WAYNE CO., Mich. (WJBK) - Ronald Olszewski is a former Wayne County Sheriff's Department Lieutenant. He, and around 50 others who put their lives on the line, were injured on the job and forced to retire, and are now faced with the harsh reality that will not be the case.
Facing a financial emergency, Wayne County Executive Warren Evans decided to cut retiree health care coverage. Instead, a monthly stipend based on the person's household income and the federal help they are able to receive is being offered.
“When I went off on duty disability I was told you would have medical coverage for life,” Olszewski says. “My medical cost right now, I've been given an estimate, is $1,362 a month for the family plan. I was told my stipend will be $450."
And that amount is even lower for Bob Elliott, a former deputy who broke his back on the job 10 years ago. Chronic pain prevents him from working. He'll only get $100 a month.
While some retirees like Olszewski will qualify for Medicare in about a year, Elliott has no way to offset those costs.
“We're at the point where a hit like this equates to 30 percent of your monthly cash revenue. How are you supposed to adjust for that?” asks Olszewski.
At the same time duty disabled are preparing for the worst, we've learned Wayne County commissioners have just voted to give themselves and about 80 other elected officials and appointees lifetime medical benefits.
‘It's ridiculous,” says Olszewski.
Although County Commissioner Chair Gary Woronchak calls the cuts to the duty disabled a disservice, he claims commissioners only had the power to save their own, and other employees who were promised the post-employment benefits before 2011.
Revoking that coverage, Woronchak claims, would result in costly lawsuits costing the county even more.
But those who were injured on the job are not convinced, feeling in the end that they are the ones getting the raw deal.
“It's the elitism that unfortunately the county has moved to with our elected officials. We are no longer public service. We are here for self-gratification; everybody takes care of themselves,” says Olszewski.
In response, James Canning, the Director of Communications for the Wayne County Executive, issued this statement. In reads, in part:
"We are grateful for the dedicated years of service Wayne County retirees provided to our citizens and understand their disappointment in the changes to the county's medical plan, but this shared sacrifice was needed to manage Wayne County's financial emergency."
Fox 2's Taryn Asher reports Wayne County Commissioner Gary Woronchak told her by phone that those steep cuts may not have been necessary.
The county is expected to receive $200 million from its tax revolving fund, which is expected to pay off the deficit and create a budget surplus even.
The county is trying to assure these people there is affordability and help through the Affordable Care Act, but those FOX 2 spoke to say it just isn't enough.