Metro dropping secondary Medicare coverage, raising coverage cost for all retirees

Southern Nevada’s oldest retired cops will soon find themselves patrolling a new beat: the insurance market.

Come April 1, the Metropolitan Police Department no longer will offer secondary Medicare coverage to retirees over age 65.

Medicare, the federal single-payer insurance program for people over 65, still will be the primary insurer for retired police, so nothing will change when it comes to covering basic and specialty health care.

What will be gone, though, is supplemental insurance for the extras Medicare doesn’t pay for, including dental care and prescription-drug benefits. Retirees who want that secondary coverage will have to buy it through a private insurer.

Metro Deputy Chief Gary Schofield, who is on the board of the Employee Health and Welfare Trust of the Las Vegas Police Protective Association, didn’t return a call seeking details on the move.

But the union’s executive director, Chris Collins, said the change is part of a larger cost-cutting trend.

“There have been benefit cuts in insurance to every employee at Metro,” Collins said. “It’s nothing crazily radical, but the bottom line is, through the economic downturn, and through contract negotiations, we’ve reduced the benefits Metro has paid into insurance.”

Collins said the department’s contract negotiations pared $500 a year in insurance benefits per employee in 2010 — a measure that only was supposed to last 18 months but is still in place.

“Obviously, the downturn lasted much longer than anyone expected,” Collins said.

On top of eliminating supplemental Medicare coverage, Metro is raising the cost of coverage for all retirees, regardless of age, Collins said. He didn’t know exactly how much the increase would be, but he called it “fairly substantial.”

Collins said the changes would affect about 550 members of the Police Protective Association. Those members include retired Metro officer and current Boulder City Police Chief Bill Conger, who said he and his peers are “all scrambling to find plans.”

Switching to private supplemental coverage won’t be a big financial hit, Conger said. Conger’s bigger problem is another change in coverage that removes dependents from retirees’ coverage.

“I have no idea why they’re not doing it (offering dependent and secondary coverage) anymore, and I don’t like to speculate,” Conger said. “They told us it was because of costs — that as we mature, we cost more. But we’ve paid for it. We worked for years and years, and we’re paying for our dependents’ insurance. They just decided to remove an entire class of people off of their insurance, which I think is bad policy.”

Former Assistant Sheriff Ted Moody, a retired Metro officer who is running for sheriff, decried the cuts in a statement.

“It is a real shame that our older retirees are being forced out of the Health and Welfare Trust, but this is where we start to see the real-world impact of misguided budget priorities and poor spending decisions by the current administration at Metro,” Moody stated. “It sounds like these employees — who kept the promises they made to Metro and to this community — are being betrayed by the very organization they counted on to be there for them in their golden years.”

Contact reporter Jennifer Robison at jrobison@reviewjournal.com. Follow @J_Robison1 on Twitter.