County won't change retirees' insurance


By David Avitabile

Schoharie County supervisors Friday resisted changes to the current health insurance plan that might have hiked costs for retirees and employees.
The decision to keep the current plan came after impassioned pleas from retired county workers.
Citing the rising cost of health insurance, County Administrator Steve Wilson was considering changes that would have given retirees and current employees the option of staying with their current plans or moving to a new CDPHP plan.
Retirees said Friday that if the change was made, they could stay with their current health insurance, NYSHIP, but at a much higher cost.
“It will devastate retirees as we are on a fixed income,” said retiree Robin Myers, a 25-year county employee.
Retirees and current employees have been pleased with their present coverage, she noted.
The proposed change, “feels like a slap in the face who gave their service to the county,” she added.
“I ask, I implore to act on the policy (to retain the current plans) we have in place today,” real property office retiree Susan Bramer told supervisors and more than 70 retirees in the audience.
A letter written by Maria Averill, the wife of former emergency medical services coordinator Bill Averill was also read.
Mr. Averill is in a Cleveland clinic and his medical bills are more than $2 million. Because of Medicare and NYSHIP coverage, the cost to the Averills has been less than $15,000.
“For Mr. Wilson or any of the supervisors to agree to this change would be short-sighted and cruel, not to mention dishonest,” Ms. Averill wrote.
“The county made a promise to those people who have dedicated decades of their lives to serving it. Is this how this service is to be repaid?”
Mr. Wilson explained that this was just an initial proposal that was made to the unions and retirees. The county has been searching for a way to provide the same level of health insurance service at less cost.
The current trend of health insurance costs are increases at an “unsustainable rate,” Mr. Wilson said.
The county, he added, would soon be faced “with the hard decision of giving up the same level of benefits. I want to stop that from happening.”
According to a presentation made by insurance brokerage firm of Gilroy, Kernan and Gilroy to a group session of unions and retirees, NYSHIP employees would be charged more to drive them to the new CDPHP plan.
“Some people feel they are being driven off a cliff,” said Schoharie Supervisor Chris Tague, adding that some retirees feel the details of the new plan are hidden.
According to the presentation from the insurance brokers, the cost to retain NYSHIP for retirees over 65 and current employees and retirees under 65 would rise significantly.
David Simkins of Broome said it was “individual choice” on whether to change plans.
It is not that simple, said County Treasurer Bill Cherry.
“This is not a choice,” he added. The county would be “artificially driving up the cost of NYSHIP” if supervisors followed what Mr. Wilson and the brokerage firm wanted.
It was noted that the insurance broker gets commission for CDPHP policies but not NYSHIP.
Mr. Wilson said that NYSHIP charges administrative fees and until there were more people who join CDPHP, the insurance brokerage firm would lose on commission.
Treasurer Cherry refuted that claim.
Fulton Supervisor Phil Skowfoe made a motion to continue with the current insurance policy.
Leo McAllister of Cobleskill was against the motion to continue with the policy.
He said retaining the policy takes away any negotiations with the unions. In the end, the employees could end up with no pay hikes.
Treasurer Cherry said the county can still negotiate with the unions.
Mr. McAllister and Bill Federice of Conesville voted against continuing with the current health insurance policy.