Honeywell retirees seek help from Donnelly to keep healthcare coverage

NOW: Honeywell retirees seek help from Donnelly to keep healthcare coverage

SOUTH BEND, Ind. – Some retirees in South Bend are fighting to keep their healthcare coverage and they hope Senator Joe Donnelly.

Donnelly led a roundtable discussion Thursday morning UAW Local 9 in South Bend and the hot topic was Honeywell.

Honeywell retirees had healthcare horror stories for Sen. Donnelly as their former company plans to drop supplemental coverage for 4,700 of them at the end of the month.

“The insurance went up so high on January the 1st, it was unaffordable for me,” said retiree Sheree Eppenger. “I’m in the under 65 age group so they really hit us hard.”

The Democratic incumbent is seeking his seat again in November and he’s taking note of concerns like Eppenger’s he heard on Thursday and all across the state as part of his “Seniors for Joe” listening tour.

“At a time of extraordinarily high profits, there was no reason to do this,” said Sen. Donnelly. “To take healthcare benefits from retirees.”

But their beef with the manufacturer doesn’t stop with insurance.

“Biggest thing that concerns me is the F-35 that we build stuff here in South Bend and they want to take it out of the country and still build it overseas,” said retiree Mike Wozny.

Senator Donnelly says he’s working to address that in D.C.

The senate passed a defense bill with provisions he made that would address outsourcing jobs.

“I sent the message to Honeywell,” said Donnelly. “I consider this a national security risk to move this work.”

Donnelly says he expects the group of retirees to file a suit as a group to get their coverage back while there’s not much he can do on the legislative side.

ABC 57 News reached out to Honeywell regarding the lifetime healthcare promise, and also, the company’s plan to outsource manufacturing to a plant in Turkey. The following is the company’s response:

"The union contract in question, which included a retiree medical benefit, expired two years ago. Honeywell is in full compliance with its current labor contract with the UAW. Even though most of the company’s U.S. workforce does not have retiree medical benefits, Honeywell has continued to provide that coverage for some of its union members for the past two years as this case proceeded in the courts. The District Court recently upheld Honeywell’s position that its obligation to continue retiree medical benefits ended with the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement. As a result of the judge’s ruling, Honeywell could have terminated the retirees’ health care coverage immediately, but decided instead to provide retirees with four months’ advance notice so they could investigate and enroll in alternative coverage.

"The bottom line is these UAW retirees have kept health care coverage longer than most other retired Honeywell employees – and more than two years past the expiration of the last labor contract that provided for retiree medical benefits. In addition, the vast majority of these retirees now have comparable or better coverage available to them at a lower cost through private insurance policies outside of Honeywell."

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