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Change In Insurance Carrier Not Negotiable Without Substantial Changes In Benefits

The Hartford Police Union represents the rank-and-file sworn members of the Hartford, Connecticut Police Department. The health insurance clause in the agreement between the Union and the City describes in-network and out-of-network benefits, co-payments, lifetime maximum benefits, and other insurance benefits. The contract language specifically provides that “the City may provide health insurance benefits by other than the named insurance carriers provided the benefits and services provided by the…

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Training Exercise Not ‘Emergency’ For Purposes Of Post-Disability Health Insurance Law

Steven Garris was a fire lieutenant with the Village of Lake Zurich in Illinois. On March 1, 2012, Garris participated in an exercise called “Personal Escape Bags Inservice.” The exercise involved the use of rappelling equipment designed to assist firefighters escaping from buildings. While performing the exercise, Garris sustained a broken ankle. Garris’s injury was caused by “his weight acting as force against the injured extremity while rappelling.” Garris…

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Employer Must Bargain Before Changing Past Practice Of Reimbursing For Medicare B Premiums

The Albany Police Officer’s Union represents police officers and some other employees working for the City of Albany, New York. Since the late 1980s, the City consistently reimbursed the Union’s active members for their Medicare Part B monthly premiums upon their retirement. In October 2008, the City sent a notice to all retirees of various changes to the City’s offered health plans. With regard to Medicare Part B reimbursements,…

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Wording Of Retiree Medical Benefits Clause May Be Critical

Litigation over the level of retiree medical benefits granted by a variety of labor contracts illustrates the care that needs to be taken with the crafting of contract language governing post-retirement medical insurance. The litigation involved the City of Sea Isle, New Jersey, which had labor agreements with an FOP lodge (covering rank-and-file officers), a PBA local (covering supervisors), and the Communications Workers of America (covering other City employees)….

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Arbitration Award Can Retroactively Increase Employee Health Premiums

The last contract between the Kitsap County Deputy Sheriffs’ Guild and Kitsap County, Washington was effective from 2008-2009. Under that CBA, deputies were not required to pay for their own health insurance premiums, but were required to pay 10% of their dependents’ premiums. During negotiations for the 2010-2012 CBA, the County proposed a shift in premiums such that employees would have to pay 3% of their own premiums and…

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Q & A

From Maryland Question: Can you poll your members if they use the health care provided to them by the State or by another source (retiree benefit from another jurisdiction, spouse /partner) without violating any laws concerning privacy (HIPAA, ADA, ACA)? Answer: We’re not health insurance experts, but our take on this would be that so long as you were not obtaining any diagnostic information, there would be nothing inappropriate…

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Arbitrator’s Opinion Does Not Violate State Health Insurance Statute

When the Town of Athol, Massachusetts unilaterally increased copayment amounts for medical services, Local 1751 of the International Association of Fire Fighters challenged the decision through the filing of a grievance. An arbitrator concluded that changes in copayments were a mandatory subject of collective bargaining and that the Town violated the contract by making the changes unilaterally. As a remedy, the arbitration award required the Town, among other things,…

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Illinois Post-Retirement Health Insurance Constitutionally Protected

In 2012, the Illinois Legislature passed a statute eliminating the statutory standards for the State’s contributions to health insurance premiums for members of three of the State’s retirement systems. In place of those standards, the statute required the Director of the Illinois Department of Central Management Services to determine annually the amount of the health insurance premiums that would be charged to the State and to retired public employees….

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Injunctions Are An ‘Extraordinary Remedy’ In Labor Disputes

The Macomb County, Michigan Professional Deputy Sheriffs Association represents corrections officers in the Macomb County Sheriff’s Department in the classification rank of correctional officer. In January 2012, a law became effective requiring Michigan’s public employees to make co-payments on health insurance. While negotiations were ongoing between the Association and the County for a new contract, the County sent an email to the Association announcing its intent to start deducting…

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Grievance Challenging Reduction Of Retiree Health Benefits Not Arbitrable

Public safety employers seeking financial relief have more than occasionally sought to reduce retiree health care benefits. Those reductions have in turn resulted in grievances, which in turn have prompted responses by employers that since retirees are not covered by the collective bargaining agreement, the grievances are not arbitrable. Most courts have required employers to arbitrate grievances over changes in retiree health care benefits. The usual reasoning is that…

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Court Upholds Arbitrator’s Decision On Post-Retirement Health Insurance

The City of Buffalo and the Buffalo Professional Firefighters Association are parties to a contract that contains retiree and active employee health care provisions. On July 1, 2004, the City modified the health insurance plan provided to members and retirees. The Association filed a grievance with respect to the modified plan, alleging that the modified plan violated the contract. In 2008, an arbitrator issued an award finding that the…

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Retiree Health Settlement Approved By Court

The City of Omaha, Nebraska suffers from difficult long-term financial prospects impacted in part by the rising cost of healthcare benefits for various active and retired City employees. Before May 18, 2010, an assortment of collective bargaining agreements and ordinances required the City to offer 34 different benefit plans to active and retired employees. Under those plans, 84% of retirees paid no premium for healthcare coverage for themselves or…

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Supreme Court Upholds Constitutionality Of Centerpiece Of Health Care Reform

In the case known as National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the centerpiece of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 – the so-called “individual mandate,” which requires individuals to purchase a health insurance policy providing a minimum level of coverage or to pay a penalty tax. The Court’s decision is a complicated one involving two different constitutional provisions…

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Retiree Health Care Grievance Is Arbitrable

The collective bargaining agreement between the Town of Orchard Park, New York and the Orchard Park Police Benevolent Association calls for the Town to provide some retiree health care benefits. When the Town announced it intended to change retiree health care benefits, the Association filed a grievance on behalf of affected retired members protesting the change in coverage, and sought to enjoin the Town from changing the coverage pending…

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Under Contract, Retiree Health Benefits Can Be Tied to Those Provided Active Employees

For more than 20 years and over the span of approximately 60 collective bargaining agreements, the City of Duluth entered into language calling for the provision of retiree health care coverage to its police officers, firefighters, and other employees. Two contract clauses cover the issue of retiree health care. The first clause, which nominally covered only active employees, provided that retirees “shall receive hospital-medical insurance coverage to the same…

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City Not Allowed To Cut Retiree Medical Benefits For Firefighters

The collective bargaining agreement between Local 732 of the International Association of Fire Fighters and the City of Woonsocket, Rhode Island requires the City to provide retiree medical insurance. When the City canceled the health insurance for seven retirees on the grounds that they had health insurance provided through other sources, Local 732 filed a grievance. An arbitrator upheld the grievance. The Arbitrator recognized the City’s ability to terminate…

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Comprehensive ‘Status Quo’ Opinion From Florida Court

The collective bargaining agreements between the City of Gainesville, Florida and the labor unions representing police, fire, and other employees do not discuss health insurance benefits for retirees. Until 1995, the City paid 100% of retirees’ health insurance premiums for individual coverage including all premium increases occurring after retirement. In 1995, the City reduced the percentage, but continued to pay a fixed percentage of retirees’ insurance premiums, including the…

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Contract Does Not Require That Retiree Health Insurance Remain Unchanged

When Mark Petersen retired from the Raritan, New Jersey Police Department, he was provided health insurance, without cost, pursuant to the terms of the contract then in effect between the Township and the Police Benevolent Association Local 337. Several years after he retired, Petersen was notified that the Township discontinued all municipal employee participation in the insurance plan in which Petersen was enrolled. Because he and other retirees were…

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Court Declines To Overturn Arbitrator’s Health Insurance Decision

The 2007 collective bargaining agreement between the City of Detroit, Michigan and the Detroit Police Officers Association was settled through binding arbitration. An arbitration panel adopted the City’s last best offer with respect to health care benefits, which became Article 21 of the contract. Article 21 includes provisions for cost sharing by the employees and establishes which health plans the City was required to offer to the employees. Article…

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Expired Contracts, The ‘Status Quo,’ And Health Insurance Premiums

When a collective bargaining agreement expires without a new contract being reached, the employer is required to maintain the wages, hours, terms and conditions of employment – usually referred to as mandatory subjects of bargaining – that existed while negotiating a subsequent agreement. Under almost every collective bargaining law, health insurance benefits are mandatory subjects for collective bargaining. At times, though, there are disagreements about exactly what the status…

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Firefighter Can Add Health Insurance Dependents After Retirement

William Giblin was employed by Johnson City, New York as a firefighter. When he retired, he received family coverage health insurance benefits for himself and his then-wife pursuant to the collective bargaining agreement in effect between the City and Giblin’s firefighters’ union. The relevant provision of the contract provided that “all present retirees of the Fire Department and all members who retire in the future shall continue to receive…

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Regulations Clarify Adult Child Health Care Coverage Mandate

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which was signed into law on March 23, 2010 and amended on March 30, 2010 by the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 (collectively the “Act”), significantly extended the period of time that children may remain covered under their parents’ health care plans. The Act requires health plans and issuers that offer coverage to children on their parents’ plan to…

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Healthcare Reform: Here’s What You Need To Know For 2011

There’s a lot of information about the new health care reform acts on the Internet and in the news – much of it vague, some of it incorrect, and most of it overwhelming. The acts are very complex, of course, which is reflected in the reports. While several of the changes will be effective in 2011, most of the changes in the law won’t take effect until 2014. The…

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Injury In Training Class Qualifies For Disability Benefits

Illinois has a state law that provides continuing health insurance benefits to public safety employees and their dependents if the employee suffers a catastrophic injury or is killed in the line of duty. To be eligible for the benefits, the law enforcement officer or firefighter must be injured while responding “to what is reasonably believed to be an emergency, an unlawful act perpetrated by another, or during the investigation…

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GINA, New Discrimination Law, Became Effective In November 2009

By Christopher W. Olmsted The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) became effective on November 21, 2009. Generally, this federal law prohibits employers from acquiring or using genetic information about its employees, with certain exceptions. Who must comply with Title II of GINA? Title II is the section of GINA which regulates employers. It applies to private, state, and local government employers with 15 or more employees, employment agencies, labor…

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