Time to step up Retiree Group Hopes to Reach Its Fundraising Goal

 

 

By The Independent 3/11/10

 

The UC Livermore Lab Retiree Group is approaching its financial goal of raising enough money to begin legal action to try to restore membership in University of California health plans. It needs a final push to reach its target of $150,000, according to group leaders.

 

    “We are close but not there yet,” said Joe Requa, founder of the organization.  “We have about $125,000 now, with more coming in.  I’m hopeful, because members have voted overwhelmingly to support legal action. It really isn’t certain that we can collect that last $25,000 to make legal action possible.

 

    “This is the time for people to step up who are planning to do so.”

 

    The group’s attorneys believe its legal case is sound. However, it will be necessary to take the University to court to discover documents that reveal a trail of health care policies and contractual decisions that evolved over decades and were changed only recently.

 

    Legal action has always been a last resort for the retirees group, which has petitioned the University for reinstatement to health plans, appealed to the UC Board of Regents, met with UC General Counsel and secured a promise from newly elected representative John Garamendi to form a committee to investigate the health care situation.

 

    None of these approaches has been successful.  Most recently, Garamendi communicated his change of heart on forming the investigative committee, although he emphasized his interest in pursuing other means of reaching an accommodation.

 

    The Retiree Group expects to file for non-profit status by the end of March, Requa said.  The Group’s website, with more information and instructions on contributing, is http://llnlretiree.com

 

    Lawrence Livermore Lab employees and retirees were part of UC group health coverage under a succession of contracts that began in 1952 and ended at the beginning of 2008, when a for-profit contractor took over Laboratory management from University of California.  The new contract specified benefits “substantially equivalent” to UC’s group plans, but the contract wording was changed a year later under circumstances that have never been explained to retirees.

 

    Retirees contend that the new health arrangements have come across as a patchwork of plans that appear to abandon individual retirees to fend for themselves in a complex and uncaring system.  Retirees share painful stories with one another about former colleagues or their spouses who have been unable to obtain service from the health consulting firms that now separate retirees from the Laboratory and University that once took an interest in their welfare.

 

    Their unhappiness has been exacerbated by inconsistent and sometimes poor communication, with incorrect written instructions from health consultants and hours spent on the phone sometimes ending in dropped calls or conflicting advice from different operators.

 

    Not all retirees report dissatisfaction in the current year.  Some are paying no more for health care than in the past.  However, concern remains for the future, that being forced out of UC group plans and into individual plans will make them vulnerable to rapid price hikes or even to being dropped as they age and require more care.