SUSSEX COUNTY, NJ- More and more states are moving to offer free health insurance to illegal immigrants. Yet when it comes to taking care of those who serve and protect… the pendulum seems to be swinging in the opposite direction.
Thanks to some recent changes to a retired police officer’s insurance plan, a man who is suffering from ALS, he will be forced to cover the costs of medication entirely out of pocket in order to delay the progress of the debilitating disease. This, after insurance dropped his support.
In response to this injustice imposed upon this hero who served his community, a fundraiser is being planned in February to help raise money for the retired officer.
In August of 2016, retired police officer Todd Duffy, 68, was diagnosed with the progressive neurodegenerative disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly abbreviated as ALS or called Lou Gehrig’s disease.
He served as the town’s D.A.R.E. officer and retired back in 2012. Due to the change in insurance coverage afforded to current officers and retirees, the medication needed to treat ALS will no longer be covered.
This past Wednesday, The Byram Township Council said they are working to fix the issue and are assisting with grievances against the new insurer. There’s actively a GoFundMe available for Duffy as well.
Members from the PBA 138, as well as the Sussex County Police Athletic League, the Byram Township Fire Department and Lakeland Emergency Squad are hosting a fundraising event next month to help Duffy with the costs associated with his medication.
The event will consist of a $50-a-plate beefsteak benefit dinner and various raffles, and will take place on February 15th in the Richards Building at the Sussex County Fairgrounds from 6:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.
Promotion for the event gained immediate attention when an unsigned Facebook post on December 31st shared information on the fundraiser, while also being critical of the township for changing the insurance carriers:
“(Duffy) is in desperate need of medication that was denied to him after a unilateral insurance change by an unappreciative and uncaring employer, the Township of Byram.
Seeking to save money, Todd’s benefits were changed without his consent or any consideration for his health and welfare.”
Mayor Alex Rubenstein wasn’t thrilled about the way the post had framed the situation, going so far as to claim the manner it was relayed was inaccurate.
He stated that the township had moved to the New Jersey State Healthcare Benefits Plan, which created issues with a number of police retirees. Rubenstein acknowledged that four of the retirees, including Duffy, were found to have valid claims regarding the insurance issues.
Rubenstein released a statement this past Wednesday addressing the matter:
“First and foremost, the township is in support of the fundraising efforts for Mr. Duffy. The township and its officials are aware that there may be expenses that are accumulating related to Mr. Duffy’s condition that would not be covered by health insurance.”
The mayor said that the township made adjustments to the insurance packages endowed to police and retirees after negotiating new labor contracts with each union in the township, including the PBA:
“The PBA has always been supportive, and even desirous to move to the State Healthcare Benefits Plan. We are simply showing that this was not a unilateral, uncaring move by the township, but instead the result of the agreement of all parties – the employer and the employees.”
Rubenstein made reference to a letter from the PBA dated December 10th, 2018 that had urged for a move to the state plan. Still, the mayor said he is working alongside the retirees who hold legitimate grievances with the switch and has aided in scheduling mediation hearings in the coming weeks.
He noted that officials within the township have spent countless hours assisting Duffy during this transition and that they’re looking to settle the matter as quickly as possible.
While Mayor Rubenstein wasn’t able to divulge much about the matters related to Duffy’s case due to privacy laws, he did detail the following:
“We have communicated directly with the family of the retiree, and we have given them guidance on how to navigate resolving the issue.
We have even met with the director of the SHBP to advocate for the retiree. However, as with any healthcare plan, the patient is subject to certain procedures that must be followed.”
If you’re interested in attending the event slated for next month, you can contact the following people for tickets: John Donofrio, 973-219-3220; Bob Tierney, 973-647-5295; Mickey Kaylani, 973-460-6426; John Hebble, 201-787-4797; and Peg Reiber, 973-945-9931.
Let’s not forget what happened in New Jersey back in November. That was when the state started contemplating the elimination of healthcare benefits for certain emergency responders. The New Jersey State Policeman’s Benevolent Association took to Facebook to rally the troops in opposition.
Join us to protest the elimination of retiree health benefits in West Orange. The West Orange PBA and SOA have asked for statewide assistance at a rally to protest the ratification of a local fire department contract that will eliminate retiree health benefits for new hires and make them ineligible for Chapter 330.
***CALL TO ACTION***
RALLY TO PROTEST THE END OF HEALTH BENEFITS FOR RETIREES
Tuesday – November 12 6pm
West Orange Township Hall
— New Jersey State PBA (@NJSPBA) November 9, 2019
President Patrick Colligan said:
“This is a dangerous step, to remove health care for people who most need it makes no sense. The impact of the decision West Orange will make Tuesday will forever change its community.
They will have higher turnover of personnel and be known as a place you start a career, but never stay. Staffing levels will be difficult to maintain, and the quality of service may diminish.
Cost will increase for basic training and overtime as people continuously leave. Please join us at this critical rally to send a message our benefits are sacred.”
According the PBA, here is the pertinent backstory.
West Orange PBA and SOA have proposed returning the town to the NJ State Health Benefits Plan, which would save the town approximately $4 million dollars. But Mayor Robert Parisi, who is an insurance broker by profession, is more interested in supporting his industry than doing what is right.
In 2012 the state estimated that counties and municipalities could save $100 million by switching to the State Health Benefits Plan, which pays no broker commissions. If counties, municipalities and school districts would institute competitive bidding and bar insurance brokers from getting paid a percentage by the firms they recommend.
Simply put, this is a giveaway to the insurance industry at the expense of the health of West Orange police, fire and public employees.
In an article from New Jersey Spotlight, information details the amount of money lost by municipalities because they use high-priced brokers to manage their insurance plans.
And to State Comptroller Matthew Boxer and Citizens Campaign Chairman Harry Pozycki, it’s a simple question: Why are New Jersey’s county and municipal governments and school districts spending tens of millions of property tax dollars unnecessarily on high-priced insurance plans and broker fees?
In a report done by Boxer’s office, they concluded that the 14 counties and 217 municipalities not participating in the State Health Benefits Plan could save taxpayers $100 million by switching to the state plan, which pays no commission to insurance brokers and averages just 1 percent in administrative overhead, compared with 15 percent in the private market.
“Since the broker’s profit often is directly related to the amount of insurance premiums or fees the LGU [local government unit] pays, there are conflicting incentives for brokers in seeking lower-cost healthcare alternatives,” Boxer noted.
According to the spotlight: Pozycki pegs the potential savings at more than $200 million if counties, municipalities and school districts would institute competitive bidding and bar insurance brokers from getting paid a percentage by the firms they recommend.
It’s also creates a politically sensitive question, because the biggest name in the insurance brokerage business for local governments is George Norcross, the South Jersey Democratic power broker and often ally of Republican Gov. Chris Christie.
Norcross’s firm, Conner Strong & Buckelew, is by all accounts, the biggest player in New Jersey’s local government insurance market, and could have the most to lose if Boxer’s and Pozycki’s recommendations to adopt the low-cost State Health Benefits Plan by municipalities, counties, and school districts forced to look harder for cost savings because of the new 2 percent spending cap.
The New Jersey PBA is not the only one actively fighting for benefits. Back in May, we shared the following story from New York.
Officers are getting hurt on the job and the NYPD is denying officers coverage for the injuries, according to a police union head.
That’s what they’re suing over.
Police Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch filed the petition in Manhattan Supreme Court against the New York Police Department.
He says it’s because they have a “practice of denying NYPD police officers…line of duty benefits without providing those Police Officers with any written reason or explanation for denying them this vital statutory benefit.”
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And that obviously creates huge problems when cops’ applications and appeals are turned down. It means they are responsible for co-pays and deductibles from their private insurance. It also makes them vulnerable to lawsuits and can affect future applications for disability retirement, according to the argument in the court documents.
They’re also said to be left at a disadvantage when appealing because the cops don’t have explanations for the denials. And according to the PBA, that leaves the association responsible for the costs investigating the reasons for the denials, the lawsuit claims.
“The PBA has uncovered mistakes by the NYPD in denying LOD [line of duty] applications, mistakes which would have otherwise gone uncorrected if the reasons for the denials had not been diligently pursued by the PBA,” the court papers say.
In March, the PBA made a formal demand to NYPD Deputy Inspector of the Medical Division Nicole Papamichael and Deputy Commissioner of Labor Relations John Beirne for the NYPD to start this long overdue practice.
But according to court documents, it hasn’t yet received a response.
A “police source” told the New York Post that officers can ask over the phone for the reason for their benefits denial. That “source” said it’s preferred to a written explanation because of privacy concerns.
That lawsuit names the city, the NYPD, Papamichael and Beirne as defendants.
“We will review the lawsuit once we are served.”
That was the only comment from a spokesperson with the Law Department said.
NYPD spokesman Phil Walzak said, “We will review the litigation.”
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