Commentary: Should County Strikers Pay More?

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(Sacramento, CA)
Friday, September 15, 2006

Most county workers pay 20% of the cost of their health care insurance while the county – that’s us, taxpayers – pays for 80%. But the county pays 100% of the health care costs for a select group of its workers – including deputy sheriffs, probation officers, firefighters at the airport, garbage collectors, and sewer maintenance workers.

For those hired before 1998, the health care deal is even sweeter. If their health care is covered by a spouse’s job benefits, workers can pocket the money the county would otherwise have spent on their health insurance. That can mean as much as $900 a month extra in take home pay, money that is used to calculate retirement benefits. Those lucky few actually benefit from rising health care costs. The higher the costs, the more money they can pocket, and the bigger their pensions.

To save money and in the interest of equity, the county wants to bring all workers into the 80-20 health care plan. In addition they want to freeze insurance cash out provisions at this year’s level. Makes sense to me.

By sticking to its guns against the strikers, the county is doing what it needs to  --  to control costs and provide basic fairness to the vast majority of its workers whose health care costs are rising.


Ginger Rutland writes for the Sacramento Bee Opinion pages.