Retired workers complain about benefit costs

Some retired public workers are paying 15 times what others pay for health benefits from the state-operated Public Employee Benefits Program, Nevada legislators were told Thursday.

One speaker, Jim Richardson of the Nevada Faculty Alliance, blamed local governments, which he says are "dumping" their retirees on the state plan.

Former Carson City Assemblywoman and retired teacher Bonnie Parnell said a state retiree would pay less than $6 a month to cover just themselves, but another public retiree, such as a teacher or county government worker, would pay $711 a month for the same coverage.

She said for a non-state retiree with a spouse, the total bill comes to $17,220 a year.

"That's absurd," she said.

Parnell said the current structure of the benefits system pits different groups of retirees against each other, and it should be fixed.

Richardson said part of the problem was created when the state opened up the health benefits system to non-state retirees. The state's benefits plan was opened up because some small cities and counties didn't have a big enough pool of workers to support their own health plans.

But Richardson said the state's large public employers, such as the Clark County School District, took advantage of the opportunity to push their retirees into the state benefits plan after retirement.

"I think it's unconscionable that some large public entities are dumping employees on the state health plan," Richardson said. "I think when non-state entities dump their employees on the state plan, they ought to pay the freight."

Danny Coyle, representing employees, said the problem was created when lawmakers didn't include an amendment requested by former state employees association director Bob Gagnier that would have required local governments to provide for their retirees.

He said lawmakers should mandate that entities that rely on the state plan to provide benefits for their retirees contribute to that cost.

To further compound the problem, representatives from small counties said those high costs are a huge burden on their budgets and on the individuals.

Subcommittee Chairwoman Sen. Sandra Tiffany, R-Henderson, said those and other problems in the benefits system are going to take more time to fix than lawmakers have this session.

"We'll probably do this as an interim study," she said. "I'm not sure we can sit here and tell our constituents we'll have a solution for the next plan year."


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