Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Council's Health Care Benefit is Not Good; the Health Care Market is Worse

Totally lost in the question of whether or not Metro taxpayers should be paying for health insurance for present and former council members is the more important question of why medical, pharmaceutical, and insurance costs have been allowed to skyrocket pushing up the cost of coverage in the first place. The medical industry is a glaring demonstration that the pretense of trickle down economics does not work.

Good health care only goes to those who have the most money. And former council members like Adam Dread, who seems to want to make the rest of us feel sorry for the reality that he would have to pay what every modest income family does, are well connected to seats of power and can leverage better health care than constituents. Dread wrote a letter lobbying to keep his health benefits, and he had enough political capital from his days merry-making on the Metro Council to get 33 sponsors out of 40 total members to seal passage (WITH Mayor Karl Dean signing to approve last February):

  • Charlie Tygard
  • Rip Ryman
  • Tim Garrett
  • Erica Gilmore
  • Megan Barry
  • Eric Crafton
  • Michael Craddock
  • Sam Coleman
  • Buddy Baker
  • Vivian Wilhoite
  • Randy Foster
  • Greg Adkins
  • Jerry Maynard
  • Erik Cole
  • Karen Bennett
  • Phil Claiborne
  • Sean McGuire
  • Sandra Moore
  • Frank Harrison
  • Lonnell Matthews
  • Pam Murray
  • Jim Hodge
  • Jim Gotto
  • Darren Jernigan
  • Keith Durbin
  • Carl Burch
  • Robert Duvall
  • Edith Taylor Langster
  • Duane Dominy
  • Carter Todd
  • Walter Hunt
  • Bo Mitchell
  • Jason Holleman
While these members did vote basically to give the very same health care to Council Members as is given to all full time Metro employees, the larger question is whether they are using their leadership positions working with organizations trying to leverage reforms in health care so that their own constituents can receive the kind of coverage currently reserved for Adam Dread. If they worked to encourage tight regulation of the industry, they would not have to encumber taxpayers as much to benefit themselves.

Moreover, other part-time employees are just as worthy of the benefit as they are. Metro should cover school crossing guards, who work 25 hours a week in all kinds weather protecting our children, but they are only going to do so if concerted efforts are made to motivate sweeping changes to our health care system, which shouldn't be only available to the council members.

And while the media may continue to ignore the executive role that Mayor Karl Dean plays in signing and not vetoing these bills, I'm not going to do likewise. The Mayor is just as reponsible as is the Council for any obligations the taxpayers have as a result of extending coverage.

1 comment:

  1. I served on the Council for 12 years. I am possibly missing something but I don't get the problem with former council members having part of their insurance paid by Metro after they leave public service. Councilmembers in many instances forego lots of revenue and potential benefits to serve in this quite low-paying so-called "part-time" position. It can be something of a career killer in fact. I'm not whining about this, but it is a reality. I'm glad I served and believe it was worth the time, energy, and occasional heart-ache and heart-burn. And I guess I see the value in councilmembers not receiving retirement pensions. It is unusual for legislative bodies not to receive pensions but that is and has been our practice in Metro Nashville and it makes sense. I think it is likely true that Metro provides fewer post-service benefits than most similarly sized cities.

    But at some point you have to consider whether you want a council made up only of wealthy folks and retirees only. I don't think so. Paying part of the insurance premium for a limited number of people is not creating a crisis, nor is it a mini-scandal.

    As to the point of the post I'm responding to, I agree that our health care system needs more rationality and much more universality. But if you are waiting for a local city council to fix that problem, you will be waiting a long time. Most of these decisions await responsible action at the state and local level.

    One more thing: no, I did not choose this Metro insurance coverage for me even as a councilmember or as a former councilmember. But that was my choice. I would have chosen it in a minute had I been self-employed or unemployed at the time.