Thursday, March 20, 2008 | 4 p.m.
CARSON CITY – The Nevada Supreme Court has ruled that governments must provide a subsidy to help pay for health insurance coverage of their retired workers and retired school teachers.
The court's decision overturned District Judge Mark Denton's ruling that the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department does not have to subsidize health benefits for 150 retired police officers covered by the state insurance plan.
In a unanimous decision written by Justice Jim Hardesty, the court said several laws allow local government employees to join the state Public Employees’ Benefits Programs upon retirement and that local government must pay the subsidy.
The decision was a defeat for Las Vegas Metro, which negotiated its contract to include health coverage for its employees and retired workers.
About 150 retired police officers, however, continued in the state system. The police department refused to pay the monthly subsidy, which totals $1.3 million over the past four years.
Metro argued if it had to subsidize the retirees' health coverage, it would be paying twice -- first for its own policy and then to the state for the retired officers.
The court's ruling was good news for an estimated 1,900 retired school teachers from Clark County covered by a health trust negotiated while they they taught. When they retired, they joined the state system, with the school district paying the subsidy.
Today's decision opens the door for an estimated 450 local government employees who are retiring and have applied to be included in the state system. Their applications were put on hold until the court ruled.
The Legislature in 2003 passed a law to require local government employers to subsidize health care premiums of workers who retired after Oct. 1, 2003. The law also allowed local government workers to join the state system.
The state’s health insurance program began billing local government for the premiums. All local government employers except Metro paid the premiums.