A class action lawsuit was filed Thursday against the Ohio Police and Fire Pension Fund by retirees who are set to lose their existing health insurance plan at the end of the year.
The lawsuit, filed in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, includes a request for a temporary restraining order to stop the change from taking place for at least six months.
“We’re asking for more time,” said attorney Nelson Genshaft who represents a group of retirees filing suit. “These people have had a difficult transition administratively, a lack of choices of quality plans, higher deductibles, more expenses, a lack of the medical providers that they’re used to having.”
The pension fund has long promised and provided healthcare coverage for retirees through a self-insured group plan. Pension fund officials said that plan was unsustainable and the Board of Trustees made a change to extend the solvency of the health benefit.
John Gallagher, chairman and CEO of the Ohio Police and Fire Pension Board blames the change on the battle over the Affordable Care Act in Washington.
“Unfortunately the demands of funding the pension fund reduce the ability to support a health care trust,” said Gallagher.
Retirees not old enough to qualify for Medicare would get a stipend to go toward private insurance. The deadline to sign up and receive a stipend came and went last Saturday.
Many of the retirees say they’re frustrated that the stipend can only be used through a specific insurance broker which has far fewer choices of doctors or hospitals compared with their current plan.
Attorney A.C. Strip, Genshaft’s co-counsel, says some of the plaintiffs now say they will be forced to go back to work. “Some people might not have retired at a certain age if they knew this was coming,” Strip said. “So you get a situation where you rely on a promise and there’s an element of fairness – has this been fair the way it’s been done? We think not.”
If a judge agrees it would temporarily halt implementation of the new plan.
David Graham, a spokesman for the Ohio Police and Fire Pension Fund said in an emailed statement: “We are aware of a lawsuit that was filed and are reviewing its many facets. It’s our policy not to litigate in the media, so we will prepare our response and share it in the proper forum.”