When fixed costs spiral for elders and others with disabilities on fixed incomes, they go without basic needs such as food, shelter and medical attention. During 35-plus years in public and non-profit service, I saw people routinely cut food budgets or divide Meals on Wheels lunches into three meals to make it through a day. They skipped medications and avoided doctor visits because of co-pays. Poor nutrition and inadequate preventative health care resulted in higher insurance costs.
The OPEB (Other Post-Employment Benefits) committee worked hard on recommendations to selectmen. Town officials chose to carry an unfunded liability for years. Retirees and current employees offered solutions but were turned down. State Sen. Barbara L’Italien, D-Andover, acted on constituent requests to support state budget Amendment 91 which would allow time to create a policy solution reasonable for all parties.
Approximately 34 percent of Andover retiree pension amounts are at, or below, federal poverty guidelines. Approximately 27 percent of Andover retirees are veterans. Andover retirees have always paid their share of health insurance premiums, planning their retirement on the reasonable expectation of paying a certain percentage of the costs. The selectmen’s plan shifts the town’s unpaid past costs to retirees resulting in serious, potentially harmful, consequences.
Andover can do better. All vested parties need to work together to formulate a solution that shares the burden in a reasonable and caring way. Budget Amendment 91 will give everyone in the Commonwealth time to address this important and serious policy decision.
14 Morton St., Andover