NewsPub Notes

Gee, Why Are the Geezers Upset?

Rampaging Retirees

The Board of Regents and UGA human resources people were surprised when a standing-room-only, overflow crowd showed up on Friday, Apr. 3 for the first of two meetings held to explain changes in retiree health insurance plans. How could they be surprised that older people who spent their working lives at the university confident in having health insurance in retirement would be concerned when they heard that it was slated for a major change?

This major change was decided by the Board of Regents in November 2013 and kept secret until three weeks ago, when it was reported by this newspaper. The University System of Georgia, under the direction of the Board of Regents, is changing the method by which university system retirees get health care coverage. Currently, Blue Cross Blue Shield covers what Medicare does not, and part of the cost of the BCBS coverage is paid by the university system. In the new plan, to take effect in January 2016, retirees must purchase their own supplementary insurance policies in a health care exchange similar to but not a part of those maintained by the Affordable Care Act, and the cost of that insurance will be defrayed by a university system supplement, the amount of which is yet to be determined.

Thus, the UGA retirees who showed up for the meetings on Friday had a lot of questions about coverage, costs, purchasing of insurance, benefits for spouses, guidance in the insurance market, etc., and the university system representatives were basically answering, “Trust us, you guys. It’s going to be OK.”

A USG rep told the retirees Friday that Emory University has already been through such a changeover and that it has worked well at that institution. Interestingly, the Emory human resources web site describes a process that was in stark contrast to the secretive, top-down decision that the Board of Regents thrust upon UGA retirees.

At Emory, “This change is the result of more than three years of analysis and meetings with Emory retirees, current faculty and staff, and various committees and councils including the Fringe Benefit Committee, Emeritus College and the University Senate.”

Had the University System of Georgia followed a similar procedure, there would have been no overflow crowds here trying to get into meetings hoping to find out what the hell is going on.

Harold in Springtime


Harold Williams is not a geezer or a UGA retiree.

Well, at tax time our thoughts naturally turn to our saxophone-playing friend and CPA, Harold Williams, who always greeted us with a smile of forgiveness, no matter how late we were bringing him what we liked to call our “records.” Harold was like a spider in his web, knowing that sooner or later, we’d have to fly in and have a visit with him, and, taxes aside, that was always a pleasure for both preparer and preparee.

Harold is not preparing taxes this year, of course, since a year-and-a-half ago he tripped in his office, hit his head on his filing cabinet and has been paralyzed from his neck down ever since. He has some use of his hands now and can guide his wheelchair, and he has full use of the amazing Harold Williams wit and sunny disposition, in spite of all.

Harold told me that he has discovered something called “spring” that he had never seen before, since he had always been locked up in the office doing taxes during March and April. Now, Harold gets outside whenever the weather lets up, and he says spring comes right into the yard and that the trees have flowers, the sky is blue, and the weather is pleasant. 

I learned several other things about Harold that I had never known before—that he played basketball for Athens High, that his games were covered by Lewis Grizzard and that Harold used to be a pilot. Yep, while Harold played center, Grizzard wrote sports for the old Athens Daily News, and they got to know each other. Each would go on to become a famous wit, though I don’t think Grizzard ever mastered the sax.

Harold told me that in college he took flying lessons, thinking that being a pilot would come in handy in traveling to music gigs. He never got his license, but he did solo, even once at night. He says he had a date with Sandra Lawson, daughter of then-UGA men’s basketball coach, Red Lawson, and he wanted to impress her. Harold says he had soloed by that point but never at night. He dropped by Clark’s Flying Service at the airport, pretending to get a plane to impress Sandra, but knowing that the service was closed at night. Unexpectedly, Mr. Clark was there, and he assumed Harold had his license and gladly rented him a plane. Since it was too late to back down, Harold took Sandra up for his first night flight—and hers. Needless to say, they made it back safely; Harold says it’s actually easier at night, because the landmarks stand out more, but Sandra never quite forgave him when she found out his qualifications.

Harold’s at home enjoying the spring, if you want to drop him a line: 130 Plantation Dr., Athens 30605.