GRANITEVILLE — A tumultuous year for Savannah River Site retirees adjusting to changes to their benefits programs has begun to settle as former staffers ultimately obtained needed health insurance policies.
Savannah River Nuclear Solutions employees were notified last year that changes by the U.S. Department of Energy would drop retirees 65 and older from the site’s health plan, instead providing a stipend to buy their own coverage.
The transition was complicated with issues as retirees began enrollment last October with the assistance of benefit management company My Medicare Advocate, said John Plodinec, the chairman of the 2,000-member SRS Retiree Association.
Retirees faced Web-based technical issues and long wait times for over-the-phone assistance, he said.
More than 600 retirees packed the University of South Carolina Aiken Etherredge Center on Tuesday for the association’s annual meeting.
Plodinec said retirees were again angered by poorly trained staff, misinformation and confusing documentation when they tried to attain reimbursements beginning in January.
Kelly Sanders, a SRNS benefit manager, said My Medicare Advocate received more than 1,000 phone calls per day for eight weeks beginning in October.
“Processes are getting better,” Plodinec said. “We’re all going to have to continue to navigate the change.”
Now, all SRS retirees eligible for the stipend have enrolled with a new policy. Two-thirds have received a reimbursement, Sanders said.
“You don’t have to go through this again next year,” Sanders told the retirees.
Retired SRS employee Bob Bean spent between six and eight hours on the phone with a benefits advocate to choose a new health insurance plan.
“It took me forever to do it,” Bean said. “A lot of confusion. I didn’t know what (policy) I needed.”
Last year’s meeting explaining the changes only confused most retirees, Bean said. He eventually got a new plan and a reimbursement but not without undue hassle, he said.
“I have gone through all the ups and down and I think I’m good,” he said.