Healthcare benefits changing for RI retirees

Changes are coming to healthcare benefits for Rhode Island retirees.

Elaine Drapeau loves retirement.

"I have a lot of time to work in my garden which I love," she said.

Drapeau retired in 1999 after working as a retirement and retiree health manager for the state.

It's been bliss, but in June she got a letter that put a damper on everything saying the state healthcare she was promised upon retirement is changing.

"They took away the (Cost of Living Adjustment). They're taking away some of the medical. It's a one-two punch," she said.

The state of Rhode Island used to pay 70 percent of her health care, and the rest was taken out of her pension.

The state says it will stop covering retirees eligible for Medicare. Instead they'll now have to go to an exchange and pick from several options.

Drapeau said her subsidy will go into a health reimbursement account and she'll have to pay for treatment up front.

"It means we're going to have a lot of hassle," Drapeau said.

She says it will also cost her and her husband, who's also a state retiree, more money. On Tuesday, she attended one of several information sessions the state is holding for the more than 8,000 retirees affected.

Drapeau said she wasn't happy with some of the answers she got from the state. She said she was worried the amount she gets from the state won't increase as healthcare prices go up.

Deb Blair, a spokeswoman for the Rhode Island Department of Administration, told NBC 10 if a retiree's premium increases, then her subsidy increases too.

Blair also said any unused money in a retiree's HRA will rollover. She also said retirees will go from having two healthcare plan options to more than 10.

The healthcare changes are expected to save Rhode Island More than $2 million during the 2015 fiscal year.

Drapeau said she reviewed the plans.

"Talk to me in another year and maybe they are going to be bad plans, but I don't think they're bad plans," she said.

However, she said she's worried these changes will be a big hassle for an aging population.

Retirees must enroll by Sept. 30.