Tyrone Boro legal team responds to contract issue with retired police officers

An attorney for Tyrone Borough said the reason that retired borough police officers will no longer be covered through Municipal Employers Insurance Trust is because it doesn’t provide Blue Cross/Blue Shield benefits, nor does any other insurance provider.
“Nobody wants to write for retirees,” said Altoona attorney Lee Oswalt this morning. “You just can’t get it. We took a hard look into it and found that it’s no longer available through anyone.”
Recently, four retired borough officers, George Sessaman, Dennis Borman, Jim Lego and Tom Cooper received letters in the mail stating the current medical/prescription coverage through MEIT will cease and that as of May 1, the coverage would be provided through Geisinger Health Plan – the company which provides benefits to all other borough employees.
Three of the officers, Sessaman, Borman and Lego, expressed their dissatisfaction for this switch. They said the borough switched their coverage without informing them beforehand.
“This is not the insurance coverage that I selected under the contract in which I served and retired under,” said former interim police chief George Sessaman, the most outspoken of the retirees. “This plan would cost me more with prescriptions, I would have to co-pay doctor visits. This was not something that we were even asked to switch to. I received a letter and was expected to sign.”
Oswalt said he understands why the officers may be upset about the situation, but said the borough did everything properly and the officers could talk to the union regarding why the officers weren’t notified beforehand.
“Again, we’re not ceasing to provide coverage,” said Oswalt. “These officers need to understand that Blue Cross/Blue Shield just isn’t available for purchase any longer. We can’t provide it because no one will sell it to us.”
Oswalt also expressed his dissatisfaction in the way Sessamen, in particular, and the other officers reacted to the situation.
“From our perspective, he’s just throwing a temper tantrum,” said Oswalt, noting that Sessaman placed a phone call to Tyrone Borough’s Director of Administration Phyllis Garhart and threatened court action with expletives. “I think everybody has to remember there are 80 million people in the country that don’t have insurance coverage at all, and these guys are whining about the fact that they’re going from one plan to another. I’m just not sure what the problem is.”
Oswalt also said Sessaman recently accosted a part-time borough police officer and had “quite a confrontation with him,” even though the part time officers don’t receive insurance benefits or have anything to do with it.
“All he had to do was call and say that he was concerned about this,” said Oswalt. “What he does instead is scream at her through the phone. That’s not a professional way to handle things, but I can tell you we are having discussions, through appropriate union channels, regarding this situation. The union has been very professional in the approach.”
Oswalt also said the borough is currently looking at other insurance options for better coverage and for a better price. He said the reason for the switch from MEIT to GHP was a substantial cost savings to the borough.