Niagara Gazette — A local labor leader says a change in health insurance plans being offered by a well-known tire manufacturer will have a “drastic” impact on the finances of dozens of retirees from the company’s Niagara Falls plant.
Jim Briggs, staff representative for United Steelworkers District 4, said Goodyear has informed retirees from the company’s plant on 56th Street that they will soon be losing the group plan coverage they enjoyed for years as part of a companywide move.
While a company spokesperson says the proposal could ultimately save money for salaried Medicare-eligible retirees over 65, Briggs maintains that it amounts to a “slap in the face” for between 60 and 70 workers who retired from the Falls plant believing they had a deal on health insurance plans and premiums.
Briggs said retirees were informed earlier this month that they had until this past Wednesday to enroll in a Medicare supplement plan now that the firm has chosen to discontinue the group plan it offered to Medicare-eligible retirees. Briggs said the change could cost retirees represented by the Steelworkers union anywhere from $200 to $1,000 extra per month, an amount he maintains many of them simply can’t afford.
“Either way, for people on fixed incomes, it’s going to be a blow,” Briggs said. “It’s a drastic change.”
Keith Price, a spokesperson for Goodyear, confirmed that the company is discontinuing the group health plan it offered to Medicare-eligible, salaried retirees at the end of the year, noting that it has contract with Extend Health to work with each retiree to help them “compare, select and enroll” in a Medicare supplement plan that “best fits their individual health and budget needs.” Price said some retirees have already purchased Medicare supplement health plans in the individual market and found them less expensive than premiums paid for the current group plan offered by Goodyear. Price noted that several other major employers, including General Motors, Chrysler, Ford, Caterpillar, Whirlpool, Cooper Tires, FedEx and United Parcel Service, have already made similar changes in recent years.