7054 Julian Ave.
University City, MO 63130
You have my gmail address & you can also email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
I was informed that you are interested in hearing from former employees of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch who are losing their health care coverage due to the company reneging on their promise of paid lifetime health care, which was part of an incentive package they offered us to encourage early retirement.
My name is Fred Jackson & I worked for the Post-Dispatch for 27 years from 1978 to 2005. Shortly after Lee Enterprises purchased the newspaper in 2005 they offered an incentive package designed to encourage older (higher salaried) employees to take early retirement. This package included a bonus based on years with the company, an increased pension benefit & paid health care insurance for the life of the employee. I accepted their offer and retired in Oct. 2005.
Prior to retiring I had been diagnosed with thyroid cancer & I had surgery to remove my thyroid in Dec. 2005. Though the surgery was successful I never felt fully recovered & my health gradually declined over the next few years. It was not until April of 2008 that I was correctly diagnosed with Stage 3 Multiple Myeloma, a rare form of cancer of the plasma cells which produces tumors in various parts of the body and painful lesions in the large bones. There is no cure for this disease but my oncologist referred me to the Siteman Cancer Center, probably the best cancer treatment center in the world, & they suggested that chemotherapy & a stem cell transplant might control the disease long enough for new treatments to be developed. I had the chemo & transplant in Oct. of ’08 and my cancer has been in remission since that time.
Though my insurance paid for most of these very expensive procedures, my share of the costs eroded my savings and because the damage caused by the disease is irreversible I was unable to return to work. I was declared permanently disabled & began to receive Social Security Disability.
After you are disabled for 2 years you are eligible for Medicare regardless of your age & I became eligible in March 2010. Because of my limited fixed income and my reliance on the health insurance the company was supposed to provide I declined to enroll in Medicare Part B which covers out of hospital doctors visits and expenses since it would have cost me about $100 per month. Not much, but more than I thought I could afford at the time.
In early Dec. 2010 I received a letter from Lee Enterprises informing me that after Dec. 31, 2010 they would no longer pay the premium on my health care policy. If I wanted to continue to be covered by their insurance through United Healthcare I would have pay about $580 per month. They suggested I could find a cheaper policy on my own. I contacted Medicare & Social Security & I was informed that I could not apply to regain my Part B coverage until after Jan. 1, 2011 & I would not be covered again until July 2011. People who are working and lose their healthcare coverage can apply right away and be covered during the month they apply during Special Enrollment Periods. I was told that this did not apply to retirees who lose their healthcare coverage. Talk about your Catch 22!
So, my choices are to pay for the insurance that I desperately need which will bankrupt me in about 2 months or to go without coverage for 6 months which will greatly endanger my life since I need to be monitored regularly for the return of the disease.
As you know, our union is suing the company to make them live up the their written promises but the wheels of justice grind slowly. Everytime we win they will appeal, when we finally get a judgment they will make us go back to court to enforce it. By the time it is finally settled half of us will be dead & the money they have saved (wisely invested, i’m sure) will more than pay the judgment (unless there is a huge punitive award). It’s not about right & wrong but what they think they can get away with.