Retirees press Myrtle Beach leaders to keep promised health benefits

Grand Strand

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) — A group of Myrtle Beach retirees continued to push city leaders Tuesday to find a way to preserve health benefits they said they were promised when they retired.

During Tuesday morning’s City Council meeting, retiree Chris Collins read a letter from 97 retirees that was previously sent to council members. It highlighted many of the challenges those in the group expect to face if benefits are taken away in January and they are forced to get private coverage.

It’s the second time City Council has heard from retirees concerned about the issue. Dozens of people showed up at a meeting on Sept. 14 to protest the potential loss of their benefits.

In the letter, the retirees expressed concerns about higher premiums they could incur by being removed from a group plan and the potential loss of access to the use of the city clinic, where retirees have “long term doctor/patient relationships, are not required to pay a copay per visit, receive critical labs at no cost and receive a great majority of our prescriptions at no cost.”

“With the explosive population growth in this area, many people are having a difficult time finding primary care physicians,” the letter said. “And if an appointment can be made, they are often months out for new patients.”

The letter also pointed out retirees’ concerns about vision and dental coverage, increased costs for medications, and worries by some that they might be forced to return to work to cover greatly increased insurance costs.

Mayor Brenda Bethune said she realizes the importance of the issue to everyone and vowed to continue to look for ways to remedy the situation.

“We are still looking at it,” she said. “We want there to be a fair resolution for all of you because we realize it’s affecting all of you and your families.”

Councilman Clyde Lowder reiterated that a final decision has not been made.

“Everybody just needs to relax,” he said. “We’re going to try to work out something that’s fair for everybody.”

Retiree Marty Eells also spoke at Tuesday’s meeting. He asked that “some of us be allowed to sit in on meetings and discussions” about the proposed changes.

Enrollment for the city’s health benefits is scheduled to begin in November and continue into early December. The new plans are scheduled to be effective Jan. 1.

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