Retirees Pack Room for Hearing on HB 1591

We Need All Members to Ask Your Senator to Reject HB 1591

Retirees wait in line to sign in at a hearing for HB 1591 on Tuesday.

People wait in line to sign in at a hearing for HB 1591 on Tuesday.

On Tuesday, retired state employees packed a State House hearing room for a public hearing of HB 1591, which would force state retirees who turn 65 after the end of June to continue contributing to their health care when they would normally stop at age 65.

HB 1591, which was one of three very similar pieces of legislation, was approved by the House last month. All three pieces of legislation aimed to put the burden for a funding shortfall for retiree health benefits squarely on the shoulders of retired state employees living on fixed incomes. The hearing room on Tuesday was crowded with retirees, with some forced to stand to the sides and back. Chapter 1 member Jackie Teague was one of those retirees in attendance, and she also testified toward the end of the hearing.

“Basically, what I said was that the longer ago a person retired, the lower their salary was and the lower their pension is now,” said Sprague, who worked for the Department of Education. “To ask older retirees to make monthly payments is a severe hardship, especially with no cost-of-living adjustment. If we were keeping up, it’d be one thing, but no COLA in years, we’re not.”

Pauline Chabot, a Chapter 1 member who retired from the Department of Health and Human Services, was also at the hearing Tuesday. After the hearing, she said this bill fits into what’s been a continuing pattern.

“This seems to be part of a broader agenda to reduce what states pay for when it comes to benefits and services, and to do it they’re willing to hurt the people who are least able to afford it,” she said.

It was clear during the hearing that retirees have been reaching out to legislators in opposition to this bill, but we need to keep the phone calls and emails coming. You can find your senator’s information here:

The House is currently considering SB 495, which became a Senate compromise to fill the same shortfall that HB 1591 aims to fill. The House Finance Committee held a work session on the bill on Tuesday and will hold another next Tuesday. We’ll bring you an update on that bill when we get one.

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