Medical premiums rising for retirees

Baltimore & Region


Retired city government workers will pay more for medical coverage next year under a $267 million health care package approved yesterday by the Board of Estimates.

Retirees account for 55.3 percent of the city government's health care costs, which are rising. In 2006, coverage for 12,000 active and 17,000 retired employees is expected to be $23.9 million - 9.9 percent more than the projected costs of the city's plan this year, according to the city's Department of Human Resources.

Active employees, through union negotiations, now pay premiums after years of nearly free coverage. Without those contributions, retirees would have been faced with a 26 percent increase.

"It's still going to hurt [retirees]," Mayor Martin O'Malley said of the increase. "I'm glad we were able to keep it from going up 26 percent."

For example, retirees now pay $490 per month for a CareFirst BlueCross Blue- Shield PPN plan, but in 2006 they will pay $547 - an 11.6 percent increase once changes in mental health and disease management plans are factored in, said Gladys Gaskins, interim director for the city's Department of Human Resources.

The five-member Board of Estimates, which includes City Council President Sheila Dixon and Comptroller Joan M. Pratt, voted unanimously for the 2006 plan.

City Council members Helen L. Holton and Mary Pat Clarke told the board to consider other options. Clarke said that retirees will have a hard enough time paying electric bills this winter with increasing energy

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