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Mesa offers retirees lifetime medical coverage after cutting benefit in 2009

Thanks to a tight labor market, Mesa is bringing back lifetime medical benefits for eligible employees.

Nearly 13 years ago, during the Great Recession, Mesa cut lifetime medical benefits for new hires. Starting Jan. 1, 2023, all employees are eligible for continuing coverage through Mesa if they put in 20 years with at least 10 consecutive years before retiring.  

“It gives them some stability, some knowledge going into the retirement as they’re starting to worry when I go into retirement will I be able to afford to retire,” said Mesa Budget Director Candace Cannistraro, Mesa’s management and budget director. “We’ve had a lot of employees who’ve decided I’m going to stay that extra year or two years so that I can get my 20 years because this benefit is so good to me.”

The city will cover 80% of eligible retirees' insurance premiums for medical, dental and vision care.

“We have a lot of cost containment measures in place that allows us to have smaller premiums or lower premiums and so going through the city of Mesa would establish a much lower premium overall than if they went out on the open market or went through a state retirement system,” Cannistraro said.

She said retaining employees can lead to better service for residents, along with financial savings for the city.

“Every time there’s a turnover in employee, you have one, you have a vacancy for a while, so you have possibly lower service levels. Two, you have training you have to put a new employee through, you have recruiting costs, you have interviewing costs,” Cannistraro said.

Mesa currently pays 80% of medical, dental and vision premiums for 2,200 retirees, a number it expects to stay about the same when the offer becomes available to everyone.

As a senior field correspondent, Christina Estes focuses on stories that impact our economy, your wallet and public policy.