As reported by, police officers sent a message to Mayor Carmen F. Amato Jr. and Township Council members Monday: Don’t touch our retiree’s health insurance.

“This is way past midstream,” said Don Rowley, a Berkeley officer who is president of Local 237 of the Policemen’s Benevolent Association. “I have members that have been retired for over 20 years, and now they’re being asked to take a reduction in their health insurance or pay more for it? This is outrageous.”

Rowley and other current and retired officers came to the meeting to protest a proposal to have police retirees begin paying for their health insurance. Currently, retired officers pay nothing for health insurance. Amato said the maximum payment would have been $147.10 a month for a family plan for the most comprehensive insurance offered to retirees.

Interim Township Administrator Frederick C. Ebenau said the cost for single retirees would have been $59 a month.

Amato said the proposal could have saved the township $200,000. The township’s cost for retiree health benefits is $2,142,154 annually, Ebenau said.

“The reason for initially looking into this was to help the overall taxpayers to stop the outrageous increase in cost to provide health care,” Ebenau said.

Some retired officers received letters in the mail recently advising them about the proposed change. Amato said the letters should not have been mailed out before township officials had a chance to discuss the change with union members.

“We are trying to get a handle on health care costs,” the mayor said. “We were going to meet with the unions to discuss this. The letters should not have gone out. It was putting the cart before the horse.”

But Rowley said it is unfair for the township to suddenly require payments for health care in “midstream” for officers who in most cases receive much smaller pensions than those who have retired more recently.

The measure was expected to be discussed at the council’s caucus meeting but was pulled from the agenda before the meeting started.

Township Council members on Monday night seemed to have little interest in raising health contributions for retired officers.

“I’m one person up here, but I’d never vote for this,” said Councilman L Thomas Grosse Jr., who is a detective in the Toms River police department. “We will not screw you.”

Councilman John Bacchione agreed.

“I am not in law enforcement, but I would not vote for it either,” Bacchione said.

Proposed change to health plan

  • The health benefits would have remained free if retired officers selected the NJ Direct 15 plan instead of the NJ Direct 10 plan.  
  • Interim Township Administrator Frederick C. ​Ebenau said the difference is a $15 co-pay for the NJ Direct 15 plan, compared to a $10 co-pay for the NJ Direct 10 plan, and also $25 additional for each emergency room visit under the NJ Direct 15 plan.
  • There is also a higher ceiling for co-pays under the NJ Direct 15 plan, Ebenau said.

Health benefits reform and pension reform are two major issues faced by members of law enforcement throughout the State of New Jersey, both active and retired. And as long as the State continues to face a budget funding crisis, attempts by state and local governments to institute reforms in these two areas are likely to persist.