Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The Ticking Retirement Time Bomb

It's not the TRS, yet, but the Firefighters and the Policemen are starting to cost an awful lot of money. From the Spokesman-Review:
When Newport Police Chief Bill Clark abruptly retired four years ago, city officials rushed out shopping.

But not for a simple plaque or commemorative watch. Instead, the city suddenly found itself in the market for long-term care insurance, to shield its budget from potentially huge bills if the chief someday landed in a nursing home.

Across the state, thousands of mostly retired police and firefighters are eligible for medical benefits that the vast majority of today's workers can only envy: free lifelong coverage of anything deemed "necessary medical services."


Spokane taxpayers, for example, have in recent years paid for the following for retired police officers:

• Penile implants for impotence.
• Viagra and other anti-impotence drugs.
• A $1,700 mattress.
• Two "stair gliders" ($4,340 and $7,161) to carry people up stairs.
• A $12,985 non-emergency flight to bring an ill retiree to Spokane.

But those items are chump change compared to the estimated $1 billion in medical costs that taxpayers will shoulder for the system's roughly 9,000 Law Enforcement Officer and Fire Fighters Plan 1 retirees statewide. (The LEOFF-1 system – pronounced "Leff" – was replaced by a more modest retirement plan in 1977. The nickname for the newer plan: "Left Out.") The retirees are covered by dozens of counties, cities, fire districts and a handful of port districts.


Gow stands by the things that the board has told the city to pay for. Retirees get only six anti-impotence doses a month, he said, and private insurance commonly pays for such prescriptions. The first penile implant, he said, was approved in the 1980s by unanimous vote of the board.

"They said it was probably a psychiatric thing, so they did it," he said.

Routine dental care – a perk that Spokane firefighters are now seeking, too – is capped at $350 a year. Gow personally lobbied for that benefit, citing studies linking dental health to heart disease and strokes.

The stair gliders? "You can't tell someone to just move into the living room," he said.

The non-emergency flight? "We could fly him back here and put him in a hospital and save double the money we spend on the air ambulance."

There's more in the full article, but it's subscriber-only.

The state has to stand by the commitments it made to its' employees, even if those commitments might seem like onerous, overly optimistic overkill today. That said, let these guys pay for their own viagra, and maybe you do have to tell them to move into the living room because that's how life goes sometimes. And the penile implant? C'mon.


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4:55 AM  

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