Board votes to remove retirees from county health insurance coverage

by Emmitt B. Feldner of The Review staff

SHEBOYGAN – Retired county employees will no longer be able to get health insurance from the county after Jan. 1.

The County Board Tuesday approved a resolution ending the post-retirement benefit for former employees.

Instead, the retirees will have to rely on Medicare and/ or insurance purchases through the federal Affordable Care Act.

The change, which Human Resources Director Jean Gallimore told the board would save the county $400,000 to $600,000 a year, was opposed by several supervisors.

“This is a fine assumption, but is it assured that these retirees can go on the ACA as of Jan. 1,” Supervisor Jim Baumgart asked.

“If that’s incorrect, we may be putting employees who put in a lifetime of service to the county at risk,” he continued. “You have done a disservice to people who have given a lifetime of service to the county.”

“If the ACA and (insurance) exchange simply doesn’t work, we’re ready to revisit this issue and we understand we’ll have to address it again here at the board,” Gallimore replied.

She explained that the county had reached out to the three-dozen or so retirees still on the county’s health insurance to make them aware of the planned changes.

“Overall, the reaction was very positive,” she said of the contact with retirees via letters and telephone calls.

“I feel we’ve done a good share as far as reaching out, listening and soliciting feedback,” Gallimore added.

“There are better options for them, it’s just plain and simple,” Supervisor Devin LeMahieu said.

He pointed out that the provision in the ACA that purchasers cannot be denied insurance due to a pre-existing condition would be a benefit for the retirees.

Supervisor Michael Ogea questioned why the county was forcing retirees off its insurance plan.

“If this was such a rosy plan,” he said of the change, “we wouldn’t have to move them out of our plan forcibly, they’d go on their own.

“They probably didn’t cost us that much (for health insurance) when they were working,” he said of the retirees. “If there’s even two of them who are going to have serious financial problems because of us doing this, then that’s two too many.”

The final vote was 21-2, with Baumgart abstaining and Supervisor Brian Hoffman joining Ogea in voting against the change. Supervisor Greg Weggeman was absent.

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