USW Local 1375 informational meeting provided options
By William K. Alcorn
Dominic Greco of Edinburg, Pa., was among pre-Medicare retirees of the former RG Steel mill who attended a steelworkers union-sponsored informational meeting Monday to learn about their health care insurance options.
What has retirees scrambling is the Dec. 31 ending of the federally funded Health Coverage Tax Credit that pays 72.5 percent of qualified health insurance premiums for individuals and their families.
For example, under the HCTC program, Greco said he paid about $600 a month for health insurance — which would have cost him $1,661 per month without the program.
Greco, who worked for 43 years in several area mills, including 22 in Warren, said the Warren mill had a good work force and was taking orders and making money when it was closed in 2012.
“It’s too bad the local politicians didn’t fight harder to save it,” he said.
Greco also criticized Congress for failing to extend the HCTC program, leaving him and others like him, who are not yet eligible for Medicare, scrambling for affordable health care.
Melvin Goins, 62, of Youngstown, who said he went to work at Republic Steel in Youngstown “right out of high school” and worked in the mills 43 years, is receiving Social Security benefits and a pension through the federal Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation.
But, because he is three years away from Medicare eligibility and his wife, at 57, is even further, Goins came to the meeting “hoping to find out about some sort of reasonably priced health care insurance.”
The purpose of the meetings, conducted at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. at W. D. Packard Music Hall, was to provide health insurance options for the pre-Medicare retirees, said Darryl Parker, president of United Steelworkers Local 1375, sponsor of the sessions.
One option for those who are eligible is the Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Association trust, negotiated with RG Steel’s previous owners, which will pay up to $200 per person in the household for pre-Medicare retirees.
Parker said eligible RG retirees will be notified through the mail about how the VEBA program will be administered.
Retirees not eligible for VEBA benefits were referred to representatives, called navigators, of One Health Ohio and Access Health Mahoning Valley, on hand to provide them with information about enrolling in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly called Obamacare.
One Health Ohio is a federally qualified health center, with headquarters in Youngstown; and Access Health Mahoning Valley is a nonprofit community collaborative, helping low-income, uninsured adults of Mahoning and Trumbull counties get access to needed medical care.