Bill would set minimum co-pays for active, retired city employees

By JOHN HOWELL
Posted 12/3/19

By JOHN HOWELL Ward 5 Councilman Ed Ladouceur was in his business office Saturday morning with papers spread in front of him. Sheets were sorted by group of retirees whose names were followed by a designated pension plan - whether police, fire or

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Bill would set minimum co-pays for active, retired city employees

Posted

Ward 5 Councilman Ed Ladouceur was in his business office Saturday morning with papers spread in front of him. Sheets were sorted by group of retirees whose names were followed by a designated pension plan – whether police, fire or municipal employee – and the amounts they are paid semi-monthly.

“This thing is far overdue,” Ladouceur said of legislation he and Council President Steve Merolla have been working on for months to rein in health care costs.

While active police, active fire and municipal employees co-pay for their health care, retirees don’t. Of the hundreds of retirees listed, many receive twice-monthly pension payments of $2,500 or more. One is for $5,019, or more than $120,000 annually.

“He’s the highest I’ve seen so far,” Ladouceur says of the retired fire chief John Chartier.

Ladoceur and Merolla were prepared to bring forward amendments to city ordinances last night that would establish minimum deductibles of $500 for an individual and $1,000 for a family health plans for municipal employees among a list of co-pay minimums. In addition, there would be thresholds based on salary where co-payment increased with pay. Employees making $53,498 or less would have a 20 percent co-pay. The next step up to $102,840 would co-pay a minimum of 25 percent, and those over that amount would be faced with a minimum 30 percent co-pay.

Similarly, there would be a threshold for health care co-payments for retirees starting with those receiving $30,000 a year or more, who would pay a minimum of 25 percent of their health care.

Ladouceur said for years, elected officials traded health care benefits for lower salary increases when negotiating contracts. Since then, health costs have gone up exponentially, with expenses relating to active employees and retirees taking up a larger and larger chunk of the operating budget – thereby pressuring the taxpayer while reducing the city’s ability to address failing infrastructure.

Merolla and Ladouceur estimate the amendments they propose could save the city $5 million annually.

Word of the ordinance spread quickly on social media, and by Friday, Michael Correiro, president of the Warwick Firefighters, issued a notice to members and retirees to turn out to last night’s council meeting. Correiro argues benefits are a matter of the contract and negotiable.

“This is not a union issue,” Carriero said Sunday. “This is an employee issue. They’re taking away benefits.”

Merolla maintains the council has the power to establish minimums by law, and what he hopes for the city to do is no different than what guides state employee contracts.

Ladouceur said the firefighters or any other group have the right to show up at the council meeting. He expects pushback. He just thinks something should have been done sooner.

“We’re going to begin the debate that we should have had years ago,” he said.

“If [you] want health care, [you’re] going to have to pay your share because it’s no longer affordable,” he added.

Carriero acknowledges that health care costs have soared since they were included in contracts many years ago, so shouldn’t retirees take on some of that cost?

“This is not the proper way to do it,” Carriero said.

And what is the proper way?

“We just negotiated a proper way to do it,” he said of the tentative agreement.

Until now, elected officials have refrained from addressing health care co-payments for retirees on the premise it was a benefit won at the bargaining table. Even the tentative agreement between firefighters and the administration, which is expected to come before the council on Dec. 16, does not contain language requiring future retirees to co-pay for health care.

Merolla reasons the council has the authority to legislatively set minimums that do not handcuff the administration and unions from negotiating an agreement while protecting the taxpayer from unforeseen increasing costs.

“There’s nothing that says you can’t [set minimums],” Ladouceur said. He said controls are needed as city health care costs, exclusive of schools, are now at $23 million annually and only going up.

“They [active and retired employees] realize at some point in time this can’t be paid for.”

Also, he reasons that active employees should realize this is in their interest because, “if we don’t fix this thing they’re going to pay a lot.”

“This is my responsibility to bring affordable health care to [city] employees and those who pay the bills – the taxpayer,” he said.

The two councilmen also think the $300 cap for individuals and $600 for families, after which employees as well as retirees don’t have to pay for their prescription medications, should be lifted.

Comments

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davebarry

So Merolla, allegedly a lawyer, thinks contract law can be overridden by an ordinance? What law school did he attend? They should repeal his JD diploma. If this were legal, every city/town in trouble would merely pass an ordinance. While they are correct that this is unsustainable, they are seeking an easy way out. Going after retirees is not the way to go. The retirees are still covered by their various contracts they retired under.

I have a suggestion for Merolla and Ladouceur. Did you think to mandate that going forward any retiree who gets another job must take that employers healthcare? How about mandating the retiree who's spouse can cover them must take the spouses healthcare? Simple fixes gentlemen. That alone would dramatically cut down on retiree costs as most go on to another job.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019
Jimmy

interested to see how the Beacon covers the actual meeting. Those two councilman were beaten up by their own fellow counselors pretty bad. Why did the beacon not report that the ordinance wanted to strip any healthcare for current active employees. Not even a co pay, strip it outright. So I work for the city fighting fires, and then they toss my healthcare out the window when I retire. Great maybe I can find a job at the age of 60 that will give me healthcare until Medicare. Remember firefighters are forced to retire at 60. That means for 5 years they would be completely un covered in this ordinance. Not to mention ITS COMPLETELY ILLEGAL.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019
Jimmy

Dave,

Those common sense approaches you offer are to hard for those two to comprehend. Sad that they run our council. Glad they don’t run my ward.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019
Warwick_Resident1998

I'm embarrassed for the other city councilors who get lumped in with these stooges. This ordinance is clearly illegal and will wind up costing the city money to defend their losing battle, if it ever actually gets passed. I have my doubts it ever sees the light of day.

You can't legislate minimum amounts for benefits which are to be negotiated for. That is tying the hands of the union and is not a free and fair negotiation.

And it is established case law that retirees have a property right to the contracts they retired under. You cannot legislate changes to it.

Next contract time negotiate with the unions and come up with a deal if you want to make healthcare changes to active employees. Stipulate what happens to people who retire after the expiration of that agreement regarding co-pays or requirements to obtain healthcare. You cannot touch those who have already retired, you can only negotiate with the current employees.

Merolla and Ladoucer are just grandstanding. Their grasp of legal processes is limited...but doesn't the council have a actual attorney to provide opinions on proposed legislation? Or are we paying for another incompetent attorney? They just want to be able to say they tried to do something (Not withstanding that it is blatantly illegal).

You can't legislate what need to be negotiated. It's a pretty basic legal concept.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019
Jimmy

The city solicitor said last night that the ordinance was illegal. End of story

Tuesday, December 3, 2019
Honestinfo

Robbie, Robbie, Robbie please help Stevie with this. You and he have worked together in the past. Your solutions always work, oh no they don’t!

Tuesday, December 3, 2019
Scal1024

I hope people see the difference between wanting to see changes made the right way and what is being proposed here. I would be happy to see higher co shares negotiated at the bargaining table, that's not what's being proposed. This proposal will never hold up in court and the fact 2 sitting Council members don't understand that should be concerning to everyone.

This is a stunt to grab a few headlines they can point to come election season. If they were serious about this proposal, they know the proper channels to go through to negotiate it the right way.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019
Apollo

Illegal. End of discussion.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019
Bubbaburger

Of course Merolla had to insult D'Amico at meeting despite the guy having a great resume and having gone into East Greenwich and fixing their issues over past few years. Remember their sky was allegedly falling also? Guy's done more good than Steve & Ed combined.

Hypothetical: Ladoceur does home renovation for agreed upon price but upon completion homeowner says price is no longer sustainable and pays only 75% of cost. Ed must be fine with that and just accept it according to his contractual logic?

Tuesday, December 3, 2019
Liberman

I went to that meeting and didn't see very many "retired" folks at all. How many retirees actually live in Warwick or in Rhode Island for that matter? How many Warwick FFs own property in Warwick? Just a question... anyone?

I get it... you were PROMISED free healthcare. Well guess what? The city CANNOT AFFORD IT.

I see this site is only commented on by the fire department and I don't have a problem with that. One of the reasons why we are in this mess is because people in general are too lazy to even vote never mind show up at a city council meeting.

With that said, I hope the union is ready to negotiate some fair compromises. Nobody is getting free healthcare for life - except in Warwick ;0)

Wednesday, December 4, 2019
Jimmy

The city won some very favorable compromises in this next contract. Active employees are already paying 25/-30% for their healthcare. The city is not going bankrupt.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019
think

"Great maybe I can find a job at the age of 60 that will give me healthcare until Medicare."

you mean like most everybody else?

(only they also dont get a pension)

Wednesday, December 4, 2019
Jimmy

My point was, the city kicks you out the door at 60. Now we have to start a new career for 5 years to get to Medicare. How many employers are hiring 60 year olds?

Thursday, December 5, 2019
Liberman

Jimmy - Fire fighters retire with very generous pension packages. Healthsource RI offers a plethora of insurance packages for all incomes. So if FF have a to pay a gap in their coverage... so be it. welcome to the real world. Having thousands of people on free healthcare for life in the city isn't sustainable and some adjustments have to be made. You know this. Nobody wants to take healthcare away from anyway. I think the majority of tax payers want to see adjustments, tweaks as you will, be made so that nobody is taxed out of their own houses.

Thursday, December 5, 2019
Jimmy

“Nobody wants to take healthcare away”.... that’s precisely what the bottom lines of the illegal ordinance that Merolla and Ladaceur proposed. It says anyone retiring after this ordinance passed will not receive health insurance. That’s taking it all away. I get cancer from work then I retire, who is going to pay for my treatment. If I was covered by the city, the city doesn’t even pay they have a stop loss policy for that but for me to try and find a gap coverage at 60 years old with cancer..... good luck.

Thursday, December 5, 2019
Jimmy

And yes meaningful changes in regards to healthcare are being implemented in new contract s

Thursday, December 5, 2019
Mike02886

My point was, the city kicks you out the door at 60. Now we have to start a new career for 5 years to get to Medicare. How many employers are hiring 60 year olds?

How many Firefighters retire and then go to work for another City or Town and then garner another pension?

Leave high enough and your almost guaranteed another high paying job at state or local level.

Do you know the wear and tear on a body pushing a shopping cart thru Stop & Shop in your fire uniform? All the while the fire truck is parked in the fire lane out front. The loss of sleep from your shift if a call comes in. The worries when you need to find someone to cover your shift and so they can receive overtime pay and then you can sell the extra sick pay time back. Yeah there is about 2 dozen fires a year that have to be covered. Accidents and some crime scenes. But that's what should be expected. The city is failing at an alarming rate in so many aspects. It does not matter who is in office the damage is done. People are leaving, kids are pulled from the public schools. Nothing will ever change. The unions will control the leaders who they help elect. Ask any cop and they all say they should have been a firefighter.

Friday, December 6, 2019