By Patrick Anderson
PBN Staff Writer
PROVIDENCE – A state Superior Court judge has barred Providence from forcing retired police officers and firefighters to give up their private health insurance in favor of Medicare, at least until their breach-of-contract case against the city is decided.
Judge Sarah Taft-Carter said the city ordinance requiring eligible former police and firefighters to enroll in Medicare was “unreasonable” in a written decision Monday explaining her decision to grant the retirees a preliminary injunction against the city.
The injunction prevents the city from terminating the municipally-funded Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Rhode Island health care plan pending the resolution of the case.
The decision casts doubt not only on Providence’s attempt to get out from under skyrocketing retiree medical costs, but also the constitutionality of the state enabling legislation that gave cities the option of switching retirees to Medicare to relieve financial crises.
The Providence retirees’ case is also being closely watched for its implications on court challenges to other public-employee benefit reductions, including the recent changes to retirement plans in the state pension overhaul passed in the fall.