Committee Clears Retiree Health Benefits Bill

Both hazardous and nonhazardous duty retirees who work longer than the minimum required years would receive higher retirement health benefits under a plan the House State Government Committee approved on Thursday.

Senator Mike Nemes (R-Shepherdsville) sponsored Senate Bill 209. The measure provides sick and vacation pay for retired Kentucky State Police troopers who return to duty.

A committee substitute added language from House Bill 169. Representative Kevin Bratcher (R-Louisville) sponsored the KLC-supported bill to address retiree health benefits to help cities retain and recruit first responders. “This is the first time in years where we can enhance a benefit without costing a significant amount of money to some of the best who work with us,” Bratcher told the committee.

Hazardous duty employees who choose to work beyond the required 20 years of service will earn an additional $5 per month per additional year worked to apply to their health insurance premium upon retirement. For example, if a hazardous employee worked 10 extra years, he or she would receive $50 more each month to pay for health insurance. Nonhazardous employees would earn the extra amount for every year worked beyond 27 years. The health plans must remain funded at 90% or higher to maintain the added benefit.

Committee Chair Representative Jerry Miller (R-Louisville) commented that the minimal increase in employer contributions for the increased medical benefits should be offset by quality employees staying on the job longer.

Kentucky Professional Fire Fighters Legislative Affairs Director Brian O’Neil testified that the change in health benefits should keep more firefighters with their department longer. “This is not an enhanced benefit. It is an opportunity for an individual to earn that increase, so they have to work to get it,” said O’Neil.

The House of Representatives will now consider the measure. If it passes, the Senate must concur with the changes before the legislature can send the bill to the governor.