City Changes Retiree Health Care Premium Proposal

Omaha's city hall is expected to be jam-packed with retired city workers Tuesday afternoon. But will a last-minute change aimed at being more fair to everyone make a difference?

If this previous public hearing before the personnel board is any gauge, the Omaha City Council will get an angry earful from Omaha retirees.

"You want me to pay $8,000. It ain't gonna happen," said one retiree.

We were there when retirees hammered Omaha's Human Resources Director Richard O'Gara in a classroom at Burke High in late April

"It's not like we were overpaid and they gave this to us," said another retiree. "We gave up things every negotiated year."

They argued that charging someone a health care premium after they had already retired was not only unfair but illegal.

The city says it heard the arguments and came up with a new plan. Premiums will be based on a retirees pension rather than their position as an officer, firefighter or civilian.

For example, a single person making below $20,000 would pay $20/month. Family coverage would be $60/month.

And it goes up in steps.

For a retiree between $20,000 - $40,000 annual pension, single health premium rates would be $60/month. Family would be $165/month.

For a retiree who makes an annual pension between $40,000 - $60,000 single coverage is $90/month. Family coverage costs $350.

The same person who retired making a pension of more than $60,000 a year would pay $124/month. Family coverage in the bracket costs $487/month.

Remember, 84% of Omaha's roughly 1,100 retirees don't pay a premium. Taxpayers pick up the entire tab.

Kevin Brown with the Civilian's Union Local 251 isn't sure if the changes will make a difference to retirees. "In everyone's eyes, what is reasonable?"

The city says the need for change is based on health care costs going through the roof.

"By the year 2020 -- in ten years, health care will total approximately 58.7% of the general fund," says O'Gara. "That's why we have to do something now."

The public hearing will be Tuesday at 2pm. WOWT.COM will stream the debate live.


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