QUESTION:

Can Hogan sign an executive order to save state retirees' prescription plans?

ANSWER:

No, you can't pass an executive order that contradicts existing laws.

SOURCES:

Shareese DeLeaver Churchill- Office of Governor Larry Hogan spokesperson

Eric Shirk- Maryland Department of Budget and Management Public Information Officer

Maryland Constitution

2017 Maryland Code State Government Title 3 - Governor and Lieutenant Governor Subtitle 4 - Executive Orders

PROCESS:

Former Maryland state workers feel like promises are being broken, as the state phases out of prescription drug coverage for retirees.

The General Assembly drew up blueprints and Governor O'Malley signed broad pension reform in 2011. It it, retirees were allowed to remain on state drug coverage until 2020 and transition to Medicare Part D.

The phase out was supposed to begin July 2019, but the General Assembly passed legislation to phase out earlier, by January 2019, with open enrollment for Medicare Part D October 15-December 7.

Former state employee and Verify viewer Donna Owens asked our team of researchers for help.

"I'm a retiree from the state of Maryland..Hyattsville, Maryland...I want to know if by Executive Order the Governor can allow state retirees to remain on the state's prescription plan."

We went straight to the Governor Larry Hogan's office.

"The benefit is ending as a result of legislation passed by the General Assembly in 2011. The governor cannot override legislation with an executive order," Shareese DeLeaver Churchill, a spokesperson for the Governor said. "The Courts have found that such Executive Orders must be consistent with existing State law."

State code § 3-401 outlines what's within the Governor's executive powers: the Governor can proclaim or end a state of emergency, adopt guidelines or rules for state employees, establish tasks forces and change the organization of the State's Executive Branch.

While the Governor is also in charge of putting together a budget ( Article III, Section 52) , it must be okayed by the General Assembly and you can't add extra expenses to the budget.

"The governor fully funded the retiree prescription benefit in the FY19 budget, but the General Assembly passed legislation ending the benefit early and cut this funding accordingly," Churchill said.

When former Governor O'Malley first signed the comprehensive pension reform, it was researched by a commission for 16 months, and had to get the approval from the House and Senate.

There are roughly 45,000 retirees and spouses covered right now, according to Department of Budget Management spokesperson Eric Shirk. They're about to be moved to a much more expensive federal plan.

Governor Hogan backed a measure to reimburse retirees for any out of pocket costs over $1,500 for one year, to "help alleviate the impact of the transition." The state is earmarking 33 million to fund the reimbursement program.

Last year's prescription drug coverage for state retirees cost $110 million, Shirk said.

The Department of Budget and Management will continue to provide support for retirees whose income is 300 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (less than $36,420 for one person and $49,380), according to the Governor's office. The program provides a maximum of $40 per month towards Medicare Part D premiums and $1,000 toward the "coverage gap subsidy."

So we can Verify, no the Governor can't use an Executive Order to override the decision to transition state retirees off of the state prescription plan.

Four state retirees filed an injunction to stop the shift. The hearing took place at the US District Court for the District of Maryland in Greenbelt at 10:00 a.m. on October 10. Judge Peter Messitte granted them a temporary injunction, putting plans to kick retirees off, on pause.

Open enrollment for Medicare Part D begins October 15-December 7. Coverage ends January 1, 2019. To enroll in Medicare, go to www.medicare.gov.