Thursday, September 18, 2008

Former Non-Covered Council Member Encourages Support for Health Care Coverage

Former Council Member Steward Clifton comments thusly on Enclave:
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.
For the sake of clarification, I agree that the Council body itself can do little beyond memorializing resolutions to help reform the health care system. Memorializing resolutions to federal and state governments might be a start.

What I was trying somewhat ineffectively to argue is that Council Members should be using some of the political capital of their position to work with outside groups to leverage reform in our health care system for the sake of their constituents, uncovered Metro workers, and their own membership. Lowering health care costs would have positive results on the Metro budget, hence, it is in Metro Council's (and the Mayor's) best interest to do what they can beyond the job description to help prompt those with direct control to regulate health care costs.

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