Proposed changes to Rockland County retirement health care benefits opposed


NEW CITY – Chairman Tony Earl began this month’s meeting of the Rockland County Legislature Tuesday night by addressing a growing concern among retired civil servants that they may soon find their health care benefits significantly altered by a shared services plan proposed by County Executive Ed Day.
Earl and several other legislators declared their intent to block any attempt to switch health care providers for “dedicated public servants” who have retired and are currently insured by the Empire Plan.
Legislator Harriet Cornell said “healthcare is a benefit not a shared service” decrying any change that would jeopardize or reduce a retiree’s access to health benefits, stressing that many former civil servants accepted low wage jobs specifically because of the benefits offered by the position.     
Legislator Itamar Yeger noted a local law passed in 2005 “which mandates that retirees get the same benefits as they had the day they retired” cautioning that a forced change in health care providers could very well violate that principle.
Rhoda Appel, a former county employee who spoke during the public forum, said that Executive Day was “stirring up a hornet’s nest” by suggesting the county seek bids for new health care providers for retirees.    Appel also warned that that Aetna, the only healthcare provider that has responded to bid, is an inadequate service as it is not accepted by many major county healthcare facilities including Nyack Hospital. 
Day has stressed that no final decision has been made on the issue.  The county executive previously attempted switching retirees’ healthcare provider from NYSHIP to Aetna earlier this year but rescinded the decision after being pressured by both the legislature and concerned citizens.   
The lawmakers concluded the session by voting unanimously to rename the sheriff’s complex in honor of Sheriff James Kralik, who served the county for 50 years and who died several months ago.