Possible Health Care Changes

February 19th 2008 Health care coverage could change for former Firefighters, Police Officers or any other person who worked for the City of Visalia for at least five years.

One change would hit these former workers in the pocketbook.

Tuesday night, the City Council will decide whether retirees should pay half of a $46-dollar monthly increase to their health benefits.

Eric Frost, City Of Visalia: "It's just the cost of health care, in general. I think everybody knows that the cost of health has grown very fast and so the question is how do we share those costs going forward."

Right now the city pays $2-million dollars a year towards retiree health coverage.

A cost retirees say is an obligation the City committed to when they hired them.

Dianne Guzman, Retired City Worker: "For many people it's a matter of almost life or death."

Other recommendations made won't be voted on until May 1st. Those include providing less coverage and increasing costs for retirees who worked for the city for less than 20 years and making retirees who have another job that provides health coverage only use the city's coverage as a secondary source.

Guzman says this will be devastating for retirees, especially when most rely on a fixed income.

Guzman was an Assistant City Manager in Visalia for seven years.

Guzman: "There are a number of employees who do not have the required number of quarters to get Medicare at the subsidized rate and that will cost them an additional $400 a month."

In the worst case scenario, Guzman says the changes could cost a retiree more than $15-hundred dollars a month.

City leaders say not making the changes could create more of a burden on taxpayers eventually costing the city up to $7-million dollars a year.

Frost: "So it is hard but I think the whole world faces the same problem with healthcare costs that's why it's such a big issue nationally and as much as we'd like to say we're not affected by that in the city, we are. We all are affected by the same problem."

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