State treasurer seeks to overturn court ruling in government retiree case

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Friday, June 16, 2023
State treasurer seeks to overturn government retiree case ruling
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There's a new turn in the more than decade-long saga involving state government workers and their health care premiums.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- There's a new turn in the more than decade-long saga involving state government workers and their health care premiums.

This week, State Treasurer Dale Folwell filed a writ of prohibition to overturn a 2022 N.C. Supreme Court ruling that sided with the retirees in their ongoing litigation seeking premium-free retirement benefits.

The saga dates back to 2011 when the General Assembly voted to allow the state's health care provider to start charging premiums. Retirees sued in 2012, and it became a class action lawsuit in 2016. The case made its way through the courts before the N.C. Court of Appeals unanimously ruled against them in 2019.

In 2022, however, the N.C. Supreme Court overturned that appellate court ruling, meaning the lawsuit could move forward once again.

Folwell is now trying to have that 2022 decision thrown away, saying it would cost North Carolina taxpayers billions of dollars.

"We're keepers of the public purse. And in this particular case, we're trying to be the protectors of the public purse," he said.

Tim O'Connell, who runs the association for retired state workers, says it's about the government going back on its promise.

"I would say this is really about loyal retirees of North Carolina, that did the work with an agreement that when they signed on and were vested, this was the agreement that they came to work for the state of North Carolina under," O'Connell said.

Folwell says the retired workers are still covered under a zero-cost Medicare plan, but maintaining the original plan would hamstring the state financially in the big picture.

"We're trying to do the most good for the most number of people as it related to keeping this plan around, not just for this generation of public service workers, but the next generation of public service workers," Folwell said.

The writ, filed in a now-Republican-controlled Supreme Court, is another attempt to overrule the decisions of the previous, Democratic-controlled court. This current court has shown a willingness to overturn recent decisions, including cases involving voter I.D. laws and redistricting.

There's no timeline on when the N.C. Supreme Court may respond to the writ filed this week.