Sterling served 26 years as an
She told the city council she was forced to retire in 2013 because she was injured on the job.
That puts her among a small group of retirees under age 65 who face a 56 percent increase in monthly health insurance premiums starting
Other employee and retiree groups are looking at increases in the range of 13 percent to 16 percent.
For employees who have been told they will not get a pay raise this year, even the smaller increases in rates likely mean a cut in take-home pay.
Sterling was among 10 speakers this week who implored the council to find an alternative for the 380 retirees facing the steepest increases.
Many, but not all, are former police officers.
Sterling said she and her partner worked overtime without pay "so that we could put child predators, child murderers and child abusers in prison."
"We've given a lot to you," she said. "We gave up birthdays, we gave up holidays, we gave up time with our children and our families."
Sterling said she already pays almost
Two factors drive retiree insurance rate increases, said
Claims experience is one, he said. The other is a council policy to split costs 50-50 between the city and its retiree groups; the city currently pays a 54 percent share.
The 56 percent increase is planned for retirees covered by the city's self-funded group indemnity plans administered by
Compared to health maintenance organizations, or HMOs, and preferred provider organizations, or PPOs, indemnity plans generally give patients the greatest freedom to choose their own medical providers.
Fonda said medical claims for the small group of under-65 retirees in the indemnity plans have increased close to
The city opened a health clinic downtown as part of its attempt to control rising health care costs.
But allocating such escalating costs among such a small group puts pressure on rates.
Fonda said the city has a long-standing policy of separating various groups -- such as the under-65 retirees from those who qualify for
Police officers can retire and become eligible for retiree health insurance after 20 years of service.
Danner told the council he was looking at an increase of about
He said he had two weeks, until enrollment closes
"I'm asking that the council not blink on this issue," he said. "We stepped up and did what we had to do."
"It wouldn't be an understatement to say the effects are devastating," Nelson said.
Suggestions have included "blending" the under-65 retirees with the more than 1,000 active-duty members for insurance purposes.
Firefighters have their own insurance plan to which the city contributes; it includes provisions to help insulate retirees from sharp rate hikes. Police are looking into the idea, Nelson said.
Controlling retirees' insurance rates is a matter of priorities, he said, noting the council is moving ahead with plans for a convention center hotel that is expected to require millions in public financing.
"But right now, we don't know how it's going to turn out," he said.
"I know policemen aren't supposed to cry but this is hard for us," Sterling said, struggling as she addressed the council.
She said the officers in her generation were those who were first on the scene after the bombing of the
"We ran into that building without thinking of our safety. We ran in there to save lives," Sterling said. "That's what a warrior does."
Now, Sterling said to the council, "the thanks you give police officers" are unmanageable health insurance cost increases.
"It is shameful," she said.
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