Sunday, June 10, 2007

Health Benefits at Cities and Towns

The New Bedford Standard Times wrote an editorial today on health benefits at South Coast municipalities that was high in opinion, light in fact. I figured the editorial would suggest towns and cities shift the plans from being town based to joining the state plan, as both Speaker DiMasi and Governor Patrick have suggested in varying degrees. While the state plans seem very good and are a great deal cheaper, many unions are wary of leaving the current status quo - which is a mistake. Yet, that's not what the editorial was about.
Cities and towns can no longer procrastinate reforming their salary and benefit structures. When the public sees 90 percent of a worker's health benefits covered by tax dollars, they don't care that the employee might be accepting a lower salary than he or she could make in the private sector.

Really? 90%? What towns offer those generous benefits in the South Coast?

The paper never says. Instead, this is what we're offered:

Two SouthCoast towns pay 90 percent of the cost of an HMO plan, he said, but he would not name names.
Well, geez, that's informative. The only municipality we really learn about is New Bedford, which pays 75% of the health benefits - what the paper said, at an earlier point, was around average for private businesses.

Anyone else find anything wrong with this?

Well, the pattern is repeated:
They should also rethink what Mr. Corcoran described as the historic justification for sweet public benefits packages: the assumption that a public employee sacrifices the higher salary he or she could make in the private sector.

Those days may be gone, at least in some fields. High-level public workers on the SouthCoast often make more than $90,000.

Well, yes, a high level worker may make $90,000 in Dartmouth - but there are also high level business executives or entrepreneurs living in Dartmouth probably earning several million dollars a year. More importantly, the vast majority of public workers in the South Coast area make far less than $90,000 - the vast majority less than half that sum. If most public employees were making close to $90,000 grand, the paper may have a point. Unfortunately, the paper doesn't.

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