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State retirees worry about how to pay for prescription drug coverage

Posted at 11:39 PM, Jul 18, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-18 23:40:34-04

Wednesday, retired state employees worried about their prescription drug coverage and voiced their concerns and a rally. Come January close to 40,000 of them will lose their state drug benefits.

"It's going to cost my husband and I,  $2,000 dollars for out of pocket for the medication," said Mary Frye, a state retiree.

It's a pill too big to swallow for thousands of retired state employees afraid they'll have to choose between basic needs and their medicine.

"We will not be able to afford the medication to stay alive and you know, we need a roof over our heads, we need food on the table," said Frye.

"They will have to sell their houses, they will have to sell their cars, just to pay for medication," retired employee, Jeffrey Israel, told WMAR 2 News.

The retirees want new, permanent legislation that will keep their benefits as is; not what they'll be under the state pension reform approved in 2011. Under this, they lose state drug benefits and must move to  the Medicare part d program in January.

"The cost on the state plan is $16.66; that's a month's supply.  Here's what it is with Part D; $9,949.39," said retiree Jeffrey Israel said.

That's for a 30 day supply.  In a one year transition the state will reimburse all out of pocket drug costs for eligible recipients over $1500, the limit under the current state plan.

"We either go bankrupt now, or we go bankrupt in 365 days there's really no difference," said Israel. 

The state says there will be additional help for retirees through the state's senior prescription drug assistance program 

"I earned my prescription plan,  I worked for the state for 35 years.  In fact I worked in a dangerous environment, I worked in a prison," Mark Brilliant told WMAR 2 News.

And now he expects to be taken care of with the benefits he was promised.

"They should do it to the new people coming in not the people who dedicated their lives to the state of Maryland."

The Maryland Classified Employees Association put on Wednesday's meeting. Union lawyers say they're in the process of prefiling bills to be presented during next legislative session.

Open enrollment for Medicare part d is October 15 through December 7.

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