Justice needed for St. Clare’s retirees
By Senator Jim Tedisco
The Holiday Season is upon us. But it’s going to be very tough to celebrate Christmas and the holidays, when so many retirees of the former St. Clare’s Hospital are in danger of losing everything because the retirement savings they had long counted on has either evaporated or significantly diminished.
Imagine you worked hard for many years with the assumption that your pension would be there for you at retirement. Now imagine, actually being retired and living off your pension and then suddenly being given three weeks’ notice that your retirement plan was either going to be slashed or outright eliminated.
That frightening scenario is a living nightmare for more than 1,100 former dedicated, compassionate health care professionals of the now closed St. Clare’s Hospital in Schenectady.
That’s an exclusive club that you would not want to be a member of.
These individuals, many of whom I represent in the 49th Senate District, live across the Capital Region, including in Saratoga County.
St. Clare’s Hospital was closed a decade ago by a requirement of the state’s Berger Commission in its mission to right-size New York’s health care facilities, and its operations were absorbed by Ellis Medicine.
At the time, the state paid $58.7 million to cover transition costs, including $28 million to cover the anticipated needs of the St. Clare’s Pension Fund. Unfortunately, for reasons not yet fully identified, that was not enough to cover the fund’s pension costs. Since federal law permits a religious exemption, the St. Clare’s pension fund has no benefit guarantee insurance.
Ever since this pension fiasco came to light late last year, I have been an outspoken voice calling on the Governor, Attorney General, state Comptroller, and state Department of Health to fully investigate what happened to the St. Clare’s Pension Fund. I am sponsoring bi-partisan legislation with Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara (D-Rotterdam) that would require the Department of State to delay the issuance of a Certificate of Dissolution for the St. Clare’s Corporation until the Department of Health, Attorney General or Comptroller can conduct an investigation and/or audit to ascertain whether or not there were any improprieties that led to closure of the St. Clare’s Pension Fund.
The Comptroller replied to my request for intervention that it’s not under his office’s purview.
After the St. Clare’s Pension Fund Board of Trustees petitioned the court to dissolve and wash their hands of the plight of the retirees, the Attorney General got involved as a pro-forma matter, as one of AG’s responsibilities is to review the dissolution of non-profits.
Meanwhile, the last time anyone publicly asked our Governor about the St. Clare’s retirees, he had no idea what the reporter was talking about.
A source who wishes to remain anonymous has given me a startling document from the hospital consolidation application from July 2007 that says the “St. Clare’s Hospital defined benefit plan is underfunded by $47 million as of December 31, 2006,” and not the $28 million originally allocated in the consolidation agreement.
The document raises significant new questions about what happened to the money that was meant to go to the retirements of more than 1,100 former dedicated health care professionals of the now closed St. Clare’s Hospital.
I have joined with Mary Hartshorne and Robert Bradley, Co-Chairs of the St. Clare’s Pension Recovery Alliance, to share this documentation with the Attorney General, and have asked that she include in her ongoing investigation into the dissolution of the Pension Fund an examination of why there was an agreement for the state to only provide $28 million in taxpayer funds toward shoring up the St. Clare’s Pension Fund after all parties involved were made aware that up to $47 million was needed.
This eye-opening document indicates that as far back as 2007, there was a warning that the Pension Fund was underfunded by $47 million, yet a year later it only received $28 million to shore it up.
Did another actuarial evaluation take place? Who did the evaluation? What were the findings of the evaluation?
Why is there a $19 million discrepancy between the 2006 actuarial analysis and the $28 million the state paid to the Pension Fund?
It seems remarkable that the application saw a Pension Fund deficit of $47 million in 2006 but the state only ended up supporting the Pension Fund deficit with $28 million in 2008.
The dedicated health care professionals who provided compassionate care at the former St. Clare’s Hospital deserve justice and a full investigation by the state to determine what happened to the pension they worked so hard for and help finding a way to make them whole.
Senator Jim Tedisco (R,C,I-REF-Glenville) represents the 49th State Senate District which includes parts of Saratoga, Schenectady and Herkimer Counties and all of Fulton and Hamilton Counties