AIKEN — Modified benefit changes affecting about 6,000 Savannah River Site retirees and varying numbers of current workers will include a slower phase-in of higher premiums and the largest annual health care stipends within the U.S. Energy Department’s nuclear weapons complex.
“We are trying to ease the transition from the old way,” said Jim Hanna, the senior vice president for corporate services for Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, whose site management duties include overseeing benefits for current and retired workers.
In recent months SRNS drew the ire of the SRS Retiree Association, whose members have opposed a cost savings plan that would increase premiums and drop retirees 65 and older from the site’s health plan and instead provide a stipend to buy Medicare or Medigap plans.
In a series of briefings Monday, company officials shared a final version of the new benefit plan, which will include an annual $2,400 health care stipend for Medicare-eligible retirees over 65. Added to that sum will be a one-time $500 contribution in 2013, the year the new program goes into effect.
The changes for workers under 65 will include a slower phase-in of higher premiums, Hanna said. Those workers currently contribute 15 percent of their health care cost, and those contributions will increase to 25 percent over five years, instead of the three years in the initial plan.
“They will continue to have comparable health care, but they will pay a little more than in the past,” he said, adding that the company will follow through with a series of workshops and public meetings to offer guidance to those affected by the changes.
Some changes, including the slower phase-in for higher premiums, were proposed in a recent letter from U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson and U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham to David Huizenga, the Energy Department’s senior manager for environmental management.