Natalie traveled to Ravenswood to meet with Century Aluminum retirees who have lost their health insurance benefits.
Gubernatorial Candidate Natalie E. Tennant met with retirees of Century Aluminum last week, and said she will stand with them in their struggle to get the health care coverage they have earned.
At the United Steelworkers Union Local 5668 meeting hall, Tennant listened as the retirees told stories about the difficulties of making ends meet. The retirees told Tennant that those who are not Medicare eligible will lose coverage in June of this year. It would cost them approximately $3,000 per month to continue that coverage. The retirees are planning informational pickets and a trip to Charleston to meet with other elected officials to make them aware of their plight.
Tennant spoke with one retiree who is battling leukemia and is dependent on expensive medications and treatments. Many retirees also told Tennant about the tragic story of a fellow retiree who was eligible for Medicare, but his wife was too young to qualify. She suffers from several chronic conditions and the retiree was extremely concerned about affording the health care she needs. She is now grieving his sudden passing last Monday.
"These retirees aren't just a line on a balance book," Tennant said. "They are real people who worked hard all their lives and played by the rules, making wage concessions time and time again to preserve their retirement benefits. In West Virginia, a promise made is a promise kept.
"I do hope Century will re-open the Ravenswood plant -- the workers and retirees certainly did all they could to keep the plant viable. I hope to discuss this situation with Logan Kruger, the Century CEO. When I'm Governor that's what I'm going to do. We are going to listen to all the people and bring them together to do what's right for West Virginia."
In December 2009, Century announced it would eliminate health coverage for nearly 460 retirees (and their spouses) over the age of 65. In November 2010, Century announced it would end coverage for another 130 retirees (and their spouses) who are under the age of 65. Century said the cost reductions are necessary to help re-open its Ravenswood plant which closed a year ago, putting about 650 people out of work. The USW has filed suit in federal court in an effort to have the retiree health care benefits restored.
Tennant has already written the CEO of Century Aluminum to urge the company to reconsider their decision and to take advantage of the Early Retirees Reinsurance Program (ERRP) that was created by the health care reform law enacted in March 2010. The ERRP provides financial assistance to employers and unions to help them maintain coverage for early retirees age 55 and older who are not yet eligible for Medicare.
Tennant noted that Century Aluminum applied for and was accepted into the ERRP, but has thus far declined to participate.