By Jessica Anderson, The Baltimore Sun
8:40 PM EST, November 19, 2012
About 400 retired Baltimore County Police Department employees could see their health insurance premiums reduced and past overpayments reimbursed, after the Maryland Court of Appeals ruled Monday in favor of a grievance brought by the police union.
The Baltimore County Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 4, filed the grievance after county officials approved changes in 2007 to the way the county subsidized health insurance for a group of police retirees.
Under an agreement, Police Department employees who retired between Feb.1, 1992, and June 30, 2007, were required to pay 15 percent of health insurance premiums while the county would pay 85 percent, and the union believed that the plan was fixed until the retirees became eligible for Medicare.
In 2007, the county shifted more of the costs to employees, requiring them to pay 16 percent, with the county providing 84 percent, and planned to gradually decrease its contribution to 80 percent, according to the facts in the court's opinion.
The change prompted the union to file for arbitration, which allows an independent third party to resolve disputes that arise when the county and unions reach an impasse during negotiations.
The union argued the health care subsidy was fixed for that group of retirees, "and that, as a result, those retirees were not subject to the decreased premium split," according to the facts stated in the court's ruling.
The county argued that the health insurance subsidy could be renegotiated every year.
The arbitrator agreed with the union, and the county was ordered to reimburse officers for "wrongful deductions," the document said.
The county then took the decision to Circuit Court, which also sided with the union.
After the Court of Special Appeals overturned that decision, Maryland's highest court on Monday reversed the appeals court's ruling.
Cole B. Weston, the police union president, said, "What this should mean for that group of [retirees] is that their subsidies should be restored."
But he said it was unclear when the retirees might receive those benefits.
County spokeswoman Ellen Kobler said county attorneys were reviewing the decision but did not comment further.
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