New law requires retired, part-time Lake County workers to be terminated
CROWN POINT — Dozens of Lake County employees who have retired, then returned to work part-time for the county, are being shown the door as of Monday.
About 30 individuals who are age 65 and older are being terminated because of an insurance issue. Employees who receive Medicare as their primary medical coverage and supplemental insurance through Aetna can’t remain employed under a provision in the Affordable Care Act that takes effect Oct. 1.
Tom Dabertin, county human resources consultant, said he understands many of the roughly 30 employees affected by the provision in the Affordable Care Act that requires them to lose their jobs are upset. Under the act, full-time employees who retire and come back to work for that same employer while receiving a Medicare supplement are not able to work for that same employer.
“The problem is we really don’t have any choice. The law is the law,” Dabertin said.
Employees affected received notice about a month ago that their last day on the job would be Monday.
“It would have been nice if they would have had a sit-down meeting with us to explain things,” said Chuck Collins, a retired Lake County police officer with 30 years of experience who returned to work as a court security officer. About 12 years ago, then-Lake Superior Court Judge Richard Maroc offered Collins a part-time bailiff position. After his wife became sick with cancer and later died, Collins came back as a bailiff.
Danny Sebben, a part-time bailiff in Judge Diane Ross Boswell’s courtroom, retired as a Lake County police officer, worked for the U.S. Marshals Service, and worked at the fairgrounds both part-time and full-time. He also served as New Chicago police chief for eight years before Boswell asked him to consider working in her courtroom.
“I think this is wrong,” Sebben said. “I think they’re discriminating against us,” noting the letter he received from Dabertin targets those 65 and older.
Dennis Tobin, another in the group of employees being terminated, said about five years ago he was urged to go from full-time to part-time employment to save the county money for insurance coverage. “Now they say because you’re part-time and you used to be full-time, you can’t work here,” said Tobin, the county payroll clerk.
Dabertin said county employees over the age of 65 were given the option in 2008, 2009 and 2010 to retire, drop out of the county insurance program and opt into Medicare, and return to work for the county part-time. The average part-timer works about three days a week.
Employees were informed at the time of their options through meetings and letters and had to sign an agreement they understood their options if they chose to participate in the retirement program, he said.
“The fact is every employee was asked to sign an agreement they understood there was no guarantee of part-time employment,” Dabertin said.
The only way these employees could continue working for the county is if they were to be hired back full-time and returned to the self-insurance pool, Dabertin said.
Not all county employees over the age of 65 are affected by the law. Dabertin said the county has nearly 100 employees older than 65 who did not opt to retire and return part-time. Those employees remain in the county’s insurance pool and do not participate in Medicare, so they can keep their jobs.