MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Labor unions representing Memphis city workers now say they're willing to increase insurance deductibles in order to restore health care coverage for their spouses and retirees, and to avoid a 24 percent increase in their premiums.
The unions hope the plan presented Tuesday will give the city the savings it needs to help the underfunded pension.
Mayor A C Wharton's staff is promising to run the numbers to see if the savings add up to the $25 million the union claims.
In the meantime, the mayor's administration is moving forward with its plan to make sure every retiree and worker gets adequate health care coverage.
Tuesday, these numbers were released:
- 1,500 retirees are 65 and older are on Medicare
- 1,100 retirees are 65 and older are on the city's medical plan
- 940 retirees under age 65 are employed and will switch to their current employer's insurance
- 270 retirees are under age 65 who are not employed or employment cannot currently be verified and will have to get healthcare exchange coverage
- 177 line of duty disability retirees will stay on the city's medical plan
- 13 spouses/eligible dependents of workers killed in the line of duty will stay on the city's medical plan
For those who cannot get federal subsidies, the city is setting up an initial $2 million trust to help them pay for their medical costs.
The city says it will "contract with a third party to custodian the funds" and "will solicit additional contributions to the fund from community partners like hospitals, corporations, health care insurers, etc."
The city is also opening up a health care clinic for workers and retirees that will offer free check-ups and prescription medications. It will be located at Union and McLean.
Memphis Police Association President Mike Williams and City Councilwoman Wanda Halbert want to know why they're just now hearing the details.
"Now, we are coming back and presenting all of the details. It would have been good to have this initially, so the members of the [Healthcare Oversight] committee could have proposed alternatives up front," said Williams.
Labor Union leaders also came up with their own plan and presented it to the committee Tuesday.
The plan includes three options, including a high-deductible plan, for retirees and workers to choose from depending how much they want to pay.
Union leaders said it will save the city an estimated $25 million and restore all retiree and worker benefits cut to pay for the unfunded pension.
The committee approved the plan, sending it to the city's Personnel Committee. If the personnel committee approves it, it will go to the council.
If approved, it will trump the city's current plan.
The city is holding a series of meetings to explain the healthcare changes in more detail to workers and retirees.