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because we are extremely affordable. With our subsidies, why should they look elsewhere?" "We are pulling back from the contribution on top of the pay-as-you-go approach," con- tinued Mason. "The dedication to this fund is there, maintaining a good plan. It's a great plan. But we have to take a look at the costs it takes to run this plan." "There are a lot of pieces to this," said Mason. "And one of the biggest pieces we need to focus on is the huge portion of retirees that are Medicare A- and B-eligible. They are on Medicare, and our plan is secondary to them. Their claims are less costly, but they are a huge portion of the OPEB's liability. We have a lot more people on Medicare than we had in the past." Perhaps, more than any other element of municipal finance, OPEB funding is a machine with many interconnected parts. Most cit- ies use a pay-as-you-go plan and ignore the unfunded liability. And perhaps with the increasing use of Medicare and healthcare exchanges, the unfunded liability is erod- ing away. Over the next several months, actuaries will look at the long-term implications of city policy variations, and insurance experts will look at the increasing multiplicity of available plans to determine if any new or even radical changes are showing up on the marketplace. Deputy City Manager Marlon Brown esti- mated it could be as late as January before any recommendations emerge from the experts trying to synthesize the city's desires with the public and private marketplace of health plans. At that time, a City Commission workshop could be scheduled for the board members to study the findings and give guid- ance to staff for possible changes in direction. Whether the commissioners realized it or not last week, taking $3.9 million from the OPEB contribution started a chain reaction with multiple consequences. One is the need to find a way to balance the city budget with- out resorting to raids on trust fund payments. Another consequence is the need, again, to evaluate long-term consequences in retiree healthcare. Mason would like to see some form of edu- cational program for the nearly 1,000 city retirees and their dependents who may be asked again to make decisions about their healthcare. "Maybe we should look at an advocate or someone to help the retirees sort through this process and choose, if we get direction to go that way. We need them to have some support. It can be overwhelming looking at all this," she added. % Search for text in stories by clicking the icon in the menubar and entering a search term. Search the current edition or all editions. QUICK TIP Search Only The Issue You Are Viewing Search All Issues Your search term here Sarasota News Leader August 1, 2014 Page 56

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