Lawmakers seek extension on open enrollment

DOVER — A bipartisan coalition of lawmakers sent a letter to the head of the Office of Management and Budget Thursday requesting the state extend the open enrollment period to allow employees to switch their health care.

Due to the conflict between Highmark and Bayhealth, thousands of state employees could be left without convenient care if no resolution is reached.

Bayhealth_OMB-1“This ongoing dispute now overlaps with the state’s health plan open enrollment period, which began May 9 and is scheduled to close May 26,” reads the letter in part. “As a result, state employees, retirees and their families in Kent and Sussex counties face a serious dilemma regarding their health coverage options. Before they are compelled to enroll, they need to know if Highmark is a viable choice in their geographic area or if they should select a plan from the state’s other insurance provider, Aetna.

“In order to allow these workers and retirees to make the best health care choices for them and their dependents, we are requesting that you exercise your authority to extend the open enrollment period. We believe it would be prudent to give employees and retirees at least two additional weeks to make their benefit selections.”

The letter is signed by 16 lawmakers, including Speaker of the House Peter Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach; Minority Leader Sen. F. Gary Simpson, R-Milford; and Minority Leader Rep. Daniel Short, R-Seaford.

OMB spokesman Bert Scoglietti said in an email the office currently has no plans to extend open enrollment.

“I think everyone wants to see Highmark and Bayhealth working together, and if the state were to extend open enrollment, that would remove some of the incentive on the parties to reach agreement,” Mr. Scoglietti said.

“OMB is communicating with state employees and retirees covered by Highmark who use Bayhealth to keep them apprised of the situation. Members who are in an ongoing course of treatment at Bayhealth were sent (a) letter by Highmark indicating their care can be extended for 120 days post contract termination. In addition, members can continue to access Bayhealth doctors as well as access emergency care.”

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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