Greg Roach's Berkshires Blog
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
  A Damn Good Argument for National Healthcare
Tonight the North Adams City Council rejected Dick Alcombright's proposal to have the council's finance committee examine the claims by the city's teachers, fire and police unions that the city is not paying its contractual share of the employee health insurance premiums.

The proposal was made even more interesting by the unions' announcement that they would suspend their legal action against the city if the council provided a transparent review process. This could save the city thousands of dollars in legal fees.

Alas, the Mayor convinced a majority of the councilors that the expensive "process" of mediation and legal grievance should be allowed to play out. At the same time he excoriated the councilors for voting for the budget that included the plan that Mr. Alcombright, Councilors Boucher and Moulton voted to examine, 'if they didn't understand it.'

To me, that is a major disconnect. I think the council shirked its oversight duties tonight, and also passed on an opportunity to save the city money.

Here is the boiled down version of the controversy:

The city of North Adams is self insured. What this means is that the city pays Blue Cross to administer the health insurance plan, but the city and the employees pay into a city controlled trust fund to pay claims.

In essence, the city is its own insurance company. Like any company, sometimes things go better than projected, sometimes worse. The "premiums" that employees pay 30% of are based upon actuarial calculations by Blue Cross of what the claims against the trust fund will likely be. The city's portion of the "premium" is paid in actual claims rather than a projected number.

The union's figures supposedly demonstrate that for the past several years the city has paid out less than they expected, but the savings were never passed on to the employees. They also claim that the law requires a commission of the parties involved (employees and city) to periodically evaluate the plan, but this commission has not had a role in the process.

When the Mayor was asked directly whether the city pays 70% of the premium, he answered, "Yes.... Eventually."

That answer makes me very, very curious. I want to see the numbers.
Greg... "the council shirked its oversight duties tonight" What is new? Does the term "BOBBLE HEADS" ring a bell?
It is time that Mr. Barrett and his boot licks move on and a real Town Government takes over.
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