Retired New York Workers Sue Over Health-Care Cost Boost

The largest group representing retired New York public employees sued the state and Governor Andrew Cuomo over an increase in their health-care costs.

Retired Public Employees Association Inc. filed the suit today in New York’s trial-level Supreme Court in Albany, the state capital. The group is seeking a declaration that implementation of the increase violates civil-service law and the state and U.S. constitutions.

The association says it advocates for about 40,000 retired state and local government employees. It’s not a union, and its members aren’t represented at the bargaining table, according to Executive Director Alan Dorn.

“We can’t negotiate,” Dorn said in an interview before the suit was filed. “We’re not involved in the changes and we don’t get to say anything.”

Patricia Hite, of the state Civil Service Department, which is also a defendant in the case, didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment on the suit. Josh Vlasto, a spokesman for Cuomo, didn’t immediately respond to a call seeking comment.

Starting Oct. 1, mid- to lower-pay grade individual retirees enrolled in the Empire Plan, one of New York’s most popular employee health-care programs, began paying 12 percent of the plan’s costs, up from 10 percent, according to an emergency rule promulgated by the government. Those retirees’ dependents now pick up 27 percent of the plan’s costs, up from 25 percent, under the rule.

The changes save the state $19.8 million through the rest of the fiscal year, Morris Peters, a spokesman for the state Budget Division, said before the suit was filed. The fiscal year ends March 31. The savings double in the first full fiscal year and continue to grow as health-care costs rise, Peters said.

The case is Retired Public Employees Association Inc. v. Cuomo, 7586-11, New York State Supreme Court, County of Albany.

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