Friday 9 December 2016

Ex-Tourism Ireland exec sues in US over health insurance entitlements

Published 28/02/2016 | 02:30

'The majority of Americans hold health insurance; the US is one of the most costly places in the world to receive medical treatment. Most private health coverage in the US is employment-based'. Photo: Getty
'The majority of Americans hold health insurance; the US is one of the most costly places in the world to receive medical treatment. Most private health coverage in the US is employment-based'. Photo: Getty

A former long-time employee of Tourism Ireland is suing the agency in the United States over post-retirement health insurance entitlements.

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The majority of Americans hold health insurance; the US is one of the most costly places in the world to receive medical treatment. Most private health coverage in the US is employment-based.

A cased filed earlier this month in a California district court on behalf of Thomas Heneghan claims his former employer Tourism Ireland reneged on an agreement to pay for most of the cost of US health insurance for him, his spouse and dependant children, for the duration of his retirement.

Heneghan, who has US citizenship, worked for Tourism Ireland for several decades in California. A document filed with the court by Nissen law firm states Heneghan began working for Bord Failte in the US in 1974 and moved with his family to LA to help bolster its marketing team in 1983.

He became an employee of Tourism Ireland in 2002 when it took over responsibility for promoting Ireland overseas on an all-island basis.

Because Bord Failte was an agency of a foreign government, the document claims Heneghan was not able to make contributions to a social security or health insurance fund.

It states that as a result, Bord Failte agreed in 1983 with insurer Blue Cross/Blue Shield to provide health insurance for Heneghan, his spouse and his dependant children, and that the employer would cover 80pc of the cost of this insurance upon his retirement and during the entirety of his retirement.

The plaintiff claims the agreement was reaffirmed when the US employees of Bord Failte were transferred to Tourism Ireland.

The former employee said he made no other arrangements for health insurance up until his retirement in 2010, based on the agreement.

At some point after retiring he moved with his wife to Ireland, the document states, but they return to the US regularly to visit their children.

In 2012 Blue Cross/ Blue Shield told him he would no longer be receiving group cover and would have to arrange insurance elsewhere himself. Soon after he was informed by a Tourism Ireland employee, the document says, that his right to compensation for post-retirement insurance contributions were revoked because the benefits were jurisdiction-specific.

The claim argues he was never informed that moving out of the US would revoke his right to health insurance there, and that any jurisdiction condition to coverage would apply to the network of applicable healthcare providers, not the current residence of the insured.

Heneghan's complaints include breach of contract, fraud and negligent misrepresentation.

Tourism Ireland declined to comment when asked about the case.

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