Senator Joe Robach Sponsors Bill To Ensure Health Care For Kodak Retirees
On May 8th, the New York State Senate passed a bill aimed at providing a safety net for the employees and retirees of Eastman Kodak, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection earlier this year. The bill (Senate Bill S.6740), sponsored by Senator Joe Robach of Rochester, would authorize the approval of a demonstration program to provide group health insurance coverage for former employees of a major New York-based employer.
The safety net provided by the bill would do much to mitigate the uncertainty faced by the employees and retirees of the company. Shortly after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in January, Kodak, a major employer headquartered in Rochester, NY, asked a federal court for permission to cut health care benefits for thousands of its retirees. If these health benefits were to be eliminated, retirees under the age of 65 would become uninsured. Many of these former employees are unable to afford to purchase coverage in the private pay market, and would be left without any coverage at all.
Although the company has withdrawn the motion for the time being, the threat of cut medical coverage still persists. Kodak, still looking to drastically cut costs in order to come out of bankruptcy protection successfully, may revisit its push to cut retiree benefits following a “comprehensive review of existing retiree medical and survivor benefits.” In other words, while medical benefits will remain the same for now, retirees still face uncertainty for the future.
In order to safeguard Kodak’s retirees against the possibility of cut healthcare benefits, Senator Joe Robach’s bill would create a health insurance demonstration program wherein an eligible insurance company would provide group health insurance coverage for former employees of a major New York-based employer. In effect, this program would grant Kodak retirees access to group health insurance at a reasonable rate, while still meeting the solvency requirements, benefit mandates, and other obligations required by state law.
Emphasizing the necessity of the bill, Senator Robach said, “Retirees are worried that sooner or later, they will be without the health care benefits that they previously received from Kodak. This legislation will help put these retirees at ease by providing them a safety net and creating and approving a program to ensure continued health coverage.”
The bill, which passed the New York State Senate with unanimous support, will now head to the New York State Assembly for approval.