Hospital board approves settlement with retirees

ODESSA -- The Ector County Hospital Board approved a final settlement agreement with hospital retirees Tuesday night.

The decision affects more than 200 former Medical Center Health System employees. In 2016, these former employees lost their hospital health insurance plan, and were given Health Reimbursement Accounts.

The retiree group filed a lawsuit against the hospital in an attempt to regain their original insurance plans. In April of 2017, the judge ruled in favor of the defendant. The retirees appealed, and a Contingent Mediated Settlement Agreement was approved in March.

After more than an hour in executive session, the hospital board approved the agreement, which is similar to the one approved in March.

Many retirees said they’re excited that progress is being made in the litigation, and hopefully soon they can put the ordeal behind them.

One of these retirees, Sharon Lloyd, worked at Medical Center Hospital for 29 years.

“I loved my job completely. It was my career, not my job. I enjoyed my family, Medical Center Hospital. The staff was my family and my friends,” she said.

As a former engineer and safety officer, she coordinated plans for emergencies. But her insurance plan being changed was a problem she did not foresee.

“It can be very trying. I happen to have an autoimmune disease as well as being a retiree. So you worry about whether or not your health is going to stand up while you’re waiting for the insurance,” she said.

Fellow retiree, Corinne Hefflin, said the retirees face many problems when finding insurance.

“The premiums were extremely high. And they couldn’t always meet them. I know one lady had to go back to work after she retired because she couldn’t afford the premium so it’s been a hard case,” she said.

Lloyd said insurance premiums aren’t the only problem the retirees face when working with their insurance companies.

“It’s hard for them to get those reimbursements. And again, it goes back to, we’re on a fixed income. We need those reimbursements back immediately, we can’t wait long periods of time,” she said.

The retiree’s said even though nothing will be as good as their original insurance, they look forward to moving past the case.

Hospital Board member, Mary E. Thompson, R.N., highlighted some of the benefits the settlement can provide.

“Retirement accounts that they can utilize for their healthcare benefits. Which is a certain amount that they will get and they can use. It will go for one year and then it grows over and they can continue to use it,” she said.

The settlement agreement approved by the board includes health reimbursement account funding based on the retiree’s age and duration. The accounts could begin in January of 2019.

Board member Bryn Dodd said 90 percent of the retirees have to accept the settlement by September 30, 2018.