Health insurance change hitting Detroit retirees hard

Detroit's grand bargain is dealing a blow to some city workers and retirees.

Under the deal retirees can't be covered on their spouse's health insurance if the spouse still works for the city.

It is another cut many families can't afford.

Shannon Dekun knew getting out of Detroit's bankruptcy wouldn't be easy. And as a member of the Detroit police Department,  they would have to take cuts. But this one she didn't know about until she received an email from the city saying congratulations her benefits had changed. 

She learned it was not for the better.

"I might lose my house," Dekun said. "The fact that they eliminated my husband simply because he was a policeman who retired from Detroit, is just unfathomable to me. I don't understand."

And it's not just the Detroit Police Department. The benefits department sent out the letter to all city employees.

It says if you are a retiree and you are married to another city employee who is actively working, you are no longer covered by their insurance.

Alicia Terry Phillips retired from the police department after 19 years. She has no idea how they are going to make ends meet, when she is no longer on her husband's family plan.

"I was devastated," she said. "We are paying $200 a month for the family plan for myself, my husband and our kids. I'm part of the family, why wouldn't I be covered. 

"If i worked anywhere else, I would be covered under his insurance."

Mark Young who represents the Detroit Police Lieutenants and Sergeants Association, says now that the city is emerging from bankruptcy, they plan to fight this every step of the way.

"We are seeing litigation," he said. "My members are paying for family coverage, therefore  they should be able to carry their families. We go out there every day, we protect thousands of lives every day. 

"All we are asking for is to make sure our spouses and our kids are covered."

FOX 2 has learned the city is fielding dozens of calls about the insurance change. 

FOX 2 spoke to the city's chief of staff about whether there is a possibility this would change.

Alexis Wiley said they are looking into it, but most likely no. The city is bound by the plan of adjustment, but she added the city will look into it.

"Our only crime is we retired from the city of Detroit," Phillips said.

To help ease the burden, the city said in this letter they would give retirees $120 a month to put toward their insurance they now have to purchase on their own. 

Shannon Dekun and her husband who suffers from chronic heart failure -  who has a new health plan with deductibles -  coverage is expected to cost them thousands of dollars a year. As a result, the small stipend does not even scratch the surface, she said.

"My husband worked very hard for this department," Dekun said. "He did what he was supposed to do. We've both been great employees and this is our reward. I really appreciate it."
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