Posted March 10
Chalk up a victory for local retirees. On Friday, District Court Judge Gary Randall sided with retired Douglas County employees over rising health care premiums.
The retirees were upset and sued because they were paying more for premiums than those who were still employed with the county.
In some cases, premiums had quadrupled for retirees -- after the county made changes 3 years ago. At the time of the lawsuit, there were 260 retirees.
Judge Randall wrote: "[county] did not show that setting the premiums for early retirees higher than premiums for active employees was the only way to address the County's financial difficulties. Testimony showed that other options were considered and could have been taken."
It's not clear if the county will appeal the case. A date must be set by this week to determine damages.
By some calculations, the county could be on the hook for more than a million dollars in overcharges.
"It's the same thing we're going through. The same things we were being told, they're being told," says Rich McShane who retired from the Douglas County Sheriff's Department in 2006. The sergeant had been on the job for close to 30-years.
To keep from dipping into his savings, he recently found new work. "It's a short-term job. The goal only is to pay for increase in health care insurance."
On January 1, his health care premium for single coverage nearly quadrupled --from $32 a month to $116. Family coverage increased from $172 to $401 a month.
McShane's deductible jumped from $300 to $1000. But active county employees saw their premiums rise by just a few cents. That's why the retirees are suing the county.
Douglas County expects to save $400,000 this year by raising the premiums on 260-retirees.
"When your only source of income is retirement, that's hard to overcome," says McShane.
The main reason for the lawsuit is this: since 1985, county retirees paid the same premiums as active employees. But since January, retirees costs have gone way up and the active employees health care has roughly stayed the same.
Many believe Omaha retirees are headed down a similar path to court. A lawsuit is inevitable says the unions attorney if the city council approves the move later this month to increase rates on retirees by up to 35%.