Hospital rebuts lawsuit claims as more retirees sue

Hospital officials categorically denied claims outlined by a group of former employees in a lawsuit filed after the district kicked them off of the hospital insurance plan.
Meanwhile, another 33 retirees have joined the suit, per an amended complaint filed Jan. 6. There are now a total 209 former employees who are suing the district and district officials including board members and CEO Bill Webster.
The suit alleges that the hospital district violated promises made to the former employees and breached their contracts by removing them from the hospital insurance plan. Hospital officials dispute their claims, and in a response filed Monday asserted immunity from the suit as a governmental entity.
The suit was filed Dec. 19 and asked a judge to grant a temporary injunction while the case is heard. But the ultimate goal of the plaintiffs is permanently continuing the retirees’ health benefits.
So far, no hearing has been set, according to court records. And the retirees’ health insurance plans expired Jan. 1.
On Jan. 12, the hospital district filed an objection asking to remove assigned Judge James Rex from the case.
As it stands, a group of 380 retirees who received free health insurance from the hospital will still have to find new insurance. Another 88 active employees potentially eligible for the health plan will also be affected once they retire.
The affected employees worked for the hospital system before the Ector County Hospital District was created as a governmental entity in 1990. Employees hired after Jan. 1, 1993, never got the retiree health benefits.
The hospital is funding Health Reimbursement Arrangements so retirees can buy private insurance that would not require them to use MCH doctors or pay two deductibles if they were using the retiree benefits as secondary insurance. They could also use the funds for other healthcare expenses.
Retirees have argued the HRAs are not enough to cover their secondary insurance policies.