Retired workers file dental benefits suit

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An association of retired state workers has filed a lawsuit saying state cuts to dental benefits violate the Alaska constitution.  The Retired Public Employees of Alaska says changes in 2014 to optional dental, vision, audio and long-term-care insurance must be reversed.

On Friday, the association filed the lawsuit against Department of Administration Commissioner Sheldon Fisher in Superior Court in Anchorage.

The lawsuit lists eight changes that it says violate a provision of the constitution. This provision says accrued retirement benefits for public employees shall not be diminished or impaired. The lawsuit seeks to reinstate benefits similar to those before 2014, when Moda Health began operating the dental plan.

Anchorage resident Brad Owens is a plan beneficiary through his wife, a retired state worker. He says the changes affect annual fluoride treatments.

“The Moda plan basically took away the fluoride treatment from a determination by the dentist as to whether or not it was appropriate or necessary, and just said it’s no longer available, it’s just something you have to pay for by yourself,” he said.

State officials say that a move by the state last week to put Moda under supervision due to the company’s poor financial condition won’t affect the dental plans.