MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Mayor Jim Strickland approved a partnership with a private health insurance exchange for City of Memphis retirees.
The partnership will restore a city subsidy to help reimburse retirees younger than 65 years old for their health care. The subsidies will be part of a private health care exchange.
"My administration has made a commitment to take the steps necessary to better compensate our officers and our firefighters," Strickland said.
According to Strickland, benefit changes in 2014 eliminated the city's 70 percent subsidy to pay for retirees' health insurance. Returning the subsidy will allow retirees to get reimbursed for some premiums and expenses.
"When we took office, we actively listened to our current employees' concerns about benefits," Strickland said. "They repeatedly told us that restoring a health insurance subsidy for pre-65 retirees would be a major step toward retaining employees, particularly in public safety."
Under the new plan, retirees will be able to choose a plan that best suits their needs.
"We want our current employees to know that if they retire younger than 65, this new approach ensures they will not be left in the dark," Strickland said.
But, some retirees are not quite sure it is a promise they want.
Mike Williams, head of the Memphis Police Administration, calls the promise smoke and mirrors.
"It's an opportunity for the mayor to say, 'I'm doing a great wonderful thing.' We're going to give the pre-65 their health care back," Williams said.
He says the health exchanges are a bad deal that likely will cost the over-65 retirees more money.
Strickland said the plan actually saves the city money and should help retain police and firefighters. Williams doesn't think so.
"It's like they continuously want and continuously balance their budget on the retirees," Williams said.
The subsidies will begin next year. Strickland said the money is in the budget and will save the city money.