Senator Farley Proposes Expert Task Force To Resolve Retiree Health Insurance Issue

Hugh T. Farley

August 16, 2007

Following the Governor's veto of legislation protecting health insurance coverage for public sector retirees, State Senator Hugh T. Farley (R,C - Schenectady) has called for creation of an expert task force to recommend a solution to the issue by the next Legislative Session.

"Health insurance is crucially important for our retirees," Senator Farley noted, "with some telling me that access to affordable health care is perhaps more valuable to them than even their pensions. On the other hand, it is also true that increasing health insurance costs are affecting the budgets of state and local governments."

The vetoed legislation would have linked retiree health coverage with that of active employees, prohibiting unilateral cuts in retiree coverage, but permitting coverage changes applied to both retirees and active workers. A similar law, renewed earlier this year by the Governor and the Legislature, has protected retired teachers since 1994.

Senator Farley will introduce a bill creating an expert task force, with instructions to deliver recommendations to the Governor and the Legislature by next spring. Task force members will include authorities in health insurance, labor relations, and government finance.

"Frankly, I think that linking health insurance coverage for retirees and active workers is a fair approach, and one which has been approved by three Governors -- Governors Cuomo, Pataki, and Spitzer -- when applied to retired teachers," Senator Farley concluded. "But we certainly have a wealth of brain power in our state agencies and academic institutions, so if there are better ideas, I'm confident that an expert task force can get them to us."