JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - New court papers paint a bleak outlook for Singing River Health System retirees. Analysts just determined the system's pension fund is in dire shape. And it's very possible the pension fund will run out of money in eight years.
According to the report, the embattled pension fund is less than 28 percent funded. It's currently paying benefits to 725 people, but more than 2,000 are eligible for benefits or repayments in the future.
Since the pension plan was frozen in 2014, no contributions have been made to it. A settlement deal would infuse the plan with money, adding an additional $156,400,000, but that would still only increase funding to 59 percent of where it should be.
Attorneys representing many of the hospital system's retirees argue that no one will receive any money in a few years if a settlement is not approved.
"The settlement requires the hospital to make all contributions to the plan it was required to make in the years that it missed between 2008-2014," said Jim Reeves, lead counsel for the class action. "As a practical matter, there is no way to make the hospital pay more and the hospital is not in a financial position to pay more even if ordered to do so. For these reasons, we hope that the plan will be approved so that funding can begin as quickly as possible as additional delays continue to reduce available benefits to all."
Special Fiduciary Traci Christian writes in the report, "If the settlement is approved, measures would need to be taken to amend the Plan to reduce benefits for all the Plan participants to ensure that the Plan remained sustainable albeit at a lower level of benefits for those affected."
Christian suggests removing the Cost-of-Living Adjustment, changing the retirement age, and removing the early retirement subsidy as a few of the ways benefits could be fairly reduced.
"If the settlement is approved, I will, as the Special Fiduciary, conduct an in-depth analysis of the Plan and Trust to determine an equitable way to reduce current and future benefit payments so as to sustain the Trust for all participants," Christian wrote.
The report comes on the eve of a fairness hearing in federal court Monday to answer questions raised by an appeals court review of the settlement plan.