You Paid For It: Taxpayers fund 'triple dipping' for some officials who leave office
Albany/Rochester, N.Y. (WHAM) - New York taxpayers are paying for health insurance - twice.
They pay once for their own families, then again to subsidize state workers and elected officials. This happens after those officials leave office, even after they leave their public job for a private one.
"I definitely feel like it's something that needs to be changed," Kayla Matthews told 13 WHAM's Jane Flasch.
Matthews is a full-time student who works part-time and can't afford her health insurance premiums.
At midnight on December 31st of last year, Maggie Brooks left her position as Monroe County Executive. The next month, she became a vice president at the Regional Transit Service.
"I'm going to help a CEO who has a great vision," Brooks told reporters.
Brooks filed papers with the state to rescind her retirement which she had applied for late in 2015. On those papers, she indicated her new salary is $114,000 a month or $54 an hour. Yet taxpayers - many of whom earn significantly less - still subsidize her health insurance.
Brooks did not respond to 13WHAM News' repeated requests for an interview.
What Brooks is doing is legal. New York allows elected officials and some public employees to keep their health insurance when they retire or move on to another job.
Former Lieutenant Governor Robert Duffy now heads the Rochester Chamber of Commerce. He is currently collecting a $70,000-a-year, tax-free pension from his years as a Rochester Police Officer. He has also kept the same health insurance subsidized by taxpayers.
While it is unclear what Duffy earns in his new position at the Rochester Chamber of Commerce, the most recent tax documents available indicate his predecessor earned nearly $365,000 a year.
Duffy did not respond to our request for an interview.
But in New York, he is allowed to retain the insurance benefit while "double-dipping" - collecting both a pension and a salary.
"I feel like if they're making that much money, they're the ones that can afford health insurance," Matthews said.
She lost her health insurance in January and worries about getting sick or hurt.
"There was one time I wanted to go to the ER because I was in a lot of pain, but I didn't go," Matthews said.
So what are those taxpayer-subsidized benefits worth?
For a public employee at the highest level, taxpayers pay $681 each month for single coverage. That's a benefit of $8,100 each year carried straight through to retirement.
Assemblyman Mark Johns (R-Perinton) said the policy dates back to the 1960s when manufacturers like Kodak paid generous wages and benefits. He said the public sector had to find a way to compete.
"The reality is that government workers were paid less and that they were offered a benefit at the end," Johns said.
These benefits don't end at age 65. Once retirees become eligible for Medicare, taxpayers pick up the Part B premiums and even pay for Medigap coverage.
According to a study by the Empire Center, the future cost of these insurance benefits is over $200 billion.
"That needs to be changed. They need to pay more out of pocket," said Matthews.
Assemblyman Johns agrees.
"They could do a means testing. If someone's making $100,000 they could say, 'Hey, look you've got to pay for your own,'" Johns said.
When asked why we aren't already doing that, Johns responded, "There's a lot of inertia down in Albany. We can't even get most bills to the floor for a vote."