Retirees Testify to Voice Concerns of Proposed Cuts to Health Benefits

The Retired Public Employees Association (RPEA), representing the interests of nearly 500,000 state and local government retirees in the State Retirement System, today voiced concerns over items proposed in the FY 2020-2021 state budget, which would reduce health insurance benefits.

Testifying before the Joint Legislative Fiscal Committees, RPEA Executive Director Edward C. Farrell addressed proposals that would reduce Medicare reimbursement for retirees who are enrolled in the New York State Health Insurance Program (NYSHIP).

“Retirees have spent their careers in service to the residents of New York,” said Farrell. “Their days of earning a salary are over and they are living their retirement fully expecting to utilize benefits they earned during their employment. These cuts will impact the health and well-being of real people, your family members, your friends, your neighbors – and they are not acceptable.”

Eligible NYSHIP retirees pay the same premium contribution as active state employees. However, the State has realized significant cost savings for retiree health insurance by requiring that all retirees participating in NYSHIP also enroll in Medicare upon turning 65. Since the State saves money, the Legislature provided for reimbursement of Medicare premiums. The proposed budget would reduce that reimbursement.

In addition to these concerns, RPEA is requesting parity between retirees and active employees in the NYSHIP Empire Plan regarding access to Skilled Nursing Facilities (SNF), an item not currently included in the state budget. Both retirees and active employees pay identical premiums, yet retiree benefits are not existent. Specifically:

  • Empire Plan enrollees under the age of 65 have coverage for 120 days of SNF care with no hospital stay required.
  • However, upon eligibility for Medicare at the age of 65, the Empire Plan provides no SNF coverage to retirees.
  • So, the SNF benefits available to retirees are reduced to those provided under Medicare, which includes only 20 days of coverage and requires a 3-day hospital stay.

Farrell concluded, “Older enrollees are more likely to need skilled-nursing services and care, and so, RPEA considers this policy to be age discrimination and is urging the Legislature to rectify it.”

Celebrating 50 years, the Retired Public Employees Association (RPEA) is a powerful advocate for current and future public service retirees. Founded in 1969, RPEA is a not-for-profit entity and represents the interests of nearly 500,000 retirees and beneficiaries from New York state and local governments, school districts, and public authorities. Learn more at: www.RPEA.org.