The Fayette County Board of Elections said goodbye to two long-time employees on Monday afternoon.
Carrie Ferguson and Patty Ann Zinn, a former director and deputy director of the board, have been part of the BoE for many years, but now that the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System changed their health-insurance options, they are forced to leave.
“We are not voluntarily leaving,” said Zinn. “This is a forced retirement. The state gives us our insurance, they’ve always provided us with our health insurance, so now when you’re on Medicare, you’re retired and PERS says we can no longer work under PERS.”
“It picks up at the end of this year, but we’ve been forced out,” said Ferguson. “We both wanted to work through the presidential election, but that doesn’t matter to PERS. It’s crazy. If we made enough money, you can pay for your own insurance or you can put your accounts on hold. The most we probably work is 30 days. I just got a pay-check for 78 cents. It’s sad, really.”
OPERS began notifying older re-employed state, city, and county workers in April of the new insurance options. PERS has over one million members, but starting Jan. 1, 2016, the Medicare group plan will be replaced with an arrangement where employees will receive payments to buy add-on coverage of their own.
Federal healthcare laws do not allow for active public employees to participate in a standalone healthcare plan with retired workers.
“We are losing some very valuable experience here,” said BoE Director Jamie Brooks. “These ladies have been here for a long time, and they know how it all works and the ins and outs of elections. It’s sad.”
The changes will not apply to retirees younger than 65 who hold government jobs or to those 65 and older who work in the private sector or in jobs that are not covered by PERS, such as schools.
According to PERS, retirees could see an increase in their healthcare costs by up to $200 a month by 2018 if these changes had not been put into effect.
“Oh, I’ll find something to do, I’ve got grandkids and I have crafts,” said Zinn. “But I’m not happy about it.”