A System In Need Of Reform

There’s something disturbing about the fact that, at a time when state Senate Democrats want to expand health insurance coverage to undocumented immigrants, we hear from City Council members that some retired Jamestown city employees can’t afford their insurance.

Jamestown officials certainly aren’t off-base in creating a policy to guide situations in which retirees aren’t paying their monthly health care premiums. As proposed during a recent work session, Mayor Kim Ecklund and her administrative team are proposing a 2% fee for payments received 31 days or more after a bill is received. Employees and retirees who do not pay in a timely fashion could have their health insurance canceled on the first day of the third month if their premium isn’t paid. Individuals who are canceled from the city’s health care plan due to non-payment shall not be eligible for reinstatement.

More interestingly, the city is proposing a hardship review for employees on a case-by-case basis. It’s good there is a hardship review, because we have a feeling the cases of city retirees having a hard time paying for their insurance is probably due to hardship, not forgetfulness or frivolous spending. The real question becomes what the city does if it doesn’t want to end insurance coverage for city retirees struggling to make ends meet.

That’s why we mention the state Senate’s approval of a plan to expand Medicaid coverage to at least 240,000 undocumented immigrants. We are not saying the state shouldn’t help undocumented immigrants, but we know retirees – both those on city insurance plans and those on other plans – are struggling. The state already spends billions on Medicare, EPIC and Medicaid, but there are still senior citizens who have lived here and worked here their entire lives before retiring here who are struggling to afford health care. We’d imagine, if the state has found change in its couch cushions to sign up 240,000 non-state residents for health care, that the state can scrounge up something for retirees facing cancellation of their health care coverage when hardships arise.

After all, the justification for helping senior citizens is the same for helping undocumented immigrants. Preventative health care is less expensive than emergency room visits whether you arrived in the country in the past two years or have lived here your entire life.

What message are state senators who approve extending free health care to undocumented immigrants sending to those seniors who make the monthly choice between paying health care premiums or other bills? If the state has freed up money, we’d suggest helping those who have paid state taxes their entire lives.


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