DETROIT -

Detroit city workers and retirees are seeing sharp reductions in their health care coverage, as open enrollment begins this week.

The hardest hit will be about 8,000 retirees under 65 years old who are too young to qualify for Medicare. The city will give them a $125 or $200 monthly stipend to purchase their own insurance through Obamacare.

"How can you give this much of your life to an employer, and they treat you like this?” said Fred A. Westbrook, President of Amalgamated Transit Workers Union Local 26. “Suppose they have a serious illness? They won’t be able to get the right coverage. They can’t afford it."

Active workers will continue to pay 20 percent of their premiums and face sharp increases in deductibles and out of pocket expenses.

Medicare-eligible retirees will be able to get Medicare Advantage coverage through Blue Cross Blue Shield, or the Health Alliance Plan. The city will pay the premiums, but the retirees will have to pay deductibles and other costs

"Our goal has always been to provide quality coverage that the city can reasonably afford, and we have done that,” said Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr.

Detroit’s long-term health care obligations have been estimated at $5.7 billion, nearly a third of the debt it’s struggling to erase.

The changes take effect Jan. 1.