Letter: Consider cost, options for retiree benefits


Regarding your editorial, “Teachers win refund; shortfall remains,” Dec. 29, I am frustrated the public discussion for solutions to unfunded government sponsored retiree health care typically centers on who should pay for it. I believe the conversation should instead revolve around the cost and coverage options.

Michigan taxpayers and retired government workers can mutually benefit by finding more efficient ways to purchase coverage — the most efficient of which I believe is through a private, multi-carrier individual Medicare marketplace. In this type of private marketplace retirees enroll in individual plans that compete annually for their business. These plans tend to cost less than traditional group retiree plans because of several factors, including competition, larger risk pools, lower cost options for out-of-state retirees, and more freedom to tailor their plan to their specific health need.

Michigan has one of the most competitive and robust private Medicare markets in the country.

Operationally, the retiree chooses from among Medicare Advantage (MA), Part D and MediGap plans, with the help of licensed benefit advisers and web tools provided by the marketplace on an annual basis. When the marketplace is offered in lieu of a group retiree plan, the employer often provides an annual subsidy to the retirees to help defray the cost of the chosen plan.

Many employers reap significant savings, while reducing the out of pocket costs for many of the impacted retirees, when they move their retirees to a marketplace model. A change like this here should result in a win-win for retirees and taxpayers.

Note that many municipalities and state retiree systems have moved their retiree populations to the private Medicare marketplace model.

As a benefits professional, a taxpayer, and a participant in the system (my parents are covered by a Michigan government retiree health plan), I think we need to broaden the conversation to go beyond who pays for it and focus on what we are paying for.

Kevin House, managing director,

Willis Towers Watson, Detroit Office