Legislators Considered County Law & Retirees’ Concerns

Shared Services Panel Vote Set For Sept. 12

New City, NY (Aug. 5, 2018) – The Rockland County Legislature voted unanimously Tuesday to recommend that the Health Insurance Project be removed from the proposed Shared Services Plan.

As part of the same resolution, the Legislature backed adoption of the remainder of the Shared Services Plan.

“We heard the concerns of the retirees, many of whom worked for the county and its residents for 20 or 30 years or longer, and who earned their health care benefits,” Legislature Chairman Toney L. Earl said. “We took this vote to make our stand on the issue clear: We must – and we will – follow the law on this issue.”

Mandated by state law, the Shared Services Plan requires municipalities, along with other interested entities such as school districts and fire districts, to work to identify areas where taxpayer savings and improved efficiency might be possible through collaboration, consolidation and the sharing of services. It is headed up by the County Executive.

A vote on the final version of the plan is set for Sept. 12. The panel will convene at 5 p.m. at the county Fire Training Center, 35 Firemen’s Memorial Dr. in Pomona.

A third and final public hearing on the plan takes place at 7 p.m. tonight at Suffern Village Hall.

Retirees packed the previous two public hearings, as well as several legislative committee and full board meetings to voice their strong opposition to the project.

Then, just hours before the Legislature was to vote to recommend the removal of the project from the Shared Services Plan Tuesday, the County Executive issued a press release saying it was his intention to do so.

The Legislature previously sent a letter dated Aug. 8 to all Shared Services Panel members explaining why it opposed inclusion of the Health Insurance Project in the plan. The project remains in the plan until a formal vote is taken by the panel to remove it.

“Our retirees put in years of hard work serving our county and their health insurance coverage matters,” Legislator Alden H. Wolfe said. “The rules are clear, and the retirees shouldn’t have to fret about their health care coverage at this point in their lives. I appreciate their efforts in making their opinions on the issue clear to all involved, and I will continue to work to ensure that their coverage is preserved.”

This is the second attempt by the County Executive to switch health insurance coverage for county government retirees. Early this year, he unilaterally, and with no Legislative notice whatsoever, attempted to drop the current Empire Plan in favor of switching to an Aetna Medicare Advantage plan.

Retirees and the unions opposed the change, and they called the Legislature’s office and sent letters and emails expressing their opposition, in addition to speaking out at public meetings.

Some retirees stated that some of their hospitals and doctors said they would “never” take Aetna or managed care plans in general. Other retirees told of specific tests or treatments that would not be covered.

Additionally, the attempted change in health care plans would violate both the Rockland County Charter and the Laws of Rockland County regarding retiree health benefits.

A representative of the County Executive told legislators Tuesday that he had spoken with various town supervisors and mayors and that the Health Insurance Project would be formally removed when the Shared Services Panel meets on Sept. 12.

Retirees at the meeting said they planned to attend both tonight’s public hearing and the Sept. 12 meeting to make sure the project was removed.

The resolution adopted Tuesday specifically notes that the projected savings from the Health Care Project were completely unsubstantiated and unlikely to be realized.

Nonetheless, many of the other projects in the plan appear highly possible to implement, and therefore, could save taxpayer money.

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