The Mobile City Council Wednesday approved new health insurance for Medicare-eligible retirees that Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s administration says will save taxpayers $1.5 million.
Some retiree groups showed their support for the new plan, provided by Humana, but took exception to a letter sent to them over the weekend. In the letter, Stimpson accused retirees of making false accusations about insurance during budget hearings last year, as well as calling the promise of lifetime benefits an “urban legend.”
“Since as far back as 1984, health insurance documentation given to city employees has pointedly said that benefits are not guaranteed and that the city of Mobile reserves the right to change, modify and terminate all benefits at their sole discretion,” the letter reads. “On multiple occasions over the last two decades, information has been distributed to employees refuting the promise they talk about, thus, making it an “urban legend,” not a promise or a contractual obligation.”
James Lilly, chairman of the Mobile Police and Firefighters’ Pension Board, told councilors he has never made false accusations and the benefits were promised for life. In addition, he said retirees are already paying $109 for Medicare coverage and this plan would be on top of that.
“It appears the city is trying to balance its books on the back of 780 or so old people,” he said.
David Scott, a local representative of the Policemen’s Benevolent Association, called Stimpson’s letter disappointing, but added the group now endorses the plan, following a meeting Monday night with Humana representatives.
“We still have some questions, but I think those can be worked through,” he said. “We ask this council to pass this resolution with the option to make adjustments.”
In the letter sent to retirees, Stimpson warned that the Humana offer would be the last one the administration made. After the affirmative vote, Councilman Levon Manzie spoke about the rare occurrance.
“It’s not very often we sit at this desk and don’t have an option,” he said. “I’m not the most excited about (the plan), but we have the option of passing this, or telling retirees they won’t have an option.”
Councilman Fred Richardson floated the idea of forming an employee insurance committee and Manzie agreed.
“We need some semblance of a committee,” Manzie said. “I’m hopeful the administration will consider it.”
In other business from the council meeting, Stimpson’s Chief of Staff Colby Cooper announced the mayor was in Miami Tuesday negotiating for an economic development opportunity. Cooper did not elaborate further.
The council granted a non-exclusive easement agreement with Image Royal LLC. for vehicular parking east of Fort Conde Village. Image Royal recently got approved to build a six-story hotel in Fort Conde Village. The agreement is non-exclusive to allow employees and volunteers from other entities to park there as well.
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