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County Administrator: It's Unfair for Early Retirees to Demand Subsidies From Active Employees

I have reviewed the Guest Commentary that appeared in the April 21 edition of the Tucson Weekly.

The issue is relatively simple: Early retirees of Pima County—those who were eligible and could afford to do so—want to continue to receive significantly subsidized medical insurance paid for by taxpayers, as well as, unfortunately, subsidized by our active (non-retired) employees. This is neither appropriate nor fair.

With economic circumstances being what they are today, I see no reason why taxpayers should continue to subsidize those former county employees who retired before the Medicare-eligible age of 65. These pre-Medicare-age early retirees use health-care services twice as much as our active employees, drive premium rates higher and, consequently, cost the taxpayers and active employees more. They have a medical-insurance plan designed specifically for them. It is offered by the state retirement systems.

We have provided to these retirees and everyone who requested it the actuarial data and information upon which their rates would be based. It is available and can be easily accessed on the Pima County webpage at www.pima.gov.

We contract with UnitedHealthcare (UHC) for medical insurance because UHC provides insurance services for our employees at the best value and the most reasonable cost.

I recommended the Board of Supervisors discontinue allowing our pre-Medicare-age early retirees the option of buying into our active employee medical insurance plan.

The present cost to provide health insurance for our employees for fiscal year 2011/2012 will be $36.1 million, with employees paying $4.7 million, and taxpayers paying $31.4 million. To cover retirees would have cost an additional $9.1 million.

Early pre-Medicare age retirees have a plan designed specifically for them, available through the state retirement systems. It is unfair for them, in these difficult economic times, to continue to demand to be substantially subsidized by taxpayers and to shift their health-care costs to our active employees.

C.H. Huckelberry

county administrator

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