Gary Mayor Rudolph Clay is raising a ruckus among that city's retired police and firefighters by proposing the elimination of health insurance benefits for retired employees who qualify for Medicare or Medicaid. The Gary Post Tribune writes:
A group of retired police and firefighters from Gary have started researching whether the city can legally eliminate their health care benefits.
Peter Blanco, a member of the Retired Police & Firefighters Association of Indiana Inc., said more research is needed, but legal action hasn't been ruled out yet.
"We're looking to see what rights we have," Blanco said.
Members of the group became upset after they read a guest column by Mayor Rudy Clay published in the Post-Tribune last week.
"In compliance with state law," Clay wrote, "we have eliminated insurance for retirees who are eligible for Medicare and Medicaid."
Celita Green, Gary's financial controller, could not be reached for comment.
Blanco and Jay Massa, the treasurer for the local chapter of the Retired Police & Firefighters Association, said they were upset that this was the first they learned of what was happening. Gary's 2008 operating budget was adopted by the City Council last week.
Clay, meanwhile, stood by his column and attributed his information to East Chicago City Hall. "According to the mayor of East Chicago, and according to what I'm being told," Clay said, "if you retire and you are over 65 years old, the city must stop paying insurance for you." Del Stout, the president of the Gary Fraternal Order of Police, said the city is using the law to get around the fact it couldn't reach an agreement with the city's unions.
"We told them pretty clearly that we were opposed to any changes," Stout said.
However, Stout said, the FOP is also doing research to determine whether any legal action is necessary.
"We just kind of want to check," Stout said.
Indiana lawmakers created a firestorm when they established a health insurance for life benefit for retired lawmakers. That plan was eliminated, leading to the early retirement of many lawmakers seeking to take advantage of the plan before its total elimination. I understand that many school districts in Indiana provide a similar life time benefit for school administrators. Public employees are going to have to learn to deal with fewer benefits just like their counterparts in the private sector, who no longer can afford the taxes to support generous pension and health care plans for public employees.