Brown, Delphi retirees urge tax credit relief
January 15, 2011 - By LARRY RINGLER Tribune Chronicle
BOARDAN - The cancer death of a 58-year-old Delphi Packard Electric salaried retiree who delayed medical care due to cost shows the need to extend a federal tax credit, local retirees said Friday.
"He noticed some problems, but he found consulting work and planned to use that to pay the doctor. When he finally went, they did the tests and found the cancer. He was gone in a few weeks," Bruce Gump, chairman of the Warren Legislative Group in the Delphi Salaried Retirees Association, said during a news conference in which U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, urged the Senate to pass an 18-month extension of the Health Coverage Tax Credit, along with improvements in Trade Adjustment Assistance for workers who lose their jobs due to foreign trade.
Congress in late December extended the tax credit for just six weeks before it expired at year-end. Brown said the number of displaced workers and retirees using the health tax credit has more than tripled since 2009 to about 50,000 from 14,000.
Roughly 12,000 former Delphi Corp. hourly and salaried workers in the Warren and Dayton areas are eligible for the credit, which pays 80 percent of qualified monthly premiums for retirees younger than the Medicare age of 65.
Brown said he would like to make the credit permanent but is pushing for at least the 18-month extension.
"My hope is that would take the economy out of the hardest part of the recession," he said during the meeting at the Mahoning One-Stop jobs office in the Boardman Plaza.
Delphi Packard salaried retiree Mary Ann Hudzik said without the credit, many of the estimated 1,500 area salaried retirees from the local auto parts maker would face a significant cost increase after some already have lost as much as 70 percent of their pensions in Delphi Corp.'s bankruptcy.
"They'd have to absorb a 75 percent increase in their premium if the tax credit isn't extended," she said.
Retirees said the short extension created another problem. Spouses of enrollees younger than 65 are eligible for coverage, but because the extension is only for six weeks, spouses are not being accepted if the retiree turns 65 during the extension because the Internal Revenue Service said the period is too short to set up coverage.
"We have retirees turning 65 every day," Hudzik said.
Former Delphi hourly worker Janet Cornwell said she needs the help because she's a single mother with two teenage daughters. She said she's studying pharmacy tech under the trade adjustment program.
Brown said he's talking with U.S. Sen. John Kyl, R-Ariz., who he said blocked Senate approval of an extension passed by the House of Representatives in December with the backing of U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Niles. The House extension would have continued the coverage until July 1, 2012, Brown said he's pushing for Senate action when lawmakers return to session Jan. 24.
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