Wednesday, January 26, 2011
School district ordered to reimburse Medicare-eligible retirees enrolled in Medicare the cost of Medicare premiums
Matter of Bryant v Board of Educ., Chenango Forks Cent. School Dist., Supreme Court, Broome County, 2010 NY Slip Op 20360, Decided on September 3, 2010, Supreme Court, Broome County, Judge Philip R. Rumsey
The Chenango Forks Central School District discontinued reimbursing its Medicare-eligible retirees and their dependents participating in its health insurance plan the premiums they were required to pay for participating in Medicare.
The District’s Health Insurance Plan was underwritten by “Blue Cross/Blue Shield” [Plan] that did not require that eligible individuals enroll in Medicare. However, the Plan would not cover services that would be provided to a Medicare recipient by Medicare even if an eligible individual or his or her covered dependent failed to enroll in Part B.*
Theodora Q. Bryant and a number of other school district retirees or the survivors of such retirees brought an Article 78 action in an effort to annul the School District’s failure to reimburse them for the Medicare premiums that were required to pay for their Medicare coverage. Bryant contended that the District’s action violated the statutory moratorium against reducing the health insurance benefits of school district retirees, or the contributions made to obtain such benefits, in the absence of a similar decrease in benefits or contributions for active employees.**
All petitioners are 65 years of age, or older, and are eligible to receive Medicare benefits, including Part B, which provides coverage for physician and outpatient services. A monthly premium for Part B coverage is deducted from the Social Security benefits payable to an enrolled individual. In 1987 and 1988, in accordance with a collective bargaining agreement, respondent provided health insurance to teachers and eligible retirees through NYSHIP, New York’s health insurance plan for State officers and employees and the officers and employees of political subdivisions of the State electing to become “participating employers.”
NYSHIP required Medicare-eligible individuals to enroll in Medicare as NYSHIP but reimburse the Medicare premiums that they were required to pay in accordance with the provisions of Civil Service Law §167-a.
In 1988, the collective bargaining agreement between the District and the Chenango Forks Teachers Association replaced NYSHIP with a Blue Cross/Blue Shield Plan (Plan), which does not require that eligible individuals enroll in Medicare. However the Plan did not provide benefits services that would be provided to a Medicare recipient in the event a Medicare-eligible participant failed to enroll in Medicare. Although the new collective bargaining agreement was silent with respect to the District reimbursing Medicare premiums to the Medicare-eligible participants, the District reimbursed such retirees for their Medicare premiums continuously since at least 1980.
The District discontinued making such reimbursements effective July 1, 2003.
Bryant, however, contended that the Moratorium precluded any diminution in health insurance benefits provided to retirees or their dependents, or contributions made toward the payment of retiree health benefits, "unless a corresponding diminution of benefits or contributions is effected from the present level during this period by such district or board from the corresponding group of active employees for such retirees, [emphasis Judge Rumsey's]. Judge Rumsey agreed and, annulling the District’s discontinuing it practice of reimbursing Medicare-eligible retirees their Medicare premiums and directed it to pay Bryant and her co-litigants “the amounts of such premiums that would have been so reimbursed, in the absence of the challenged determination.”
* The State’s NYSHIP health insurance plan incorporates a similar limitation in that its health insurance plan does not pay for those services that would be otherwise paid by Medicare on behalf of a Medicare-eligible individual thereby requiring such an individual and his or her dependents to enroll in Medicare and pay the premiums required for such Medicare coverages in order to have such coverages.
** Initially enacted in 2003 (see Chapter 48 of the Laws of 2003), the prohibition was periodically extended and made permanent in 2009 [Chapter 504, Laws of 2009, §14(b)].
The Byrant decision is posted on the Internet at:
For additional information concerning the issues concerning reimbursing Medicare-eligible retirees for their Medicare premiums, please go to:
Reprinted with permission New York Public Personnel Law
Mitchell H. Rubinstein