Email Senator Serafini
On Monday, August 20, 2018, Ms. Deborah Lashbaugh sent an Email to Senator Andrew Serafini. This email was short and to the point regarding her loss of our State Drug Prescription Plan. To his credit, Senator Serafini did respond to the email, and his response is below.
If you would like to Email Senator Serafini and let him know your opinion on this issue please do so. Senator Ferafini’s email address is, Andrew.Serafini@senate.state.md.us
Ms. Lashbaugh wrote the following in her Email dated 8/20/18.
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Please pass a bill to reinstate prescription insurance, for Medicare-eligible retirees. I feel that I have been let down all because I am no longer “useful” to the State. I spent my life working for the State, and now I have been so to speak, “kicked to the curb.”
Response from Senator Serafini:
Dear Ms. Lashbaugh,
Thank you for your recent correspondence regarding the situation with the Maryland Retiree’s Prescription plan ending as of January 1, 2019. I appreciate you contacting me about this important issue. Please know that I understand your frustration over this change. My office and other elected officials have heard from many people who feel the same.
Unfortunately, there is a great deal of misinformation out there, and I appreciate the chance to clarify a few points. The regulation to end the retiree’s prescription plan was proposed during the 2011 Session of the Maryland General Assembly by then Governor Martin O’Malley. I wanted to clarify one point. Some have indicated that I voted for this change and that is simply not true. This change was a part of what is known as the Budget Reconciliation Financing Act of 2011. The vote on that bill followed party lines and I, like all of the other Republicans in the House of Delegates, voted against that bill.
I have attached a lot of information and wanted to highlight a few issues. Here are some clarification points to help you understand the background on this issue:
Many have stated that this is a benefit you were promised. I believe a promise made should be a promise kept. The problem is that politicians are famous for making promises that will be difficult for future elected officials to keep. You should know that your state pensions are protected by the Maryland Constitution. The only way your pensions would be in jeopardy would be for the State to declare bankruptcy. There is more than enough funds to cover current retiree payments. The challenge will be for newly or recently hired employees if the State does not fully fund annual contributions and if investment returns do not improve over the longer term. However, here is what most people do not realize. Retiree Health and Prescription Plans, unlike Pensions, are not protected by the Constitution. Retiree Health is the most expensive benefit for all employers public and private. This is why it is so rare and why Volvo/Mack, Potomac Edison, and many other corporations have dropped the coverage.
I have attached the Taylor Report on Sustainability. This was held in the 2010/2011 timeframe. This report was the impetus for the changes to both the Pension plans for additional employee and State contributions as well as the changes in the Retiree Prescription. The resulting bill, mentioned above, was passed under the O’Malley administration and considered as a compromise to keep the Pensions funded and maintain the Retiree Health program. The main flaw is that while many now recall this change, it was not communicated as it should have been. Had WE, (the legislature – myself included) done a better job of communicating and explaining this 3-5 years ago we would not find ourselves in the current frustrating situation.
While the statements above only provide some background this does not change the fact that it will be absolutely necessary for you to enroll in the Federal Medicare Part D program between October 15 and Dec 7. Please know that Governor Hogan’s office is working diligently with the Department of Budget and Management to make this transition as easy for you as possible. I have also attached a 2-page document which will help you to go through the enrollment process step-by-step. Most of you are concerned about the additional cost. Governor Hogan’s office has announced that the State will institute a one-year transition program that will reimburse all out-of-pocket pharmaceutical expenses for the retiree’s in excess of $1,500. Please see the attached press release from Governor Hogan dated July 13, 2018, for additional information on the Governor’s assistance. I will be attending a briefing in the next month in Annapolis where we will discuss the situation and hopefully discuss options. I will report back to you after this meeting.
Once again I want to thank you for taking the time to contact me and for your service to the State. I value your commitment very much. While I am only one of 188 legislators I am now and always have been committed to representing your interests. Over the years I have taken a lot of criticism for my efforts on Pension reform. My attempts were to avoid situations just like this one where either impossible promises were made or the State needed to properly fund promises made. I felt this needed to be highlighted and addressed. Some still blame me but my intent has always to been to shine a light on these challenges and inform all involved of the real problems.
Andrew A. Serafini