Houston retirees face 50 percent premium increase

Parker increases insurance premiums of city retirees

By Bradley Olson
Houston Chronicle
March 29, 2010

Working to close a looming $100 million budget shortfall projected for next year, Mayor Annise Parker has sharply increased the monthly insurance premiums that thousands of retired city of Houston employees must pay, prompting outrage from retirees.

Beginning May 1, more than 4,000 retirees under 65 will face a nearly 50 percent increase in their insurance premiums, a budget fix the mayor imposed without consulting City Council.

Parker said the city decided to restructure the benefit payments because retirees under 65 have far higher use of insurance claims than active employees or retirees over 65, whose insurance is subsidized by Medicare.

"People are being priced out of benefits. I'm hoping City Council will take another look at this thing," said (Bill Elkin, executive director of the Houston Police Retired Officers Association)


By Don McCanne, MD

So paraphrasing Mayor Annise Parker of Houston, the greater health care needs of the retirees made it important to restructure their premiums to make them even more unaffordable.

Now think about how the new health reform legislation would address this problem. It looks like these retirees under 65 would have to keep the insurance they have, without the choice of other options, and pay 50 percent higher premiums.

What if everyone were covered by an improved Medicare program? There would not be an issue here.

The point is that we have not reformed our health care financing system; we've only tweaked it. We have to keep working to be sure that people understand what didn't happen this time around.