Sheriff's deputies protest over health insurance premiums increase

December 6, 2011 4:15:07 PM PST
Retired and active Harris County sheriff's deputies picked up signs in protest, saying promises made a long time ago about their health insurance are being broken.

Sadly, it's something we're seeing a lot more of in this economy. Tough decisions and in this case, it's retirees who helped protect Harris County who are paying the price.

These deputies are standing their ground. Those on fixed incomes struggling to make ends meet say this hits them especially hard.

As sheriff's deputies, they spent decades protecting Harris County; now they're wondering who's protecting them? On Tuesday, a large group of active duty and retired deputies gathered outside the downtown building where county commissioners meet to protest an increase in their health insurance premiums.

"When we were hired into the Harris County Sheriff's Office, we were promised that our benefits would be taken care of for life. We feel like they have reneged on that. They were disingenuous when they told us that," said Lee Bumpers with the African American Sheriff's Deputies League.

"It's not good for law enforcement and it's not good for Harris County," said

Plagued by budget constraints, Harris County commissioners recently voted to require retirees under 65 to pay for a portion of their health care -- $115 per month.

Of the 4,000 plus retirees, over 1,800 are under 65.

"Yes, it's a cost and it's something that I'm sure I wouldn't be happy about if I were one of them, but it's just a reality of the world we live in right now," said Harris County Judge Ed Emmett.

Those on fixed incomes are not happy and fear this change could hurt them the most. Others worry the commissioners are setting a dangerous precedent.

"Now when it comes time to pay the benefits aren't there or they are suddenly eroding and those are the things that trouble us significantly," said Bumpers.

Retirees living on fixed incomes say their health insurance rates have doubled.

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