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What An Angry Mob Looks Like - Reducing Healthcare Benefits of Retirees...

If you've been in HR for more than 5 years, you've been a part of what I'll call the "Great Benefits Crunch", which has forced your company to reduce overall benefit levels and/or pass along greater costs to employees.

You don't have to explain it to me.  I've had to explain those decisions to employees, and I'm aware that you didn't create the economic problem that is the "state of health care".  Sadly though, if you're in HR, you're left to explain the realities to a set of employees that doesn't feel great about costs being shifted their way.

You and I can understand that, because we're employees too.  Just because you manage the plan doesn't mean your health insurance is free. 

But being in HR means you take ownership of the employee relations side of the business, which means at times you're going to feel the laser on your back when employees vent their frustrations.

Watch the whole video below, which is one of the hardest rants about cost shifting I've ever seen captured on video...

Wow.  Did that get your attention?  Here are the details from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat:

"Convinced that the county no longer can afford spiraling health insurance premiums, Sonoma County (CA) supervisors told thousands of retirees and employees Tuesday that they will have to pay an increasing share of the cost.  Supervisors conceded their vote would be unpopular with the 2,500 retirees and 650 non-union workers who will be affected by the cost restructuring beginning in June.

Currently, the county provides non-union workers 85 percent of the premium for any plan selected, and gives retirees 85 percent of the lowest-cost premium, either for an individual or couple. Under the adopted recommendations, there will be a gradual reduction of 20 percent annually over the next five years in the county's contribution to retiree and non-union health benefits to $500 a month.

Nearly two-thirds of the 2,400 retirees would experience a drop in county contributions to their medical premiums. Those who insure dependents or who retired before age 65 are likely to see the biggest reductions. For example, an early retiree insuring a dependent under age 65 on the least expensive PPO plan is now getting $1,043 a month. That amount would be reduced by 20 percent each year until 2013 when the $500 monthly level would be reached."

I suspect retiree benefits will continue to be under pressure based on the economics of health care, as will the plans for active employees. 

I don't have the answers, but I do know this.  If you're an HR pro with 20 years left, you're going be a part of transitions and cost-shifting that spur reactions like what you see in the video above.  Brace yourself for a bumpy ride.

The employee relations portion of the HR Manager's role - it's the toughest job you'll ever love...

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