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Arundel's Neuman proposes retiree health changes

Health InsuranceLaura NeumanAFSCME

Anne Arundel County government employees would have to work longer to get health insurance in retirement, and the county would pay for a smaller portion of the coverage under a bill proposed Thursday by the county executive.

County Executive Laura Neuman's bill comes on the heels of a letter she sent to county employees Monday warning that the current retiree health plan costs too much and would be unsustainable in the long term.

She said in the letter that the county is "on a path to bankruptcy" if retiree health care isn't addressed.

"We certainly don't enjoy making changes to employees who are working hard for the county every day," Neuman said. But she said it's necessary to reduce the cost of retiree health care to keep the county on sound financial footing.

Neuman's bill would lengthen the time it takes for most workers to be eligible for retiree health insurance — from five years to 10 years.

The county's contribution for insurance would vary from 30 percent to 80 percent, based on how long the employee worked for the county. The current retiree health plan is 80 percent paid for by the county.

Neuman's bill also would eliminate coverage for retirees' spouses if they have access to coverage elsewhere. And for workers who retire in 2014 or later, it would eliminate coverage for retirees if they can get coverage through their spouses.

Public safety workers would still need to work for 20 years to get some level of health care in retirement. As with other county employees, the percentage paid by the county would increase with more years of service.

Neuman estimates her bill would save $40 million. Earlier this week, she said the county is running about $110 million short per year in setting aside money for retiree health care.

County Councilman Jamie Benoit, a Crownsville Democrat, has been working on his own bill to address retiree health care costs. He could not be reached Thursday, but earlier this week said he's been trying to win the support of county unions.

Mike Akers, president of AFSCME Local 582, has said his membership of about 750 employees understands the problem facing the county but would find it tough to give up benefits that were promised.

Neuman submitted her bill to be introduced at the County Council's meeting at 7 p.m. Monday in Annapolis, but said in a statement that whether her bill or Benoit's wins favor, "we will, without hesitation, support any measure that solves this problem."

pwood@baltsun.com

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Health InsuranceLaura NeumanAFSCME
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