Retired Myrtle Beach first responders could lose promised health care benefits

Grand Strand

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) — People protested at the Myrtle Beach City Council meeting Tuesday as health benefits for Myrtle Beach first responders and other city employees are at risk of getting cut.

Dozens of people showed up to protest — many of them firefighters. Many of them say they work for the city not for the pay, but for the health benefits they were promised when they retired. Now, those benefits are set to end in January, and they are calling on the city to return the support they’ve given to the community.

“To start taking away benefits and shrinking benefits is just [un]excusable,” said Robert Odachowsky, president of Professional Firefighters Associations of South Carolina.

It’s a call to keep health care benefits initially promised. Odachowsky has been demanding change since the announcement last month.

“This is truly a disgrace,” Odachowsky said. “And it’s time for city council to find a way to get around that.”

He said decades ago, city employees were told after 25 years of work, they could retire with health benefits for life. But in 2009, that changed to city employees being offered $100,000 upon retirement.

“With this new system, they’re asking us to go to — we won’t have access to that money until we hit Medicare,” said Chris Collins, a retiree with the Myrtle Beach Fire Department.

Collins said firefighters would be impacted the most due to the health issues that may come with the job.

“We get discounted MRIs, X-rays, emergency room visits, surgeries, and we’re going to lose all of that now,” Collins said.

He said that is in addition to increased premiums for retirees and their families. Collins was one of many who took their pleas to city council.

Mayor Brenda Bethune said council will look into the issue but is not making any promises.

“This council supports, values, and appreciates all city members past and present,” she said. “And I believe we have gone above and beyond our duty to show that.”

Enrollment for the new plans begins in November and ends in early December. Those who spoke to News13 hope a decision from council comes sooner rather than later.

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