Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Retired teacher ruled entitled to enroll new spouse in the District’s health insurance plan under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement


Retired teacher ruled entitled to enroll new spouse in the District’s health insurance plan under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement
Bower v Board of Educ., Cazenovia Cent. School Dist., 53 AD3d 967

Retired from his teaching position with Cazenovia Central School District, at which time he was enrolled as an individual participant in the district's group health insurance plan, the retired teacher subsequently married and asked the District to change his health insurance to family coverage so that his wife would be covered. The district refused, contending that a retired teacher is not permitted to change his or her health insurance coverage.

The retiree sued, arguing that (1) the applicable collective bargaining agreement permitted him to change his coverage and (2) the district's refusal violated the statutory moratorium against reducing health insurance benefits of retirees unless there was a corresponding reduction for active employees.

Supreme Court held that retiree had the right under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement to change his health insurance coverage to include his new spouse. The District appealed, only to the Appellate Division affirm the lower court’s ruling.

The Appellate Division noted that Article XXII of the agreement provided that "[a]ll bargaining unit personnel currently employed or retired from [the district] who are legally eligible may participate in the . . . health insurance program," and that Appendix G to the agreement, sets forth individual coverage and family coverage as the "two types of enrollment" available, pointed out that a section in the agreement entitled "ENROLLMENT CHANGES" recognized that "[c]hanges in your family status may make it necessary or desirable for you to change the coverage for which you are enrolled," and states, in relevant part, that "[y]ou may request a change from individual coverage to [f]amily coverage . . . [t]o provide coverage for a newly acquired spouse."

As there is nothing in the collective bargaining agreement to indicate that "you" in this provision was not intended to include retired employees, the Appellate Division said that “Reading the relevant provisions as a whole, we agree with Supreme Court that the agreement permitted the retiree to add his spouse to his health insurance.”

The full text of the decision is posted at:

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