AUBURN, Maine — A three-year-old lawsuit against Androscoggin County over whether it must pay health care benefit premiums of the surviving spouses of county workers was settled shortly before going to trial.
A trial was scheduled for last week. More than a dozen former county employees, their spouses and active county workers had brought the lawsuit. By last week, only four employees remained as plaintiffs.
The suit centered on the question of whether the county must continue to pay health insurance premiums for spouses of former county workers even after those employees were deceased.
County commissioners sent a letter to former county workers in 2009 notifying them that the county would no longer pay lifetime health care insurance premiums to husbands and wives of deceased retirees. Commissioners said that benefit was never intended.
That action sparked a lawsuit by some workers and former workers and surviving spouses who said they agreed dating back to 1966 to lower pay raises and, in some cases, no raises, in exchange for the benefit. All but two of the 17 plaintiffs were retired and had living spouses. They claimed the county’s actions were a breach of contract.
Michael Malloy, who represented the county, said Thursday the terms of the agreement are “a pretty just result for everyone.”
In the agreement, the county would continue to pay the premiums for two of the former county workers, Daniel McGinley and Andre Gagne, and their spouses, Malloy said. The agreement says the county would continue to pay their surviving spouses’ premiums for the next two years even if those two former employees were to die before 2014.
The county will continue to pay the premiums for former Probate Judge Laurier Raymond and his wife, but would not continue to pay his wife’s premiums if he should die before she does, Malloy said.
Payment of the monthly premiums is expected to resume for Muriel C. Hamann, surviving spouse of the late Laurier Hamann, who worked for the county for 43 years, Malloy said.
He said the monthly health care premium per person comes to roughly $450. Because those who are covered are on Medicare, the insurance is supplemental.
A Lewiston lawyer representing the remaining plaintiffs could not be reached for comment Thursday.
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