Saturday, October 22, 2011

Letter to the editor

Apparently I haven't been the only one thinking about municipal health insurance. I received the following letter to the editor from Darek Barcikowski last night, within an hour of my blog post. He has submitted it to the Salem News but I don't believe that it has appeared there yet. You can't tell me any candidate is working harder during this cycle than Darek.

On city council and health insurance...

The question of whether I would participate in the city’s health insurance program comes up again and again. And rightfully so. Taxpayers are concerned about how their taxes are spent given the state of the economy and how high Salem’s tax bills are.

The compensation to city councilors is $10,000 annually. But if someone opts to take advantage of the health insurance plan that compensation might be worth double that.

I would make a two part proposal to address the issue of city councilors and health insurance. (Perhaps this could apply to other elected or appointed officials as well who work in a limited capacity).

First, disclose total cost of compensation inclusive of benefits such as insurance. State that city councilor compensation with benefits is worth say 15 or 18 thousand rather than 10. Let taxpayers understand total cost not just base compensation. We need this kind of understanding and transparency.

Second, make health insurance available on a need basis only and by application. If a city councilor does not have any other insurance options such as a policy available through employee or spouse, he or she would apply for consideration for the city plan. If however, a counselor had access to health insurance through a full time job or a family plan, I don’t think the city plan financed by taxpayers should be an option.

I believe this approach is fair. Ultimately we should provide insurance to elected officials who lack other options. Given the number of pressing issues facing our city, we need our councilors to be in good health.

Darek Barcikowski

Darek makes some excellent points, and I guess I was wrong when I said nobody involved with city council would ever speak about it. Now just win baby. My only quibble is with his figures. Compensation with benefits for a Salem city councilor can actually be worth north of $25,000. That's a lot for a part time job.

I also like his proposal around eligibility requiring that there are no other options. On our current council, it may only be Pinto who fits into that, and like I said, I get why he needs it.

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