City retirees working other jobs still use their Memphis insurance plans

Team Coverage: "Blue Flu" continues in Memphis
During a news conference over the health care crisis, Mayor A C Wharton confirmed the issue exists. (Photo Source: WMC Action News 5)
During a news conference over the health care crisis, Mayor A C Wharton confirmed the issue exists. (Photo Source: WMC Action News 5)

(WMC) - It's an old debate that people have not considered for some time, until the money started getting tight.

Now, every dollar is under scrutiny and some high profile names are turning up on the list.

WMC Action News 5 has learned that the city is spending millions of dollars on health care for people who work other jobs and opt out of their current employers' plans.

During a news conference over the health care crisis, Mayor A C Wharton confirmed the issue exists.

"We have individuals who left the City of Memphis many years ago making much more on jobs where there is coverage and they have the right to do it," Wharton said.

The city's human resources office list of retirees shows some as young as their lower 40s.

Overall, in 2013, the city had 1,400 working-age retirees. The city spends almost $12,000 per retiree age pre-65 at a cost of roughly $16.5 million per year. The city says there is no requirement to track which of those retirees are working other jobs, so they can't say exactly how much the city spends on them.

However, the administration tells WMC that it is safe to say the city does spend millions on health care for retirees who work for other employers.

"The coverage on their jobs is not as bountiful as the coverage we have," Wharton said.

The most high profile name on the list is former Memphis Police Director Larry Godwin, who collects nearly $60,000 per year in health care benefits annually, but he's currently employed as the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security Deputy Commissioner. The mayor says someone would simply have to propose that the city track employed retirees in order for the practice to stop.

"We think that if they're on a job where there is coverage, that that's an option they should pursue. If you don't have coverage, stay right where you are," Wharton said.

WMC reached out to Godwin's communications director, who released the following statement:

"While currently an employee of the State of Tennessee, Deputy Commissioner Larry Godwin made the choice to take his earned retirement health care benefits from the City of Memphis to ensure that his family would have health care coverage after his service to the State ended. The State requires employees to work for ten years before earning health care retirement benefits, and Commissioner Godwin would not be eligible for those State retirement benefits until 2021, at age 70. He currently does not qualify for neither Medicare nor Social Security."

For a full list of retirees online, click on the following link:  http://ftpcontent4.worldnow.com/wmctv/Retiree%20Listing%20BW.pdf.  

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