Retired state employees want prescription drug benefits restored

Maryland

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WDVM) — A rally was held in the rain at the Maryland State House on Wednesday. Retired state employees feel they have been shortchanged by having their prescription drug benefits taken from them.

Thousands of state employees feel they’ve been cheated. They want Annapolis to restore what they say has been unfairly denied them.

Former Governor Martin O’Malley reworked the prescription drug benefit for retired state employees in 2011 so it would default to the federal Medicare program, effectively denying them a benefit they say they earned when they signed up to work in state government. This affected state police, corrections officers and thousands of others in a broad range of functions for the State of Maryland.

Delegate Lauren Arikan from Baltimore and Harford counties is the Deputy Minority Whip in the House and is fighting to protect the state’s benefits.

“There was a budget item and it stripped away their prescription drug coverage,” Arikan explained. “It was kind of a backroom situation. There was no sort of public input permitted and many of the retirees had no idea.”

Disabled state retirees like Ken Fitch from White Marsh in Baltimore County say their choice to work for the state is a tradeoff that they opted for: lower earnings in return for benefits which can be better than those in the private sector.

“This is something we worked for,” said Fitch. “This is something that we were promised. We took furlough days. This is what you work for the state for. We made lower wages.”

And Fitch says he and his fellow state retirees aren’t asking for anything that wasn’t already promised them when they signed up to work for the State of Maryland.

“We’re not asking for a handout,” says Fitch. “This is what we worked for.”

Delegate Arakin is behind the retirees and is working hard on their behalf.

“Look,” Arikan said. “We made a promise when these people signed up to do state work. People don’t have to do that. They can go to private industry. They chose the state because there are supposed to be good benefits in your retirement.

Although many are eager for relief from the General Assembly, it may be next year before they see any relief.

While the General Assembly decides if it will restore the prescription drug benefits, the retirees are working through the courts to prevent the O’Malley administration benefit cuts from taking effect.

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