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TOOELE — Tooele County commissioners are working to fill their $4-million shortfall, and the latest plan is a major blow to dozens of current and former employees.
Health insurance will be cut for every county employee who is retired or planning to retire.
"You don't balance your budget on the backs of employees," said retired county employee Harry Shinton.
Shinton spoke to KSL in November when county commissioners made a second round of layoffs. He retired from the sheriff's office in hopes of saving another employee's position.
You don't balance your budget on the backs of employees.
–Harry Shinton, retired county employee
He left with 36 years of work under his belt, earning him seven years of free county health insurance.
"Less than six months later I'm told, ‘no, we're not going to do that,'" he said.
For every five years worked, Shinton earned one year of health insurance. But the letter he received from the county last week changed all that.
Dental and life insurance will be eliminated entirely as a benefit for all retirees effective July 1.
This means three things: employees will not receive free health insurance once they retire, current retirees will have to pay 25 percent — or $114 a month — of their premium to continue their insurance, and once a retiree reaches Medicare eligibility they can no longer receive benefits from the county.
- Employees will not receive free health insurance once they retire
- Current retirees will have to pay 25 percent — or $114 a month — of their premium to continue their insurance
- Once a retiree reaches Medicare eligibility they can no longer receive benefits from the county
Wade Matthews, spokesman for the county commissioners, said current employees have until May 30 to act.
"Because of the policy change they'll have to make a decision to retire to get that benefit or to continue working and lose that benefit," he said.
Out of the current retirees, 38 will lose health insurance because they qualify for Medicare. Twenty four will have to pay a quarter of the cost.
Shinton said when he decided to retire a few months ago, paying for health insurance wasn't in his budget.
"On a fixed income, the retirement doesn't change just because you may have some problems," he said.
A meeting will be held Tuesday for all employees and retirees to break down what these changes mean for them. Matthews said there is no long-term solution in place. Instead, they're looking at the financial situation on a day-by-day basis.