The Public Service Commission will soon offer another insurance benefit to its long-term employees and future retirees.
During the last open board meeting, the Board of Commissioners agreed to renew their current policy with the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Mississippi in early March 2019, with plans to keep newly retired employees under the group insurance.
PSC General Manager Richie Moore said that the commission made the move to cover future retirees as a way to not only provide better benefits to long-term employees, but also to give them a more affordable option for health care in retirement.
Moore said that the commission currently operates under the COBRA Law for retirees, but after 18 months, the former employees have to try to purchase insurance on the open market, which can often be very expensive.
"Sometimes a lot of these policies on that open market can run around $1,200 per month for health insurance," he said. "What we are going to do is let the employees stay on our policy. They will pay all or the majority of their premium, but they will still be paying a lower rate than what they would be paying if they went out on their own."
Moore said that because many people retire around 50 to 60 years of age, they may have developed health conditions over time that often prevent them from gaining insurance coverage on the open market.
"We feel that if an employee has worked here long enough to retire, it's the right thing to do to let them stay under the group's health insurance," Moore said.
Moore said adding the post-retirement insurance option will help retain current employees and will also help recruit new talent in the future.
"Other utility companies are already doing this for their employees," he said. “This is one of the things we have to do as well in order to recruit good talent."
Moore said that once the new policies go into effect in the spring, they will follow the PERS (Public Employment Retirement System) guidelines to set up the post-retirement health insurance benefits. All current employees who were hired before June 30, 2011 can retire at 25 years or at age 60 when they become vested. All current and future employees hired after July 1, 2011 can retire at 30 years or at age 60 when they become vested.
"I think it’s good that the commissioners decided to do this," Moore said. "It shows that they really appreciate the employees for their time, and that's one way to show that we do appreciate their service."