 1, they are starting from scratch. They are no longer covered by DuPont,” Wittmack said. “This is a shock because they think ‘now what am I going to do?”
There are 418 affected retirees in Clinton and 86 in Camanche. These retirees account for more than half of the 815 Iowans who are losing their current DuPont health insurance.
Bob Housenga, 70, of Clinton, worked for DuPont for 38 years. He said he anticipated the changes would come because of the trends in the industry, but didn’t expect it to come this soon.
“We’ve been very fortunate working for DuPont. They’ve taken care of us, but now we’re kind of in limbo,” Housenga said. “You really don’t know, but I imagine it’s going to cost more than it did.”
For some, the changes might not be detrimental.
DuPont retiree Harlan Dell, 69, of Clinton, said the options being offered instead of the current coverage are better than what he and his wife currently have through Humana. He attended Tuesday’s sessions to find out if they were eligible for the new HRA and medicare plans.
Under the HRA, DuPont will contribute either $1,200 for medical annually, $1,400 for medical and dental annually or $200 for dental alone annually.
Condon-Tullier said in addition to simplifying administration and lowering DuPont’s plan costs, changes are being made in order to provide retirees with a number of plan options and to potentially save retirees money.
Overall, Wittmack predicted, the most dramatic changes retirees will see will be in their prescription drug coverage.
“Their biggest shock is going to be the drug plans,” she said.
Senior retirees on Medicare will be subject to the “donut hole,” a prescription drug coverage gap. Once a senior has spent $2,970 on prescription drugs they will be responsible for paying 100 percent of the drug costs until they have spent $4,750. However, they are eligible for discounts while they are in the “hole” — 47.5 percent for brand and 79 percent for generics. Once they have spent this money, they will again be covered by Medicare.
For Harold Welcher, 73, who worked at DuPont for 33 years, and his wife Judy, 72, the effects of the changes remain unknown, but the couple anticipates they will cause them to pay three to four times the amount they currently pay.
“It’s going to be a very costly situation,” Welcher said.
As retirees are navigating the changes in their health insurance, they have several options to ensure they are covered when their current DuPont plan ends in January.
SHIIP volunteers are also available to sort through information on Medicare and other insurance plans that retirees may be considering and can be reached in Clinton County through Clinton Retired Senior Volunteer Program at 243-7787, Mercy Medical Center at 244-3532 and Genesis Medical Center in DeWitt at (563) 659-4288.