Friday, May 8, 2015

qotd: We allow our police and firefighters to lose their retiree health benefits?

May 7, 2015
San Bernardino to slash retiree health care in bankruptcy plan
By Tim Reid

The southern California city of San Bernardino has proposed virtually
eliminating retiree health insurance costs under a bankruptcy exit plan
it must produce by May 31, according to an attorney involved in
negotiations with city officials.

Steven Katzman, who represents a committee of retirees in talks with the
bankrupt city, says a tentative deal has been struck under which
retirees would sacrifice the city subsidies they currently receive for
health care coverage in exchange for a guarantee that San Bernardino
continues to fund and not cut current pension benefits.

The deal would follow an approach taken in the recent bankruptcies of
Detroit, Michigan and Stockton, California, where retiree health care
was slashed or eliminated, while pensions emerged relatively unscathed.

Retirees, including former police, firefighters and other city workers,
can choose to stay with the city health plan, while paying all costs, or
they can quit the city health plan and look for coverage in a health
exchange, or if eligible, apply for Medicare, the government-funded
healthcare program for the elderly.


Comment by Don McCanne

In designing the Affordable Care Act, one of the highest priorities was
to protect employer-sponsored health plans since they were source of
health care coverage for the majority of us. Certainly amongst the most
reliable coverage are the plans provided for our police officers and
firefighters. No.

As these and other public employees in San Bernardino and other bankrupt
cities discovered, their coverage is vulnerable. These workers were
forced into a deal wherein they had to give up the ironclad guarantee of
retiree health benefits in exchange for protecting their pensions.

At least Medicare would be there for them once they became eligible,
though they might face significant financial hardships in the interim.
In fact, if we had an improved Medicare that covered everyone, it would
always be there, not just for them but for all of us, and we would not
have to rely on our employment as a source of health care coverage.

So the best - employer-sponsored health plans - do not provide the
stability in health care coverage that we need, and these plans do not
even cover over forty percent of us. Besides, the federal government is
not subject to bankruptcy. With a single payer national health program,
the government would always be there for us.

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