TV5 Follow-Up: Lifetime Health Care Benefits 11-05-2010 - WNEM TV 5

TV5 Follow-Up: Lifetime Health Care Benefits 11-05-2010

TV5 has received e-mail after e-mail from people asking questions and giving us their thoughts after we first started probing into lifetime benefits for county employees.
Now TV5 is taking a look at a new local county and how business -- and health care -- is done there.
Imagine negotiating a union contract that states you'll get dirt cheap health care for life after you retire, basically free? That’s the reality in Genesee County.
"Almost all retiree health care is paid for by the employer, by the county," said Genesee County Controller George Martini. TV5’s I-Team discovered virtually every county worker is covered, including more than 900 county retirees in Genesee County.
This stellar health care plan was included as part of their union contract years ago, and it's still on the books today.
TV5 reporter Aisha Howard asked Martini for clarification. “Nine-hundred retirees pay nothing?” “Generally nothing,” responded Martini. “In fact, most employees don't have a co-pay or an employee portion for the health care, once they retire."
So TV5 took the numbers to the chalk board to see how it all stacks up. Of the roughly 900 retirees, the county pays about $726 per month per retiree and their dependents. Added up, the county pays the insurance companies about $700,000 per month to provide them with health care coverage.
“They earned their keep,” defends Genesee County resident Etelka Thomas. “They worked for it. That's what I’m trying to do. It’s a no-brainer."
It seems like a no-brainer, but now $9 million per year doesn't make sense when county officials look at their ailing budget.
“It’s a significant chunk of money out of the budget," said Martini. "That pays for the Sheriff's Department, the clerk [and] the court."
The retirees don’t see an ailing budget as their problem. They are just cashing in on what was promised to them years ago. Now the county has to find a way to stay afloat.

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