RETIREMENT ‑- PENSIONS ‑- LAW ENDORCEMENT OFFICERS' AND FIRE FIGHTERS' RETIREMENT SYSTEM ‑- INSURANCE ‑- MEDICAL BENEFITS ‑- DIVISION OF INSURANCE COSTS
Medical insurance for law enforcement officers or firefighters under RCW 41.26.150(4), on the basis of which medical service payments by the employer are to be reduced in accordance with subsection (2) of that statute, may be paid for entirely by the employer or partially by the employer and partially by the subject employees; an employer may not, however, require its employees to pay the entire cost of such plan or plans of group hospitalization and medical aid insurance.
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March 30, 1983
Honorable Al Bauer
St. Sen., 49th District
424 Public Lands Building
Olympia, Washington 98504
Cite as: AGO 1983 No. 7
Dear Senator Bauer:
By recent letter you requested our opinion on the following question:
"Does RCW 41.26.150, or any part of the Act, preclude an employer from requiring its LEOFF I employees covered by the Law Enforcement Officers and Firefighters' Retirement System to pay part or all of a medical insurance premium to cover the cost of benefits provided in RCW 41.26.150 Subsection 1 by any means including a labor agreement?"
We answer the foregoing question in the manner set forth in our analysis.
RCW 41.26.150 relates to those local firefighters and law enforcement officers who are members of LEOFF Plan I. See, [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] RCW 41.26.005. In essence, RCW 41.26.150 requires the employer to provide "necessary medical services" for those active, or previously retired, members who, on account of service, sickness or disability, not caused or brought about by dissipation or abuse, require such medical services.
Subsection (4) of the statute, however, contains the following provision:
"(4) Any employer under this chapter, either singly, or jointly with any other such employer or employers through an association thereof as provided for in chapter 48.21 RCW, may providefor all or part of one or more plans of group hospitalization and medical aid insurance to cover any of its employees who are members of the Washington law enforcement officers' and fire fighters' retirement system, and/or retired former employees who were, before retirement, members of said retirement system, through contracts with regularly constituted insurance carriers or with health care service contractors as defined in chapter or plans shall be deemed to be amounts received or eligible to be received by 43.44 RCW. Benefits payable under any such plan the active or retired member under subsection (2) of this section." (Emphasis supplied)
Under this subsection of the law, the employer may pay all of the costs of such a medical insurance plan. Or, instead, it may pay only part of those costs, presumably leaving the remainder to be paid by the covered employees. In either event, however, the benefits payable under the plan will be treated as benefits received under subsection (2) of the statute which, in turn, serves to reduce the potential liability of the employer for direct payments (from its own treasury) by providing as follows:
"(2) The medical services payable under this section will be reduced by any amount received or eligible to be received by the member under workmen's compensation, social security including the changes incorporated under Public Law 89-97 as now or hereafter amended, insurance provided by another employer, other pension plan, or any other similar source. Failure to apply for coverage if otherwise eligible under the provisions of Public Law 89-97 as now or hereafter amended shall not be deemed a [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] refusal of payment of benefits thereby enabling collection of charges under the provisions of this chapter."
On the other hand, we see nothing in the language of RCW 41.26.150(4),supra, which would allow an employer to require its employees to pay the entire cost of the subject plan or plans of group hospitalization and medical aid insurance. In order to come within the purview of the statute, and thus constitute a potential subsection (2) offset, either all, or part, of the plan would have to be provided, and paid for, by the employer.
We trust that the foregoing will be of assistance to you.
Very truly yours,
KENNETH O. EIKENBERRY
PHILIP H. AUSTIN
Senior Deputy Attorney General