Senator Joe Robach’s Kodak Retiree Healthcare Legislation Passes Senate
On June 13th, Joe Robach and the New York State Senate re-passed legislation that would protect healthcare benefits for employees and retirees of Eastman Kodak, a major employer headquartered in Rochester, NY. The bill (S.6740b), sponsored by Senator Joe Robach of Rochester, serves to provide a safety net for the former employees of the company as it reorganizes under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. This protection would come in the form of a demonstration program that would provide group health insurance coverage for former employees of a major New York-based employer, such as Kodak.
Senator Joe Robach’s sponsorship of the bill was prompted earlier this year, when Kodak asked a federal court for permission to cut healthcare benefits for thousands of its retirees. Although Kodak later withdrew the motion, former employees of the company are concerned that it could still cut retiree benefits at a later date in order to cut its costs. If Kodak were to cut these health benefits, retirees under the age of 65 (the age to qualify for Medicare) would become uninsured. Those unable to afford the higher rates of the private pay market would be left without any coverage at all.
Senator Robach’s bill would protect Kodak’s retirees from this scenario by creating a health insurance demonstration program that would facilitate the provision of affordable group health insurance coverage to them by an eligible insurance company. Although the bill initially passed the New York State Senate on May 8th, Senator Joe Robach, after consulting with several constituents and Kodak retirees, has since amended the legislation to ensure that all insurance companies can compete to provide the healthcare coverage.
The amended bill, which was re-passed by New York State Senate with unanimous support, has also, with the support of Assemblyman Joe Morelle, passed the New York State Assembly. The legislation now awaits Governor Cuomo’s signature to complete its passage into law.