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Obamacare Fallout: Memphis Cops Hit with 'Blue Flu' By Chuck Holton, CBN News Reporter, July 17, 2014 MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Countless police cars are sitting idle in Memphis, one of the highest crime cities in the nation, after hundreds of officers called in with the so-called "Blue Flu.
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City Retirees Suing Over Health Benefits Seventy-one former cops, firefighters want the 'city paid' benefits they were promised!! By Rikki Cason rikki.cason@lockportjournal.
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White Plains Retired Fire Fighters Loose Abritration!! The NYPFRA received the following email on February 18, 2013 from Bill McGovern, President of RUFF (Retired United Fire Fighters of White Plains).    We lost the arbitration, decision attached. Although this is a set back we still have the federal court case pending.
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Unions, heal thyselves: The perils of ‘free’ health care By NICOLE GELINAS NY Post -  June 24, 2013 Nicole Gelinas Imagine you’re a retiree with chronic health problems on a fixed income, but too young for Medicare. You open your mail to find out your former employer is taking away your health insurance.
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NY Post 9-10-12 Reforming retiree Rx Last Updated: 12:46 AM, September 10, 2012 Posted: 10:38 PM, September 9, 2012 Local and state governments face a $250 billion unfunded liability from the cost of health-care coverage promised for retired public workers, according to a report released last week.
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New York Post Sept. 7, 2012 New York’s health-care time bomb By RUSSELL SYKES Last Updated: 2:27 AM, September 7, 2012 Posted: 12:24 AM, September 7, 2012 It’s no secret that skyrocketing public pension costs are putting tremendous pressure on state and local budgets — in New York and across the country.
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North Castle retirees to pay benefit costs Split board decision to go into effect in September  Jul 7, 2012 ARMONK — North Castle retirees will lose their current vision and dental benefits and must begin contributing to their health care costs under a plan narrowly passed by the Town Board last week.
May 24, 2012
State retirees ask judge to roll back health insurance increase Retired state employees ask judge to toss out increased insurance rates Rick Karlin -->Times UnionCopyright 2012 Times Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. By Rick Karlin Published 11:46 p.m.
Mar 21, 2012

With fiscal crisis looming, Syracuse officials want workers, retirees to pay more for health care

Published: Monday, March 19, 2012, 2:00 AM
 
 

 

Syracuse, N.Y. -- After 33 years of driving a snowplow, picking up garbage and working as a dispatcher, James DiNicola retired last year from the Syracuse public works department.  One of his retirement benefits is cheap, high-quality health insurance.  DiNicola, 55, pays $180 a year for individual health coverage that costs the city, on average, $6,000 per person.

Scott McClurg, a retired firefighter, pays $900 a year for a family health plan that costs the city more than $15,000. McClurg, 62, retired in 1998, after 20 years.

Free or cheap health care has always been a perk of city employment. But at a time of stagnant revenues, the rising cost of health benefits — $41 million this year, $44 million next year — presents a growing threat to Syracuse’s financial health, city officials say.

For four years running, Syracuse has spent millions of dollars more than it raised, and the city is on course to burn through the last of its savings in about two years. Mayor Stephanie Miner and city councilors are exploring a wide range of strategies to avert a fiscal meltdown.

The city is certain to ask workers for major concessions on health care this year. But repercussions of the fiscal crisis could extend far beyond city employees.  Syracuse officials also will put pressure on tax-exempt institutions to help pay for services. If that fails, one councilor has suggested a city income tax to raise money from suburban commuters.

The mayor warns that failure to act could push Syracuse into the grip of a state control board like Buffalo’s, which oversees that city with the power to freeze wages, cut jobs and reject budgets.

At a recent city council meeting, budget director Mary Vossler told councilors that Syracuse has perhaps two years to bring health care costs under control.   The alternative, she said, is that “the control board will decide what health plan the employees get.”

To head off that possibility, Miner has recruited former Lt. Gov. Richard Ravitch to lead an advisory committee charged with helping the city explore options.  “This whole situation that we find ourselves in is a way to really change the dynamic of where cities are, and to force a discussion about it,” Miner said. “It seems to me an opportunity for change.”

Crying wolf?

Every recent Syracuse mayor has warned of a fiscal crisis, said Jeff Piedmonte, president of the Syracuse Police Benevolent Association.  “Every year in negotiations, the city says the same thing, whether it was Mayor Driscoll, Bernardi or Alexander: ‘The city has no money, there isn’t any money — and this time I really mean it,’” Piedmonte said.

But this crisis is different, said Ken Mokrzycki, who retired a year ago after 36 years at City Hall. Mokrzycki, a top adviser to five mayors, said the city is in the worst financial shape he can remember.

Since 2008, Syracuse has used roughly $36 million in savings to help pay bills. Most of the extra cash came from a 2006 settlement with Destiny USA that guaranteed the city $53.4 million over 10 years. About $30 million was collected in the first three years.

The city is poised to spend $13 million more this year than it takes in. Next year, the projected gap is $16 million.  Those forecasts may get modified, depending on events. This year’s mild winter weather, for example, saved the city more than $1 million.  But the underlying trend — rising personnel expenses and stagnant revenues — shows no sign of abating, Vossler said.

In the past, when the city got into financial jams, it could often look forward to increases in state and federal aid, Mokrzycki said. State aid to Syracuse increased from $44.7 million in 2000 to $81.7 million in 2008.

But state aid has dropped to $71.8 million this year, the same amount the city got last year. Federal housing aid has dropped from $8.3 million in 2008 to $6.3 million this year, according to city records.  “If it weren’t for the reserves accumulated over the years, we’d have been in this shape a couple of years ago,” Mokrzycki said.

Ravitch, who helped guide the financial recovery of New York City in the 1970s and then revived the New York subway system in the 1980s, will chair a three-person advisory board to be named by Miner in early April. Ravitch also is advising the city of Yonkers.

Ravitch said he has begun compiling financial records from Syracuse, whose problems are similar to other Upstate cities. This crisis will not be easy to fix, he said.  As the state and federal governments cut back to address their own budget problems, local governments are being forced to make choices that will have direct impacts on employees and constituents, he said.

“The guys at the bottom of the pecking order — the cities and counties — are the ones that don’t have anybody to lay off the responsibility to,” Ravitch said.

Syracuse maintains a healthy A1 credit rating from Moody’s Investor Services, the agency’s fifth-highest rating. But the rating could fall if the city continues to spend its cash reserves to balance the budget, according to a November report by Moody’s.

Eyeing nonprofits

The city boosted property taxes 5.4 percent in 2010, but property taxes account for less than 12 percent of city revenues — $33 million out of a budget of $284 million.  Just over half of the city is exempt from taxes. “When 50 percent of your property is off the tax rolls, using property tax to fund your services as a city doesn’t make sense,” Miner said.

Many tax-exempt parcels are owned by government agencies. But about one-sixth of city property — $1.2 billion worth — is owned by private, tax-exempt institutions such as universities, hospitals and churches, assessor David Clifford said.

Miner and members of the council want those nonprofit institutions to pay a share of the city’s costs.  “If you use snowplows, you should have to pay for snowplows,” Miner said. “If you use police services and fire services, you should have to pay for that.”

Last year, Miner persuaded Syracuse University to make $500,000-a-year voluntary payments for city services, saying she hoped to persuade other nonprofits to do the same. But thus far there are no other takers.

“We’re having discussions,” Miner said, not specifying with whom. “Nobody has banged on my door with a million dollars.”  City leaders will push the issue this year.  Common Councilor Pat Hogan said tax-exempt institutions should pay a fee for city services based on the number of employees they have, a rough proxy for how much they depend on city services.

If they won’t contribute voluntarily, Hogan said he is prepared to propose a city income tax. Hogan said he envisions allowing city property owners to deduct their city income tax from their property tax.

He floated a similar idea during negotiations with Onondaga County over sharing sales tax revenue, but dropped it when the county agreed to the city’s terms.  “The large nonprofits have to start paying their fair share,” Hogan said. “Or we’ll bring back the commuter tax.”

Health care targeted

Wages, pension costs and health-care benefits account for two-thirds of the city budget. Wages can’t be cut much without reducing the number of employees further, something Miner says the city cannot do without affecting service. Syracuse has 1,822 employees, 125 fewer than when Miner took office.

Pension plans are set at the state level. But health care cost-sharing is something over which the city has direct control.  The city stops paying wages and pension contributions when an employee retires, but health care expenses keep piling up until the worker reaches Medicare eligibility at 65. Retirees account for 59 percent of city health-care costs. They are older and sicker than active employees, and there are more of them, Vossler said.

Syracuse, which is self-insured, pays for the doctor visits, prescriptions, hospital stays and other costs for 8,322 people — employees, retirees and family members.  The cost this year is about $41 million, almost double the city’s fast-rising pension payment of $21 million. Prescriptions alone cost the city more than $1 million a month, Vossler said.

Most retirees pay the same health-care premiums that active employees pay, as negotiated by the city’s nine unions.  Non-uniformed employees pay $15 a month for individual coverage or $30 for a family plan. Police pay $30 for individual plans, $60 for a family. Firefighters, who agreed to a $15 increase last year, pay the most — $45 for individuals, $75 for families.

Miner said employees and retirees should pay significantly higher premiums, or accept less generous benefits. The city offers “a Cadillac plan,” she said. “But they’re paying for a Yugo.”

The mayor said her goal is for city workers to pay what their counterparts in state government pay, 15 percent of individual plan costs and 25 percent of family plan costs. At the current benefit level, that could hike some employees’ contributions tenfold — to more than $3,700 a year for family coverage.

But many retirees and some city lawmakers resist the idea of hiking costs for retirees.  McClurg, the former firefighter, said reducing health-care benefits for retirees is no more fair than it would be to reduce pension payments. Pension and health care benefits were important elements in the compensation package when he was a firefighter, a job that did not pay well in the 1970s and brought with it a lifetime of extra health risks, McClurg said.

“You can’t — after the fact — pull it back,” McClurg said. “That’s not fair.” McClurg, who lives in the town of Onondaga, has run a construction business since he retired. His pension pays $23,000 a year.

For the 36 employees of McClurg and Associates, McClurg pays $4,200 apiece for individual health insurance. Employees pay the difference if they want a family plan. For himself, McClurg uses city insurance.

McClurg said the $15-a-month increase negotiated by the firefighters union last year should not have been passed on to retirees.  “Take it from the future employees,” he said.  Robert Stamey, personnel director, said the city’s policy has been to keep premium rates the same for retirees and active employees.

But Lance Denno, the council majority leader and a retired firefighter, said he agrees with McClurg. Health-care premiums should be raised only for current employees and future retirees, he said.

“I do not support further increases to contribution rates of employees already retired,” Denno said.  Denno has proposed a sliding scale, under which higher paid employees pay more.  Something along those lines will soon be implemented among Miner’s staff, said Bill Ryan, chief of staff.  “We have to start some place,” Ryan said. “The employees of the mayor will take those steps. What dollar figure, I don’t know.”

Changing health packages for other employees will be more difficult. Except for roughly 200 employees who are not covered by union contracts, health-care benefits must be negotiated with the city’s nine unions.

Control board threat

Piedmonte, president of the police union, said Miner has made it clear in meetings with union leaders that the state could impose a fiscal control board if Syracuse’s financial position deteriorates.

The state Legislature created a control board to oversee Buffalo in 2003, after that city’s credit rating fell to one step above “junk bond” status. The Buffalo Fiscal Stability Authority imposed a three-year wage freeze that prompted demonstrations and union lawsuits, and it continues to control the city’s finances.

Piedmonte said union leaders don’t want a control board in Syracuse. But they also may be reluctant to offer big concessions to prevent that outcome, he said.

“If we make concessions today, and the state takes over next year, I know the state’s not going to look at it and say, ‘Yeah, they already made concessions and we’ll take that into account,’” he said. “You’re reluctant to do too much, because we still could get whacked again if the state takes over.”

Hogan, the city councilor, said Syracuse officials may face a difficult choice if they can’t bring health-care costs down: Lay off current employees to afford health benefits for retirees.

“This is real,” said Ryan, the chief of staff. “We either have to face this reality, or we’re going to have a smaller workforce.”


Dec 30, 2011

NY Retiree Group Sues over Increase in Health Benefit Costs

 

December 8, 2011 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - The Retired Public Employees Association (RPEA), on behalf of its 40,000 members, has commenced legal action against New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and New York State over an attempt to make public service retirees pay a larger portion of health insurance costs.

 

The suit asks for a rollback of a 2% increase in the percentage retirees pay toward the cost of their health insurance premiums. The lawsuit, RPEA, et. al. vs. Cuomo, et.al., was filed in Albany County Supreme Court and asks that Cuomo and other state officials who "administratively extended" provisions of negotiated union contracts to retired public employees be legally stopped from imposing such terms on existing retirees.

Stan Winter, RPEA president, stated: "When we retired from the State there was a promise that our percentage cost would remain stable – now the administration feels that since they negotiated new contracts they can extend them to non-represented retirees. The Taylor Law does not allow retirees to participate in collective bargaining and therefore, it is blatantly illegal to apply such agreements to those who have already retired."

Under existing Civil Service Law, state employees who retired after January 1, 1983, pay 10% of the cost of health insurance premiums for individual coverage and 25% for family coverage. The last time contribution percentages were changed as a result of union contracts, existing retirees were "grandfathered" and only future retirees had to pay the increased percentages.

Retirees' costs are based on premiums and co-pays which are set by the health insurance carriers that can and do increase every year. In the past 15 months there have been four premium increases. These plans are coordinated and administered by the New York State Health Insurance Plan (NYSHIP) under the auspices of the NYS Department of Civil Service, Employee Benefits Division which is a named defendant along with the Governor in the lawsuit.

 

Rebecca Moore
editors@plansponsor.com


Dec 30, 2011

NY Unions File Lawsuit Over Retiree Healthcare Increase

 

December 30, 2011 (PLANSPONSOR.com)- Seven New York state unions filed federal lawsuits on Wednesday, challenging the Cuomo administration’s increase in the amount retirees must contribute toward their healthcare.

 

The unions said increases were unconstitutional because the state has no authority to unilaterally raise retirees’ healthcare costs. The changes enacted this year by the Cuomo administration increased healthcare contributions to 12% from 10% for individual coverage and to 27% from 25% for family coverage.

"What the Cuomo administration is trying to do is pull the rug out from under state retirees, many of whom planned their retirements based on when they felt they could afford to retire," Ken Brynien, president of the Public Employees Federation, said in a statement.

The governor’s spokesman has made statements to the media that the state did nothing illegal.

Earlier this month, the Retired Public Employees Association (RPEA) filed a lawsuit against Cuomo and New York state regarding the same 2% healthcare increase (see “NY Retiree Group Sues over Increase in Health Benefit Costs”).


Dec 30, 2011
Updated: Fri., Dec. 30, 2011, 4:00 AM home
 

Andrew & the unions

Last Updated: 4:00 AM, December 30, 2011

Posted: 10:40 PM, December 29, 2011

New York’s public-employee unions are predictably up in arms over the Cuomo administration’s move to increase the health-care contributions of their current retirees.

In fact, seven of the unions have filed suit in federal court, claiming the two percentage-point hike in retirees’ health-insurance premiums is unconstitutional.

But Gov. Cuomo’s spokesman insists the move is perfectly legal.

That will be decided in court — but there’s no denying that common sense and fiscal responsibility are on Cuomo’s side.

At issue are the contract deals the governor reached earlier this year with two major state unions, the Public Employees Federation and the Civil Service Employees Association.

Both contracts (ratified only after Cuomo began dispensing layoff notices) called for relatively modest concessions.

Among them: an increase that brings the employee share of health-care costs from 10 percent to 12 percent for singles and from 25 percent to 27 percent for family plans.

But the administration also moved to apply the increases to current retirees — who are not union members or state employees.

An “arbitrary and capricious . . . breach of our contract,” huffed the unions.

Except, of course, that they have no contract.

Moreover, says Cuomo spokesman Josh Vlasto: “The law clearly allows the administration to apply the terms of a new contract to retirees, and it has been well-known, standard practice to do so.”

Indeed, he notes, a legal change in 2009 allowed the state to pass on some Medicare-premium costs — previously borne entirely by Albany — to retirees.

Legally, it may be a gray area — so expect a lot of billable legal hours to be racked up debating this one.

But fiscal prudence — especially in dire times like these — argue for Cuomo’s position.

The increase is not especially onerous, even for those on fixed incomes: On average, the unions estimate an extra $150 a year for single coverage and $460 for family plans.

But the tens of millions it would save taxpayers statewide — most of whom do not enjoy the same benefits — are needed as Albany struggles with its chronic budget problems.

Yes, retirees will feel a slightly tighter pinch.



Oct 26, 2011

Bloomberg administration eyes health care hike for city employees, despite unions' resistance

Wednesday, October 26th 2011, 4:00 AM:  Heath Korvola/Getty

Faced with the possiblity of higher insurance premiums, a visit to the doctor could become a more expensive trip for city workers.

Mayor Bloomberg is eying a sacred perk of city employees as a way to balance the budget - nearly free health care.

One of the mayor's newest top deputies Tuesday told a midtown gathering of business leaders that as the city confronts a mounting budget crisis, he plans to target the generous medical benefits that most employees receive without contributing to their annual premiums.

"New York City employees really are unique in that they don't...make a contribution to health care," Deputy Mayor Cas Holloway told a breakfast gathering hosted by the Citizens Budget Commission. "So we're going to be tackling that."

Bloomberg has long called for employees to pay a portion of their health care premiums - but unions so far have resisted the effort.

Major labor groups have largely been unwilling to engage in serious negotiations with Bloomberg in his third term, preferring to work under expired contracts in hopes that the next mayor might be more generous.

The mayor, however, may try to force unions to the table with the threat of layoffs - a tactic that has worked for Gov. Cuomo in brokering several new contracts.

Bloomberg instructed his commissioners this month to find ways to cut $2 billion in spending from the city's $66 billion budget - a move that some say could mean a loss of hundreds of city jobs.

Sanitation union leader Harry Nespoli, who heads the citywide labor umbrella group that negotiates benefits with the mayor, says the Albany situation isn't comparable.

He accused Bloomberg of playing games with the budget.

"For the last two years, the city has talked about a [budget] deficit and came up with a reserve," Nespoli said. "I have a funny feeling that even in the years coming up there's going to be a reserve."

He said city workers are happy to negotiate any proposal with the mayor, but scoffed at the notion that workers aren't paying their share.

"We pay co-pays now," he said. "We have outstanding contracts right now and people have gone years without raises....I don't know how much more they want."


Jul 14, 2011

 

The Journal News July 14, 2011

WHITE PLAINS — City Hall has captured its first significant win in its highly litigated battle to alter its health care contributions.

An arbitrator announced Wednesday that he was siding with the city in a dispute brought by the police union.

The union challenged legislation passed last year that required some police retirees to start paying 15 percent of their health premiums.

"Anyone would feel that his decision is not the proper one," said Robert Riley, president of the Police Benevolent Association of the City of White Plains. "It's just an unjust ruling."

He said he'd consult with the union's attorney to determine its next step, if any.

Mayor Thomas Roach, who initially proposed the health care change, said he had no comment on the decision.

The legislation requires some retirees hired before 1995, as well as current and retired elected and appointed officials, to start paying 15 percent. Union workers hired during and after 1995 were contractually protected from the change.

The arbitration was among a bevy of legal actions taken by current and former city employees after the health care changes passed. Three pending arbitrations and five federal lawsuits, including one from the police union, are also in the works. Since May, the city has paid about $80,000 in legal fees to defend the legislation, but total savings from the health care change would be $500,000 annually, city officials say.

According to the 45-page arbitration decision, the police union argued that its retirees have been given 100 percent health care coverage for decades and so the city could not change those past practices unilaterally. It also said the coverage level was contractually protected.

The city argued that the 100 percent coverage was never mentioned in any contracts with the union. Because it was not obligated to pay 100 percent, it could change the contribution level if it wanted. The city did not dispute that 100 percent was paid for decades.

The arbitrator, Arthur Riegel, agreed with the city's claims and wholly denied the union's grievance.


May 19, 2011

SUNY to hike health costs

Insurance increases, some quadrupled, for research group retirees
Published 12:01 a.m., Tuesday, May 10, 2011
 

ALBANY -- Early retirements have long been used to trim the size of work forces but now there's a catch -- sharply higher health insurance costs for retirees.

At least that's the case at the SUNY Research Foundation, which is raising health insurance premium co-payments -- in some cases quadrupling them -- for retirees starting next year. The sharpest hikes will fall on those with the least tenure, including some who are planning to leave at age 55.

"It's an extraordinary difference in premiums," said one Research Foundation employee, who plans to retire in 2012. Under the change, the employee, who didn't want her name used for fear of angering her bosses, said coverage for her and her spouse will probably rise from $209 per month to $748 -- for an annual increase of more than $6,000.

Amid these increases, a watchdog group is fielding complaints from New Yorkers who are retiring or about to retire from public and private employers and who are seeing their premiums rise -- despite a federal grant designed to contain such costs.

The higher premiums for the Research Foundation, which employs about 10,000 people at any given time and administers more than $1 billion in grants, were outlined in a recent bulletin warning that "our growing costs are not sustainable."

As a result, retirees after Jan.1, 2012, will see increases in the percentage of the health insurance premiums they must pay.

The increases will be tiered, with the lowest for those who've worked at the Research Foundation for 20 years or more. The rates will rise for those who've worked there for 15-19 years and they'll go up even higher for those working between 10 and 14 years. Research Foundation employees must work 10 years before they are able to retire.

The higher prices are causing some to put off retiring, perhaps until age 65 when Medicare kicks in.

"I know of at least two people who say they can't retire," added the Research Foundation employee, who plans to go to Florida.

There's been little outcry over the hikes, in part because SUNY Research Foundation employees are scattered across the state, working in research and support roles at campuses and on contracts with state organizations.

"It's not like we can come together and be unified and talk about this," said the employee, who like most, is not a union member.

The Research Foundation is private not-for-profit educational corporation that is legally distinct but closely related to SUNY. It exists largely to service the state university system. Its employees are not technically part of the state work force and state taxes don't go toward their benefits.

Research Foundation spokesman Peter Taubkin noted that most private employers don't provide retiree health benefits at all. The Research Foundation is not reducing benefits, but is instead increasing the co-pay requirement. Retirees now pay 10 percent for individual coverage and 25 percent for family plans.

The foundation was among scores of New York organizations that divided up the federal grant last summer aimed at keeping health premium costs down for those taking early retirement. The grant was part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, shepherded through Congress by President Barack Obama.

Dubbed the Early Retiree Reinsurance Program, it was designed to offset premiums for early retirees until 2014 when the full health care overhaul is scheduled to be phased in.

Unionized state employees appeared to benefit somewhat, with then-Civil Service Commissioner Nancy Groenwegen saying the state's $346 million share would go to keep premiums down for retirees.

The retiree program is scheduled to be phased out by 2014 when the Affordable Care Act, championed by President Barack Obama, is set to go into full effect.

Organizations including IBM, Syracuse University, Kodak and numerous municipalities and school systems accepted grant money to keep their retiree health insurance costs down.

But one advocate said her group is starting to get complaints from retirees who've been told their premiums will jump, even with the grants.

That's raised questions about the federal program's effectiveness or whether grant participants are using the money properly.

"We don't understand how it's possible to have a quadrupling,'' said Elisabeth Benjamin, vice president of health initiatives at Community Service Society of New York.

"We're very concerned that the funding is not being passed through to the employees," she said.

Participants, though, contend the individual grants aren't big enough to yield large savings next year.

The Research Foundation received $276,820 under the program. But that was only 4.5 percent of the total retiree health benefit cost of $6,131,294 in 2010. Private employers also say the federal grant was not significant in light of today's health insurance costs.

"Because the amount of reimbursement is expected to be small in comparison to Kodak's total health care costs and would be spread across all plan participants, the amount of savings for each covered plan participant is expected to be small," said Al Brakoniecki, a spokesman for Kodak, one of several organizations including the Research Foundation that retirees had complained to Benjamin about when they realized they weren't going to see much savings in their premiums.

One of the Research Foundation's bulletins noted that liability for their benefits program has gone from $213 million in 2008 to $332 million in 2010.

Reach Rick Karlin at 454-5758 or rkarlin@timesunion.com.



Read more: http://www.timesunion.com/default/article/SUNY-to-hike-health-costs-1372893.php#ixzz1MqbR8ub3


May 19, 2011

Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy said he'll ask county employees later this year to begin paying for a portion of their health care -- or they may face layoffs or go to a less generous health plan.

The move comes four years after county unions agreed to $15 million in health care concessions, including higher co-pays. In return, the county agreed to not ask workers to pay a portion of their health care premiums or to shift from their self-insured health plan to the New York State Health Insurance Plan used by state government workers until 2011.

With that agreement about to run out at the end of the year, and the county facing a $140-million to $179-million two-year budget shortfall, Levy in an interview said he will ask employees to help pay for their health care costs, as do state government workers. Nassau County workers do not contribute to their health care premiums.

Levy described his proposal as still in its infancy, but having county workers pay 10 percent of the cost of their insurance would produce $30 million to $40 million in savings, he said. Overall, Levy said he wants to shave $50 million from health care costs.

"Now that we're getting cut by the state, and we have less sales tax money coming in [due to the poor economy], these things have to be looked at," Levy said.

Cheryl Felice, president of the Suffolk County Association of Municipal Employees, the largest union representing county workers, said only that any changes would have to be made through negotiations. She declined to comment further.

 


Apr 19, 2011

Source: Legislative Gazette

Council 82 deal a ‘model’ for other unions, gov says PEF, CSEA say not so fast

by Veronica Lewin

April 18, 2011

New York’s largest state employee unions say the contract agreement tentatively reached between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Council 82 leadership last week has no bearing on their negotiations with the administration, even though the governor called it a “model” for other unions to follow.

The Civil Service Employees Association and Public Employees Federation say the negotiating process and outcomes will look different for their organizations.

And both unions noted the Council 82 agreement only affects a very small percentage of the public workforce when compared with the number of employees they represent.

“The Cuomo administration’s agreement with Council 82 represents a settlement with a very small number of specific state law enforcement officers who haven’t had a contract for six years,” said CSEA President Danny Donahue. “CSEA will continue to negotiate in good faith at the bargaining table on an agreement that will fairly address the state’s fiscal situation, while respecting the needs of the 66,000 CSEA members who deliver a wide range of essential services to the people of New York every day.”

PEF said the union has already rejected an offer similar to the one now being considered by Council 82’s membership.

“PEF has not accepted the state’s initial offer because it would impose an unfair burden, including long-term hardships on our members and their families,” PEF President Ken Brynien said. “The state’s proposal would require an average PEF member to give up as much as $10,000 in salary and benefits every year of the contract. Additionally, the state made it clear that accepting these concessions would not ensure PEF members would not be laid off anyway.”

PEF, which represents 56,000 of the state’s professional, scientific and technical employees, has a counter proposal it says would accomplish the state’s savings goals for this fiscal year while putting less of a burden on its employees.

“We are willing to accept short-term hardships for what may very well be a short-term fiscal crisis. The Council 82 agreement in no way sets the groundwork for our continuing negotiations,” said Brynien.

Cuomo’s office announced last Wednesday an agreement had been reached between the state and the Agency Law Enforcement Services unit of Council 82, a union representing law enforcement officers. The Agency Law Enforcement Services unit represents 1,160 employees and includes State University of New York police, park police, Department of Environmental Conservation officers and state forest rangers.

“I applaud Council 82 and its leadership for understanding the problems of the state and realizing that through shared sacrifice we can get New York on the road to recovery,” said the governor. “This is a model the other unions negotiating with the state can follow. If similar contract terms were adopted by New York’s other public employee unions, the state could achieve the $450 million in savings needed to avoid the 9,800 layoffs projected in the enacted budget.”

Prior to the tentative agreement, Council 82 had been without a contract since 2005. The contract proposal includes wage freezes through the 2013-2014 fiscal year and would eliminate step increases for employees. Law enforcement employees would have to pay more for their health care premiums. Individuals, who currently pa0 percent of health care costs, would have to pay 20 percent of expenses. Those needing family coverage would pay 35 percent of health care costs, an increase from 25 percent.

The proposal would also reduce the amount of unused sick leave that can be credited toward reducing insurance premiums for retirees. Sick days would no longer be considered when calculating overtime compensation, a move that would save $11 million in the first year.

“This is a responsible agreement that is in the best interest of our members, the state of New York and the taxpayers,” said Jim Lyman, executive director of Council 82. “It brings a long overdue contract to completion. It demonstrates the Cuomo administration’s commitment to working with its labor partners and its commitment to these employees and their important work. Council 82 looks forward to continuing the good working relationship that we’ve developed with the governor and his staff and supporting him in his efforts to restore our state government and making it work for the people again.”

In a memorandum from the union’s general counsel, Ennio J. Corsi, members were told information packets detailing the terms of the tentative agreement were to be sent to their homes on April 18 and that their votes must be received by the close of business on May 2. Results of the vote are expected to be posted on May 3.

“The agreement speaks for itself and the choice in the matter is entirely yours. If it is acceptable to you, vote for it, and if it is not acceptable to you, reject it. It is that simple,” the memo reads.

 

NYPFRA Comment: Please note:  We don't know at this time if this agreement is signed if it would effect their retirees.


Nov 13, 2010

Unfair: city workers' health freebies

NY Post November 13, 2010

If you were in charge of cutting the city budget, which would you choose -- eliminating essential services, or finding ways to save money and preserve the programs New Yorkers need?

As much as possible, of course, we want to keep teachers in the classroom and police on the streets, maintain high levels of transit and health-care services and otherwise preserve government's ability to enhance the quality of life.

But those services are threatened. Gov.-elect Andrew Cuomo must close a $9 billion budget gap in the coming year; similar challenges face leaders in local governments across the state.

Fortunately, our elected leaders can take steps to reduce costs without cutting services. Here is one modest proposal: Distribute the cost of municipal and school employee health benefits more fairly.

New York City, and other localities and school districts across the state, spend more than $23 billion a year on fringe benefits, mostly for employee health care and pensions, according to the state Comptroller. That's more than 17 percent of their total budgets -- and these costs are growing fast.

The incoming governor and the Legislature have a stake in controlling these local costs, because a third of state spending goes to public schools or general municipal aid.

There's little question that next year's state budget will include sharp cuts in baseline funding for local programs. State leaders can make it possible for local officials to take those cuts without slashing services -- by acting to ease taxpayer costs for local employee benefits.

There's now a blatant inequity between the state's health-care benefits for its employees, and those that the city and other local jurisdictions provide most of their workers.

State employees are covered by the New York State Health Insurance Program and they pay an average 18 percent of premium costs for their coverage. But in most municipalities -- including the city -- and in many school districts, the employee share ranges from none to minimal.

Requiring these employees to pay the same proportion of benefit costs that state workers pay would save an estimated $1.2 billion a year or more, with $650 million of that in New York City.

The state could impose this action directly, requiring that local collective-bargaining agreements include such a provision. (The state already sets the rules for public employee bargaining.) Or it could require that all local employers join

NYSHIP and adopt the same contribution rates that now apply to state workers.

Either approach accomplishes multiple goals -- helping to mitigate budget pressures, preserving services and jobs that otherwise would be cut and addressing an inequity between employees of the state and those who work for local governments.

For both labor and management, health-benefit packages -- composition and costs -- have grown in importance over time. Making meaningful changes won't be easy. No one is going to volunteer to pay for something they now perceive as "free."

In reality, given the rapidly rising cost of this "free" benefit, municipal employees are paying plenty for it -- through lower wages or other benefits, and through the loss of colleagues working alongside them.

As state and local government policymakers confront both rising health-care costs and large budget gaps, they face choosing to cut the level and quality of our public services or to reduce the unit cost of providing them. Reducing unit costs -- for example, by reducing employee benefit costs -- means preserving services and jobs for New Yorkers.

And it's important that the proposal offered here would not diminish the quality of these employee health benefits, something very important to the families receiving them. It would simply require that they, like state employees, share a small portion of the costs.

The issue of cost-sharing for employee and retiree health premiums must move to the front of the collective-bargaining table. Given the budget challenges facing the state and its localities -- and the implications of those challenges for essential public services -- avoiding this issue is no longer an option.

Carol O'Cleireacain is a senior fellow at the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Gov ernment and a former New York City bud get director. Her full report on this issue is available at rockinst.org.


Sep 04, 2010

Governor and Legislators Impose Medicare Premium Costs on NYSHIP Enrollees

The New York State Legislature has mandated that the cost of reimbursing Medicare-primary enrollees for their Part B premium costs be included as a component cost of New York State Health Insurance Plan (NYSHIP) premiums.

Under the plan, Medicare Part B premiums paid by NYSHIP enrollees will still be reimbursed by their former employers, but this additional cost to the employers will increase the cost of the program which all NYSHIP enrollees must bear.  The immediate result will be an estimated increase in NYSHIP yearly premiums by $38.28 for those with individual coverage and $95.28 for those with family coverage. Indications are that deductions will be imposed back to April 1, 2010.

The action was taken on June 7, 2010 as a part of a temporary budget extender.

Then, both the Assembly and Senate have accepted a permanent amendment to Section 167-a of the Civil Service law in the Public Protection and General Government “language” bill (A.9706-C/S.6606-B, Part U) expected as part of the final State Budget for the 2010-2011 fiscal year. 


Aug 18, 2010

 

Federal judges put brakes on White Plains retiree health costs
 
The Journal News - White Plains, N.Y.
Author:Richard Liebson
Date:Jul 8, 2010
Start Page:n/a
Section:NEWS
Text Word Count:514
Document Text

Retired White Plains police officers and firefighters won first-round victories in their fight to maintain free health-care benefits yesterday when two different federal judges granted temporary injunctions that prevent the city from billing them until their legal challenges are resolved.

The injunctions mean the police and fire retirees won't have to make health-care payments by a Saturday deadline set by the city. Retired civil service members still must make the first payment or face the loss of their health insurance.

In May, the Common Council voted to require employees who retired with 20 years of service and were hired before July 1, 1995, to pay 15 percent of their health-care premiums -- about $1,000 to $2,396 per year depending on the size of their pensions. The change, described as a budget-cutting measure, was made without public discussion. A June 3 letter to about 800 retired cops, firefighters and civil servants informed them of the change and warned that their health benefits could be suspended if they did not make a quarterly payment by July 10.

The retired firefighters and police officers filed separate notices announcing their intentions to sue the city, claiming that it was violating their contracts and that the council made the change without due process. The Civil Service Employees Association has not taken any action on behalf of its retirees, but says it is studying its legal options.

Albert Pirro, the lawyer representing the retired police officers, said the temporary injunction signed by U.S. District Judge Stephen Robinson "is a victory in round one."

"The city entered into a contract and now they want to renege," Pirro said. "I don't think you can retroactively say 'I was only kidding' on a contract that you were a party to. That's just common sense."

Pirro said he plans to seek depositions from Mayor Adam Bradley, Corporation Counsel John Callahan and other city officials "to find out what the motivation behind this was. If it's proven that this was politically motivated, the city could be liable for punitive as well as compensatory damages."

No new court date has been set for the retired cops.

The temporary injunction on behalf of the retired firefighters was granted by U.S. District Judge Cathy Seibel.

"It's a very good sign," said Joseph Carrier, president of the city fire union. "I think the injunction shows that the judge realizes that this was more than just a promise -- it was a contract, and the city violated that contract."

He said the fire union, on behalf of its retirees, will be back in court on July 21 to seek a permanent injunction.

The mayor had no comment on the injunctions, but said he understood why the retired police officers and firefighters were fighting the benefit change.

"I don't begrudge any of them from doing everything they can in this situation," Bradley said. "It's early in the process. We'll see what the courts decide in the end."

********************************************************************************************************

White Plains retirees threaten lawsuit over health-care cost

 

 

 
The Journal News - White Plains, N.Y.
Author:Richard Liebson; Ben Rubin
Date:Jun 6, 2010
Start Page:AWP.5
Section:NEWS
Text Word Count:409
Document Text

WHITE PLAINS -- Like many who choose careers in public service, Phil Robbins joined the White Plains Fire Department in 1970 in part because "the benefits were good."

"The pay wasn't great," said Robbins, who retired in 1990, "but you knew that if you retired after 20 years you'd get free health care."

Not anymore.

In a move critics say was made without public discussion, the Common Council voted unanimously last month to require retired city employees with 20 years of service who were hired before July 1, 1995, to pay 15 percent of their health insurance costs.

The change will affect about 640 retirees, who will pay between $661 and $2,395 a year, depending on their health-care plan.

Current administrative and appointed employees and elected officials are also being assessed 15 percent.

While the city says the measure saves money in a difficult budget year, retirees and union leaders say it's an underhanded act of betrayal.

"Those weren't the terms I signed up for or retired under," said Walter Holubis, a police officer for 34 years. "It's not right for the city to do this to me now. I held up my end of the bargain, they should hold up theirs."

Despite "deep reservations," Mayor Adam Bradley voted for the measure.

"My reservations were mitigated by my commitment and hope to find alternative health insurance plans that will require a much smaller, or no contribution by retirees," he said through a spokeswoman.

Council President Thomas Roach, who proposed the change, said he would welcome such a plan.

Fire union President Joseph Carrier and his brother James, who heads the police union, said many retirees are now senior citizens on fixed incomes. They said the city used the benefit as a recruiting tool for years.

The Carriers said their unions are considering legal action against the city.

So is attorney Al Pirro, who said he had been contacted by a number of city retirees.

"We believe that this violates the City Charter, and that the council does not have the authority to do this," he said. "We intend to commence legal action to stop this."

Retired firefighter Bob Lyons, who had triple-bypass heart surgery in 1992 and drives a school bus to make ends meet, said the added cost may force him to move.

"I'm already living paycheck to paycheck," he said. "Now I don't know if I can still afford to see my heart doctor. It's not right."

*****************************************************************************************************

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
March 5, 2009
 

 

GOVERNOR PATERSON ISSUES EXECUTIVE ORDER CREATING TASK FORCE ON PUBLIC RETIREE HEALTH BENEFITS

Task Force to Study Ways to Ensure Preservation of Quality Retiree Health Care; Address Financial Burdens on State and Local Governments

Appoints Richard A. Berman as Chairman of 15-Member Task Force


Governor David A. Paterson issued an Executive Order establishing the New York State Task Force on Public Retiree Health Benefits. The Task Force will study health care benefits provided to employees of the State and local governments in New York by specifically addressing the preservation of quality retiree health care, and ways to make health care more affordable for local governments.

Governor Paterson also announced the appointment of Richard A. Berman as Chairman of the Task Force. Mr. Berman has extensive experience in health policy and State government. He served in the administration of Governor Hugh Carey as director of the New York State Office of Health Systems Management and as Director of the Division of Housing and Community Renewal. Since then, he has been a management consultant with McKinsey and Company, the Executive Vice President at the New York University Medical Center, and Chair of the Westchester Medical Center. Mr. Berman presently serves as President of Manhattanville College, a position he has held since 1995.

“During these challenging economic times, we must continue to ensure that retirees receive quality health benefits, while also searching for innovative ways to control health care costs,” said Governor Paterson. “I would like to thank Richard Berman for accepting the role of studying the State’s public retiree health benefits system. Richard’s experience in both the public and private sectors will be a tremendous asset to the Task Force in looking at ways to reform the current system. I look forward to reviewing the recommendations and to working with stakeholders to addressing these difficult issues.”

The Task Force will gather information on benefits received by public retirees and will explore policy approaches to improving the current system of public retiree health benefits to advance goals such as maintaining quality and affordable health coverage for retirees, ensuring that retirees are treated equitably and fairly, limiting government health care costs, and maintaining sufficient flexibility for health care benefit management by the State and localities.

The Task Force will be comprised of representatives from New York State agencies including the Department of Civil Service, the Department of Health, the Office for the Aging, the Division of Budget and the Insurance Department, and the Governor will ask the New York State Comptroller, the Speaker of the Assembly and the Senate Majority Leader to make appointments as well. In addition to representatives from State government, the Task Force will include representatives from labor unions, retiree groups and local governments.

The creation of this Task Force fulfills a promise made by Governor Paterson following the veto of a bill in August 2008 that would have established a similar body through legislation. In his veto message, the Governor supported the need to examine this issue in greater detail, but expressed concern that the Task Force that would have been established through the legislation would not provide appropriate representation for interested parties.

The Task Force will submit recommendations to the Governor on or before June 1, 2009, or at a later date if selected by a majority of the Task Force.

***************************************************************************************

EXECUTIVE ORDER  March 15, 2009

NO 15: ESTABLISHING A TASK FORCE ON PUBLIC EMPLOYEE RETIREMENT HEALTH CARE BENEFITS


WHEREAS, it is in the interest of all New Yorkers that the State and local governments provide retirees receiving health care benefits with quality and affordable health care; and

WHEREAS, many retirees have expressed concern that their health benefits will be singled out for reduction during difficult fiscal times; and

WHEREAS, health care costs have consistently grown faster than the rate of inflation in recent years, straining the finances of public employers; and

WHEREAS, Government Accounting Standards Bulletin (GASB) 45 requires greater disclosure on public entities’ financial statements of the their future health care liabilities to retired employees, and failure to properly account for these liabilities could potentially impact the State’s or localities’ financial rating; and

WHEREAS, there is a need for a dispassionate and informed study of this issue, which will allow for compilation of relevant background information; sharing of viewpoints between interested parties; exploration and evaluation of possible reform proposals; and efforts to reach consensus and make recommendations on relevant issues.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, David A. Paterson, Governor of the State of New York, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the State of New York, including section six of the Executive Law, do hereby order as follows:

1.   There is hereby established the New York State Task Force on Public Retiree Health Care Benefits, to examine the present status of, and policy options for, health benefits received by retirees that were employed by the State, localities, public benefit corporations and other public employers.

2.   The Task Force shall be comprised of the following fifteen members, appointed by the Governor as follows:

  1. The Chair of the Task Force, who shall be selected by the Governor;
  2. The Commissioner of Civil Service or his or her designee;
  3. The Commissioner of Health or his or her designee;
  4. The Director of the Office for the Aging or his or her designee;
  5. The Director of the Division of Budget or his or her designee;
  6. The Superintendent of Insurance or his or her designee;
  7. One member upon the recommendation of the New York State Comptroller, or his or her designee;
  8. One member upon the recommendation of the Speaker of the Assembly or his or her designee;
  9. One member upon the recommendation of the Temporary President of the Senate or his or her designee;
  10. Two members upon the recommendation of the New York State AFL-CIO;
  11. One member upon the joint recommendation of the New York State Retired Public Employees Association and Alliance of Public Retiree Organizations of New York;
  12. One member upon the recommendation of the New York State Association of Towns;
  13. One member upon the recommendation of the New York State Conference of Mayors and Municipal Officials; and
  14. One member upon the recommendation of the New York State Association of Counties.

3.   The Task Force shall investigate and research, except as to the City of New York and any employee covered by Chapter 729 of the laws of 1994 and subsequent statutes that extended its terms, the provision of health care coverage to public employee retirees of the State and local governments, potential reforms that will further such goals as: maintaining quality and affordable coverage for retirees; ensuring that retirees are treated equitably and fairly; limiting government health care costs, including through more efficient provision of health care coverage; and maintaining sufficient flexibility for health care benefit management by the State and localities.

4.   The Task Force shall look into all matters it deems relevant for such purposes, which shall include, but not be limited to:

  1. the level and cost of benefits received by New York State public employees, including disparities between various recipients;  
  2. the degree to which those benefits have been impacted by difficult fiscal times, and the subject of efforts at diminution by public employers;
  3. the current legal framework governing retiree health benefits, and any limitations in it; 
  4. potential avenues for addressing rising health care costs;
  5. the impact of public accounting standard GASB 45; and
  6. the benefits and problems of proposals for reform, including that presented in S.6457/A.9393 (2008).

5.   A majority of the total members of the Task Force who have been nominated and appointed shall constitute a quorum, and all recommendations of the Task Force shall require approval of a majority of the total members of the Task Force who have been nominated and appointed.  The Task Force may meet in person or by telephone, and may hold meetings to discuss issues even in the absence of a quorum.  Members of the Task Force shall serve without compensation but shall be reimbursed for all actual and necessary expenses incurred in the performance of their duties. No member of the Task Force shall be disqualified from holding any public office or employment, nor shall he or she forfeit any such office or employment by virtue of his or her appointment hereunder.

6.   Every agency, department, office, division, public authority or political subdivision of the State shall cooperate with the Task Force and furnish such information and assistance as the Task Force determines is reasonably necessary to accomplish its purposes.  Staff support for the Task Force shall be provided by the State agencies that serve on the Task Force, and by the Executive Chamber.

  1. The Task Force may consult with other interested parties, including members of the legislature, representatives of organized labor not represented on the Task Force such as uniformed public employees and teachers, other government associations such as the School Boards Association and Government Finance Officers Association, academics and experts in public policy.

8.   The Task Force shall issue a final report on or before June 1, 2009, or on such later date as is set by a majority of the Task Force, setting forth its findings and conclusions and making such recommendations as it shall deem necessary and proper. In addition, the Task Force shall issue such interim reports as it shall deem necessary.

9.   The Task Force shall strive to make its recommendations by consensus wherever possible.  To the extent that the Task Force cannot achieve consensus on particular recommendations, it may in its report set forth recommendations as to which there is disagreement, and allow those dissenting from the recommendations to state the basis for such disagreement.

10.  The Task Force’s report may include proposals for legislation that it believes would advance the goals of the Task Force, except that no such proposals shall address the City of New York or any employee covered by Chapter 729 of the laws of 1994 or any subsequent statute that extended its terms.  No such proposals should be made that would require the violation of a collective bargaining agreement currently in force.

G I V E N under my hand and the Privy Seal of the State in the City of Albany this twentieth day of February in the year two thousand nine.

David A. Paterson                         Lawrence Schwartz
Governor                                         Secretary to the Governor

**********************************************************************************************

                                                                            Special Advisory

New York State Health Insurance Program enrollees

 

NYSHIP Dependent Eligibility Verification Project

 

             The Department of Civil Service reminds us that the employer-sponsored health insurance coverage provided through the New York State Health Insurance Program (NYSHIP) is a valuable benefit, but it is also costly to provide. It becomes more costly for everyone when NYSHIP provides benefits to individuals who are not eligible for coverage.

 

               In 2009, NYSHIP will conduct a Dependent Eligibility Verification Project to help ensure that every participant receiving benefits is entitled to them. During the course of the project, NYSHIP enrollees with family coverage will be required to provide proof of their dependents’ eligibility as of February 1, 2009. It is very important that enrollees respond to all requests because failure to do so will result in the dependent’s removal from coverage. In addition to these consequences, the Department reserves the right to recover payment from the enrollee for claims paid on behalf of any dependent determined to be ineligible and to pursue possible civil/criminal action. The Department has contracted with Michigan-based Budco Health Service Solutions (Budco), a national leader in providing dependent verification and eligibility services, to administer the project

 

What to expect

 

              Special Amnesty Period   A Special Amnesty Period will be offered to enrollees to allow for the removal of ineligible dependents before the verification project begins. Enrollees who use this opportunity can avoid having to pay back any claims paid on behalf of an ineligible dependent as well as possible legal action. In early to mid April, Budco will mail packets of information to all NYSHIP enrollees with family coverage regarding the Special Amnesty Period. Enrollees must review all information thoroughly and report any ineligible dependents directly to Budco no later than June 12, 2009. This is the ONLY opportunity to remove ineligible dependents without possible penalty.

 

               Eligibility Verification    After the Special Amnesty Period ends,  Eligibility verification packets will be mailed to enrollees --- probably mailed during July and August 2009.  Enrollees will be required to provide documentation of the eligibility for coverage under NYSHIP for each dependent not removed during the Special Amnesty Period. The packet will include a list of the enrollee’s dependents, an eligibility worksheet to help determine whether dependents are eligible under NYSHIP, a list of common eligible proof documents and instructions and deadlines to submit them.

 

               Go to http://www.cs.state.ny.us/nyshipeligibilityproject/index.cfm for the most up-to-date Dependent Eligibility Verification Project information. Bookmark the page and visit it periodically for the most current information.

 

Members enrolled in NYSHIP should be alert to these mailings and carefully follow the instructions and deadlines.

 

 

********************************************************************************************


Aug 18, 2010
White Plains retirees threaten lawsuit over health-care cost
 
The Journal News - White Plains, N.Y.
Author:Richard Liebson; Ben Rubin
Date:Jun 6, 2010
Start Page:AWP.5
Section:NEWS
Text Word Count:409
Document Text

WHITE PLAINS -- Like many who choose careers in public service, Phil Robbins joined the White Plains Fire Department in 1970 in part because "the benefits were good."

"The pay wasn't great," said Robbins, who retired in 1990, "but you knew that if you retired after 20 years you'd get free health care."

Not anymore.

In a move critics say was made without public discussion, the Common Council voted unanimously last month to require retired city employees with 20 years of service who were hired before July 1, 1995, to pay 15 percent of their health insurance costs.

The change will affect about 640 retirees, who will pay between $661 and $2,395 a year, depending on their health-care plan.

Current administrative and appointed employees and elected officials are also being assessed 15 percent.

While the city says the measure saves money in a difficult budget year, retirees and union leaders say it's an underhanded act of betrayal.

"Those weren't the terms I signed up for or retired under," said Walter Holubis, a police officer for 34 years. "It's not right for the city to do this to me now. I held up my end of the bargain, they should hold up theirs."

Despite "deep reservations," Mayor Adam Bradley voted for the measure.

"My reservations were mitigated by my commitment and hope to find alternative health insurance plans that will require a much smaller, or no contribution by retirees," he said through a spokeswoman.

Council President Thomas Roach, who proposed the change, said he would welcome such a plan.

Fire union President Joseph Carrier and his brother James, who heads the police union, said many retirees are now senior citizens on fixed incomes. They said the city used the benefit as a recruiting tool for years.

The Carriers said their unions are considering legal action against the city.

So is attorney Al Pirro, who said he had been contacted by a number of city retirees.

"We believe that this violates the City Charter, and that the council does not have the authority to do this," he said. "We intend to commence legal action to stop this."

Retired firefighter Bob Lyons, who had triple-bypass heart surgery in 1992 and drives a school bus to make ends meet, said the added cost may force him to move.

"I'm already living paycheck to paycheck," he said. "Now I don't know if I can still afford to see my heart doctor. It's not right."


Jun 02, 2010



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