Saginaw County votes to cut retirees' benefits - WNEM TV 5

Saginaw County votes to cut retirees' benefits

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(Source: WNEM) (Source: WNEM)

Several retirees who earned benefits and pensions while working for Saginaw County could now lose some of those benefits.

Those benefits they worked for could be taken away as officials try to balance a budget.

Several retirees said they have been on edge for quite a while because they didn't know what the future of their healthcare looked like. On Tuesday they learned they will be put on a new health plan and they are not happy.

"We have no idea what the financial consequences will be to us of what the financial benefit will be to the county," said Cathy Snyder, retiree.

Retirees claimed any change to their current plan is unfair. County officials said the change is necessary to keep the county solvent.

"I have personally lost sleep over this," County Commissioner Jim Theisen said.

The county is self-insured and they determined they could not handle the payout of the estimated $144 million in future healthcare costs.

On Tuesday commissioners voted to move retirees to a Medicare advantage plan. That means higher deductibles and co-pays for retirees.

The move could cave the county between $1.5 to $5 million a year.

County Controller Robert Belleman said there was no way to make the current plan work.

"We cannot continue because right now would require us $9 million a year. We're spending anywhere between $6.5 to $7 million to pay for retiree healthcare today," Belleman said.

Tim Metro, a retiree who has been selected to represent other retirees, said the change could be devastating to those living on a fixed income. They will be forced to pay more for doctors visits and medication, he said.

Metro also said it's a breach of the collective bargaining contracts put in place years ago.

"We have contracts that are legal binding contracts that we worked for and that they signed that they're now saying they're not going to comply with. That's the issue. That's where we're at. We worked to earn those contracts," Metro said.

The county plans to sit down with the retirees to discuss the new plan in mid to late June.

As for the next step, Metro said they are going to seek legal representation. He urges anyone who may be interested to join the group called Saginaw County Retirees. You can reach him at 989-642-3493.

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