Ind. Democrats Vote to Nix Free Health Benefit for Retirees

June 2, 2006

Indiana Democrats returning to the state Senate next year have agreed not to accept state health care retirement benefits, their leaders said Wednesday.

Senate Minority Leader Richard Young, D-Milltown, made the request in a letter dated May 25 to the secretary of the Indiana Senate.

Our caucus firmly believes that senators should receive no benefits greater than what other state employees receive, Young wrote.

Under the plan, state lawmakers who served a day more than six years and then retired or were not re-elected were allowed to receive lifetime taxpayer-subsidized health insurance for themselves and their families. Premiums were locked in, even if health care costs rose.

Most state employees are required to pay the full cost of their state health insurance upon retirement.

In the Indiana House, Republican Speaker Brian Bosma and several GOP members and candidates have signed a pledge supporting elimination of the perk, something Bosma did through his own power last session for anyone elected in November.

The Senate, which is also controlled by Republicans, scaled back some aspects of its state health retirement benefits, but the changes did not go as far as Bosma’s.

Young said the changes were an improvement, but said Democrats were hoping for a system more similar to retirement health care benefits found in the private sector. However, Young did vote in favor of the health insurance plan when it was instituted and he supported the compromise to change the benefits.

Young said Wednesday he would back a bill next year to eliminate the perk.

The perk for lawmakers became a campaign issue this year, and some think controversy may have played a role in the defeat of Senate President Pro Tem Robert Garton, R-Columbus, in the May primary election.

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