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PA Budget Secretary Says Future Retiree Health Care Costs Estimated at $8.5 Billion
Date:5/9/2008

tted to provide to their present and future retirees. These benefits are known as "OPEB" -- other post-employment benefits. For Pennsylvania, the primary OPEB benefit is retiree health care. The commonwealth must include a final estimate of its future retiree health benefit liabilities for the first time in its 2007-08 year-end financial statements, which will be published late in calendar year 2008.

Masch explained that both the initial and final estimates of the state's accumulated liability for commonwealth retiree health care costs were developed by the Hay Group, a consulting firm based in Arlington, Va. Masch released the Hay Group's final report today.

The commonwealth provides health benefits to approximately 60,000 retired workers through its Retired Employees Health Program (REHP). Annual costs for REHP have increased 63 percent -- from $336 million to $550 million -- in just the past four years. Out of this year's $550 million benefit cost, retirees contribute less than 0.2 percent toward the cost of their health care. Last year, the commonwealth spent an average of $9,250 in taxpayer money per retiree on health care benefits, Masch said.

Wall Street credit rating agencies are keeping a close eye on states' future retiree health care costs as they review their state ratings. The agencies have said they expect governments to take positive and proactive steps to address these liabilities.

"The commonwealth's prudent fiscal policies have earned it high marks from Wall Street," Masch said, noting that currently the commonwealth has a double-A rating with all three major Wall Street rating agencies. This is the second-highest level of credit, and it directly correlates to the level of interest a state must pay to borrow money. The higher the credit rating, the lower the interest charged.

"We want to maintain this favorable rating, which is another incentive for us to pay close attention to retiree health care costs,
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SOURCE Pennsylvania Office of the Governor
Copyright©2008 PR Newswire.
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