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State retirees sue MD over health plan change

Posted at 4:04 PM, Sep 11, 2018

A lawsuit is challenging the state of Maryland's decision to move Medicare eligible retirees to Medicare Part D.

Lawmakers say Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh notified them this week about the lawsuit. It was filed in Baltimore City Circuit Court against Gov. Larry Hogan, the State of Maryland and David Brinkley, Secretary of the Department of Budget and Management, by attorneys for former state employees.

The lawsuit arises from changes made in 2011 to health benefits for state retirees. Plaintiffs say they're contesting the state's elimination of prescription drug coverage for retirees.

Come January, all Medicare-eligible state retirees have to be signed up for Part D. A switch that have caused frustration and confusion. 

READ MORE: Maryland state retirees losing prescription coverage in 2019

This transition has been in the works since 2011, when former Governor Martin O'Malley and the Maryland General Assembly enacted comprehensive pension reform. Originally, the coverage would end in July 2019 to coincide with the federal government's closure of the coverage gap, or 'doughnut hole,' under Medicare Part D.

When the federal government moved up the date the January 1, the Maryland General Assembly voted to accelerate the change here too. The Hogan administration and the Department of Budget and Management say they fought to keep they July date to give retirees more time to make the change. Now, they are trying to help ease the transition.

Lawmakers had planned a briefing on the transition Thursday, but the joint hearing has been canceled because of weather. 

READ MORE: MD representatives address rising drug costs, concerns about state retiree plan change

Sen. Edward Kasemeyer and Del. Maggie McIntosh wrote to Gov. Larry Hogan's budget chief that the lawsuit "creates a new layer of uncertainty," which will make it difficult for the governor's budget office to provide clear answers at the hearing.