LAS VEGAS -- The largest police department in the state faces a new emergency: paying for skyrocketing health care costs for police officers. It's a problem employers and companies are experiencing across the country. The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department is no exception.
Retired Metro Police officer Dennis Devitte will never forget the day that changed his life in 1999.
"It was December 5, 1999. I was at a bar called Mr. D's bar. Three robbers came in and started shooting into the crowd," Devitte said. "It's a hard job. It's a very, very, very hard job, and it's a dangerous job."
Devitte returned fire. The gun battle left him with eight bullet wounds. It took Devitte about six months to get back to work. He retired years later, but now faces a new battle.
"You put it out there every single day, and all you want is a little comfort when you get older," Devitte said.
Like all Metro officers, Devitte paid into a health trust account that acts as the department's own health insurance. For years, the system worked - providing coverage for new and likely single officers without dependents. The younger officers offset the costs for older cops with families, but things have changed.
John Faulis is in charge of the welfare trust. He said the combination of fewer cops paying into the account and new fees from the Affordable Care Act is forcing the trust to stop paying many insurance premiums for police retirees starting April 1.
"Health insurance costs are rising on an exponential basis - that coupled with the fact that we have not hired in the police department for multiple years," Faulis said. "This was an absolute emergency decision, and if we did not make decisions to maintain the solvency of our health and trust, there wouldn't be any more health insurance here."
The result could mean Metro Police retirees like David Moody will see their health care costs more than double. He says he will pay approximately $1,800 a month for family health coverage.
"I can't afford it, and with this one going up, it's over twice what my mortgage is on my house," he said. "It makes me sick. The whole thing makes me sick to my stomach."
One possible solution would be to have current officers pay more out of their paychecks to offset the health care costs of retirees.
The police union, however, said it would be next to impossible for younger, healthier cops to agree to have more money taken out of their checks for health care coverage.