“It really caught them off guard,” Retirees brace for 56% insurance rate hike

OKLAHOMA CITY - Oklahoma City has more than 550 retired employees.

More than half are facing a jaw dropping rate increase.

“They will be paying between $1,500 to $1,700 a month now just for their retiree insurance. These are people on fixed income. That’s over half their retiree check,” said John George.

As president of the police union in Oklahoma City, he’s taken several calls from retired police officers worried they won’t be able to afford health care.

The highest increase is for retirees under the age of 65 with a Blue Cross Blue Shield plan.

Roughly 380 families are facing a 56 percent hike starting in January of 2017.

"Everybody knows the cost of insurance is going up every year, but 56 percent is unheard of. It really caught them off guard. I think it's going to force officers to stay here longer," George said.

Or, for those already retired, to get back into the workforce.

"This job's not made for 60-year-olds to run around and do, but it's going to force officers to stay around just for the insurance," he said.

Oklahoma City officials said the rate hike is based on several factors.

"This group has had some chronic medical conditions, and there’s been some ongoing large cases in the last 12 months. Prescription drug claims have been high. Their cost are like 80 percent higher than what they are the year before," said Colin Fonda, Oklahoma City Benefits Manager.

Those factors, along with the small size of the group, drives up the price.

"The cost is going to be there for 2017. It's a policy decision. The money has to come from some bucket. This is what we expect to spend for this particular group."

An amount he said is set by elected officials and the city manager.

The cost of the policy is shared between the city and retirees.

But, George said some might feel it a little deeper with retirees seeing no increase in payouts in almost 10 years.

"So, essentially, their paychecks have been less and less for the past 8-10 years, and now you are talking about a 56 percent increase in health insurance. That’s why it is so devastating," George said.

City officials are recommending retirees look into an alternate plan the city offers.

It has a higher deductible and a different prescription plan with higher co-pay.

Also, the city has an employee medical center with an onsite clinic that retirees can go to.

They are able to see a doctor and get some prescriptions at no cost.

City officials said that could help to offset the rate hike.