- Associated Press - Thursday, November 19, 2020

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) - The University of Maine System is pausing the switch to a new retiree health care plan following a class-action lawsuit that accuses officials of making drastic changes without informing retirees ahead of time or negotiating through collective bargaining.

The decision on Thursday came just hours after the lawsuit by 11 retirees was filed in Cumberland County Superior Court.

The system announced it will work with retiree representatives and union leaders to assess what health care coverage to offer former employees starting next year.

“While it’s critical that UMS remains a good steward of the limited resources provided to us by the Legislature, it’s equally important that we listen seriously to the concerns we’ve heard from dozens of our retirees,” Chancellor Dannel Malloy said in a statement.

The switch was aimed at saving $2.5 million annually on the system’s retiree health insurance benefit, which fills Medicare coverage gaps for eligible retirees. But retirees have raised concerns that the switch will increase their health care costs in the middle of a pandemic.

Jim McClymer, an associate professor of physics at the University of Maine and president of the Associated Faculties of the Universities of Maine, called the pause “a step in the right direction.”

“The unions are eager to speak with the administration about the change, its impact on retirees, and ways we hope they can correct the problems this transition is creating for retirees and current staff,” he said.

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