Retirees, and union leaders and members voice opposition to retirement take-away bills
February 11, 2011
On the morning of Feb. 11, upset and concerned union members and retirees overflowed the conference room for the Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee hearing for SB1268 (Relating to the Hawaii Employer-Union Health Benefits Trust Fund).
Testifying against SB1268, HGEA Executive Director Randy Perreira took offense to those who have been suggesting that the Medicare Part B reimbursement is not an earned benefit. The governor had testified right before Perreira in support of the bill, which would eliminate all reimbursements currently being made by the State for premiums government retirees pay to the federal Medicare Part B health plan.
Perreira said many of our retirees built our state, working 20, 30, and even 40 years and more in government at pay well below the private sector, and with the promise that upon retiring their health care premiums would come at no cost to them. We made a social contract with these individuals, he said, and we have an obligation to fulfill that promise made to them.
In written testimony that was submitted on behalf of the 9,500-plus members of the HGEA Retirees Unit, Perreira noted the following:
* the bill is an improper taking of a benefit that is protected by the Hawaii Constitution
* eliminating the Medicare Part B reimbursements unfairly targets retirees
* elimination of the reimbursements will create a financial hardship for many of our retiree members
(To read the full testimony, click on the attached PDF below.)
Committee Chair Clayton Hee, Vice Chair Maile Shimabukuro and Senator Mike Gabbard also heard testimonies from retirees, representatives of other unions (including UPW, SHOPO, UHPA and HSTA) and other organizations opposing the bill.
The Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee will reconvene the hearing to continue the agenda on Monday at 9:15 a.m. in Conference Room 016.
The House passed another version of HB1041, HD 1. We are waiting to review this new draft, which will be sent to the House Finance Committee.
We will continue to update members on the status of these bills as more information becomes available.
Media coverage on the hearing:
Abercrombie seeks to trim retiree health benefits (Feb. 11, 2011 - Mark Niesse, Associated Press)
Abercrombie seeks to trim retiree health benefits (Feb. 11, 2011 - KHON2)
Abercrombie Pleas For Retired State Workers (Feb. 11, 2011 - KITV)
Medicare reimbursements unjustified, governor says (Feb. 12, 2011 - Honolulu Star-Advertiser)