Plattsburgh retirees battle proposed health insurance plans - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Plattsburgh retirees battle proposed health insurance plans

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Plattsburgh retirees continue to battle the city's attempts to change health insurance plans. Officials say a new plan would save taxpayer dollars, but retirees say the change would go against their contracts. 

Gary Brandstetter spent 30 years working for the Plattsburgh City Fire Department before retiring in 2008. He says over the years he's made sacrifices to keep his health insurance benefits. 

"In the late 80s we negotiated a four year contract with the city where we gave up three years of raises. We took zeros to keep the insurance. Breaking the contracts is not the way to solve this," said Gary Brandstetter, Plattsburgh City Retirees Association president. 

Last year, the city decided to drop the self-insured plan and enroll retirees who were eligible for Medicare in a new, Humana Medicare plan that would save the city around $700,000 a year. Brandstetter and nearly 100 other retirees filed a lawsuit to prevent the change that they say goes against their contracts.

"The other plans have higher co-pays. One of the plans that they just suggested even charges $7 for a generic drug. I've never run across a plan that does that," said Brandstetter.

Mayor Jim Calnon, I-Plattsburgh, says a third of retirees went on the Humana plan, but a court ordered injunction allowed the rest to stay on the original plan temporarily. The city has suggested other plans, but all have been rejected. 

"We did provide a really strong warranty that we're not gonna harm any retirees in this, and that's always been our intent. Our intent is not to buy the most expensive thing we can buy but to buy the best coverage we can at the best price," said Calnon.

Calnon's challenger in the November elections, Colin Read, has said the yearlong debate on insurance coverage has cost the city thousands, and if elected, he plans to work collaboratively with the retirees to find a solution. This week, Calnon appointed an insurance task force made up of two city councilors, a former teacher's union president, and the city's human resources manager. 

"I'm a bit of a lightning rod on this issue now. Certainly the entire council's the ones that voted, but I brought it to them, and I made the recommendations, and so I think that what we're trying to do is we're trying to find a way to get somebody at the table that the retirees would be more comfortable having a really open conversation with," said Calnon.

Calnon says an official trial on the case will begin sometime next year. 

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