Memphis city retirees question possible changes to health care plans

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — There was anger and confusion at Memphis City Hall Wednesday after a meeting on city retiree health care plans.

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland’s office said the whole goal of making changes is to find a sustainable way to restore pre-65 retiree subsidized health insurance, which would mean entering a private exchange. Strickland’s office said after doing surveys and research, making the change would help recruit and retain people, like public safety officers.

However, many at the meeting on Wednesday had concerns.

“We really have nothing to make our decision on,” said Thomas Malone.

Malone, president of the Memphis Firefighters Association, is frustrated. He’s not alone.

“This is not a game. This is our life,” said Theresa Morris, the wife of a retired Memphis firefighter.

At the meeting the city explained to retirees possible health care coverage options.

“The first option is the private exchange. The second option is related to just Medicare retirees, which is our mixed plan, and then the third option is we maintain the status quo,” said Alex Smith, chief human resources officer.

Malone said while he was provided some numbers, he doesn’t believe he was given enough information to explain to his retirees how the new private plan would work. Malone is supposed to report back to the city Monday.

“They’re giving us a short window to explain to people that don’t understand insurance and now we have nothing to explain to them and the clock is ticking,” he said.

The city said some 3800 retirees would be affected by a change.

The city said Wednesday afternoon spouses of those killed in the line of duty would be able to choose to stay with either the current insurance plan or switch to the exchange.

Donna Kirk, the wife of a firefighter killed in the line of duty in 2003, had earlier expressed concerns her family, and other widows of public safety officers would be affected too.

Kirk said she’s been looking the proposals.

“After looking at the figures in this presentation today, it will cost a tremendous amount more for us.”

Over the next few days, the various associations will review the plans with their members. The city plans to use the next few days to address questions as well.

The associations are supposed to respond by Monday, but ultimately Strickland will make a decision next week.

The changes would go into affect next year.