Submitted By Todd on February 28th at 10:28am
Jane Teal said she only wanted to help her hometown when she ran successfully for Lynn City Council in 1995. She served for six years, then stepped down, eventually moving to Florida with her husband. Today, Lynn taxpayers are paying $22,600 a year for the couple’s health care. “It never crossed my mind that I would get insurance when I ran for office,’’ she said. “But I am glad to have it.’’Six years as a "public servant," health care for life. How compassionate.
Elizabeth Debski spent eight years as Everett’s city planner, before losing her job in 2006 when a newly elected mayor installed his own team. But Debski did not leave City Hall empty-handed. In addition to her pension, Debski, at 42, walked away with city-subsidized health care insurance for life. If she lives into her 80s, as actuarial charts predict, taxpayers could pay more than $1 million in all for her family’s health care benefits.Unfortunately, the paper only hints at the underlying problem. The taxpayer is sold out in order to fund the partnership between the Democrats and the unions.
So far, with powerful labor unions resistant to giving away hard-won benefits and a lack of political will in the state Legislature to force changes, efforts to overhaul the system have fallen short.Our elected officials don't try to fix the problem - for obvious reasons. They just keep coming to us for more money to keep the scam going.
The cost of municipal health care more than doubled from fiscal 2001 to 2008, adding more than $1 billion in all to city and town budgets, according to state Department of Revenue data. A Globe survey of 25 communities found that they now devote, on average, 14 percent of their budgets to health care, up from 8 percent a decade ago. Somerville, for one, spends $20 million more annually than it did 10 years ago, now devoting almost 20 percent of its budget to health care.With public employees now earning twice what we make in the private sector, it is bizarre that we're paying for "Cadillac" plans for the "public servants."
Less than one-quarter of private-sector retirees nationally receive any health care benefits from their former employers, said Roland McDevitt, director of health care research for the consulting firm Towers Watson.We get crushed, they cry for more.
As medical costs across the board rose over the past decade, municipal health care expenses exploded, draining local budgets and forcing major cuts in services, higher property tax bills, and billions in new debt. “It has got to be dealt with,’’ said Richard Fortucci , the chief financial officer in Lynn. “Or we will all go bankrupt.’’Here's the evil part. The state legislature, in a sell-out to organized labor, doesn't give cities and towns the right to decide the health benefits of its employees. In what other part of the economy, other than that controlled by unions, might workers get to tell their employers what insurance plan must be provided?
Though cities and towns have some control over what benefits they provide, they are limited by state law: Not only does the law subject health benefits to local collective bargaining, the state also imposes certain mandates on municipalities. Communities that offer health care to active workers, for example, must also offer coverage to retirees.The state makes the unaffordable rules, the local taxpayer has to cough up the money.
Under state law, any municipal employee with 10 years service is eligible, in retirement, to get health care benefits for life from age 55, a benefit typically worth hundreds of thousands of dollars per person. (People such as Debski, who have 20 years public service - she worked 12 years in Salem before going to Everett - can immediately qualify if they are terminated, regardless of their age.)Effectively, the politicians are using our money to finance their reelection bids, as they sell us out to their union pals.
The generous terms of municipal plans compound the problem, because they create incentives for higher use: Low out-of-pocket costs - particularly the minimal copays - encourage subscribers to use more medical services, thus driving up the overall expense to communities. “When a group uses a high number of services, high premiums result,’’ said Brian Pagliaro, senior vice president of Tufts Health Plan.The dollars we're talking about are mind boggling!
Among the communities that pay the highest family premiums are Framingham, which spends $34,075 per family; Waltham, at $30,100; and Everett, at $26,000. “The municipal plans are rich plans,’’ said Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone of Somerville. “They are very, very rich plans.’’The plans are rich, the people are not. This is providing much energy to the mutinous wave that is taking over the country.
The cost of municipal health care more than doubled from fiscal 2001 to 2008, adding more than $1 billion in all to city and town budgets, according to state Department of Revenue data. A Globe survey of 25 communities found that they now devote, on average, 14 percent of their budgets to health care, up from 8 percent a decade ago. Somerville, for one, spends $20 million more annually than it did 10 years ago, now devoting almost 20 percent of its budget to health care.The people take it on the chin while the "public servants" flourish. How long can we take it?
Library hours have been cut in Wayland and Hull. Wakefield has deferred road and sidewalk repairs. Malden has introduced fees for trash pickup. Class sizes have increased in Chelsea. Major layoffs have hit, among others, Boston, New Bedford, Worcester, and Brockton - with officials in all those communities citing rising health care costs as a major factor. Revere last year closed City Hall on Fridays, to save cash. “What am I going to do next, put a padlock on the police station and tell people to call the State Police instead?’’ asked Mayor Thomas G. Ambrosino of Revere, who, like other mayors, is covered by municipal insurance.It would be nice if it were that easy... bankruptcy for cities and towns, so we can start anew. Free of the deadly deals the Democrats have made.
Even when retirees are on Medicare, it is still expensive for municipalities, because state mandates require communities to help cover drug costs and other expenses not paid by the program. By contrast, private-sector retirees are typically on their own. “In the private sector, when you turn 65, most employers say, ‘Good luck on Medicare,’ ’’ said McDevitt, the national health care consultant. “And that’s it.’’Good luck on Medicare indeed. That program is bankrupt too. All courtesy of the party of compassion.