Lab Retirees: Funds Raised, Legal Action To Start

                         

                     

By The Independent

 

    The UC Livermore Lab Retiree Group has raised enough money to begin legal efforts to try to regain membership in University of California health plans, group leader Joe Requa announced.

 

    He said that a formal contract will come first.  “Lawyers work on court time, which seems to run much slower than real time, so there may be a short delay before that (legal action) happens,” he wrote in an email.

 

    The financial target was $150,000, which attorneys told the retiree group would be needed to support the initial phase of the legal effort.  The target has now been reached, prompting Requa to joke that he should be able to proclaim “mission accomplished” as President Bush famously did seven years ago — only to see the Iraq war continue for years more.

 

    The legal effort will also be a continuing one and in time may require still more funds, Requa said.  “Unfortunately, we just won one battle. I expect the war to persist for some time so I will need your continued help.” 

 

    The retiree group’s law firms are developing strategy now.  First steps are likely to involve opening a court case aimed at uncovering documents and policy statements that bear on the decision to remove Lawrence Livermore Lab retirees from UC group health coverage.

 

    The retirees were covered by the University’s group plans 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. However, the contract wording was changed a year later under circumstances that have never been explained to retirees.

 

    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 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.

 

    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.