Cuts to pension plan benefit coverage criticized

Pensioners, union members urged to fight Liberal’s Pharmacare offloading scheme

Retirees and active members of the Municipal Pension Plan (MPP) were out in force Nov. 2 in a number of B.C. communities to show their opposition to the huge offloading of Pharmacare costs by the Campbell government on to the backs of pensioners.

In Vancouver and four other B.C. communities, hundreds of health care and municipal workers and retirees were attending the first ever general meeting of the MPP, which also gave them the opportunity to raise their concerns with a decision taken by pension plan trustees at the end of October to increase benefit costs for those receiving pensions from the plan.

HEU spokesperson Chris Allnutt says that our union’s representative on the MPP board of trustees voted against the benefit changes, which will be implemented if the Campbell government offloads $400 million in drug coverage costs onto B.C. seniors and families.

The Liberals have served notice that they will implement the cut effective Jan. 1 through a new income-testing scheme that will mean that all but the poorest seniors will pay significantly more for drug costs.

Allnutt says that under the current provisions that unions have fought hard to win for their retired members, the pension plan picks up significant benefit costs for qualifying pensioners, including 75 per cent of dental premiums, and the costs of extended health benefits with a limited $25 deductible.

But under the changes provisionally approved to offset Liberal offloading, retirees will have to pay a $100 deductible, and cover out of pocket 25 per cent of the premium costs for extended health benefits. Other changes were also implemented that will mean seniors living on modest pensions will be forced to pay more.

While Allnutt is critical of the changes, he says the fault lies squarely at the feet of the Campbell government. And, he points out that the pension plan trustees will review their decision if a campaign led by seniors to oppose the Pharmacare cuts succeeds in forcing the Liberals to back off their plan. He encourages pensioners to phone the MPP find out how they will be impacted and to voice their concerns about the benefit plan cuts.

And he also calls on all HEU retirees, and the parents and older family members of current union members to get out and support the November 26 rally in Victoria being organized by seniors groups.

MPP EXTENDED HEALTH

Now:

  • $25 deductible
  • Most retirees covered 100% for premiums
  • Out-of-country coverage
  • Coverage for B.C. residents only
  • $40,000 lifetime maximum
  • No cap on massage therapy or physiotherapy

If Campbell’s cuts go through January 1:

  • $100 deductible
  • Retirees will pay at least 25% of premiums
  • No out-of-country coverage
  • Coverage for Canadian residents only
  • $100,000 lifetime maximum
  • Massage therapy and physiotherapy capped at $600, combined

MPP DENTAL

Now:

  • 75% reimbursement
  • Most retirees covered 100% for premiums
  • Out-of-country coverage
  • Coverage for B.C. residents only
  • Six-month recall (for cleaning, checkups, etc.)

If Campbell’s cuts go through January 1:

  • 70% reimbursement
  • Retirees will pay at least 25% of premiums
  • No out-of-country coverage
  • Coverage for Canadian residents only
  • Once-a-year recall
  •