Since 1983, the city of Duluth, Minn., has been promising free lifetime health care to all of its retired workers, their spouses and their children up to age 26. No one really knew how much it would cost. Three years ago, the city decided to find out.Thousands and thousands of jurisdictions across America have made similar promises to their government employees.
It took an actuary about three months to identify all the past and current city workers who qualified for the benefits. She tallied their data by age, sex, previous insurance claims and other factors. Then she estimated how much it would cost to provide free lifetime care to such a group.
The total came to about $178 million, or more than double the city's operating budget. And the bill was growing.
"Then we knew we were looking down the barrel of a pretty high-caliber weapon," said Gary Meier, Duluth's human resources manager, who attended the meeting where the actuary presented her findings.
Mayor Herb Bergson was more direct. "We can't pay for it," he said in a recent interview. "The city isn't going to function because it's just going to be in the health care business."
Stephen T. McElhaney, an actuary and principal at Mercer Human Resources, a benefits consulting firm that advises states and local governments, estimated that the national total could be $1 trillion. "This is a huge liability," said Jan Lazar, an independent benefits consultant in Lansing, Mich. "If anybody understands it, they'll freak out."Oops.
Gee, I wonder how well my Mom's pension and health insurance plans are funded. She was a school librarian in Wake County, North Carolina for most of her career.
The Next Retirement Time Bomb - New York Times