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Letter to the editor: City administrator talks insurance for elected officials

Published 9:10am Thursday, December 26, 2013

I would like to take this opportunity to respond to the letter to the editor that was published on Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013, regarding insurance for elected officials.

Insurance for elected officials is an eye-grabbing headline, but the issue is broader than this headline.

The City of Niles employs 51 part-time workers who would be eligible to participate, some of which have maintained healthcare insurance through private carriers covering themselves and/or family members for some time. The Affordable Healthcare Act appears to be a promising alternative for these employees, but as of this time it has encountered many delays, much uncertainty and questionable costs.

In the meantime many private healthcare plans were eliminated when new insurance policy requirements went into effect this year. In addition to the eliminated policies, others lost their ability to reenroll in their policy, if it was allowed to expire due to late payments.

The City of Niles, as an employer, is very concerned that our employees and their families are healthy, not only from a compassionate point of view, but also from a business point of view. If our employees are not healthy or are removed from the work place to care for family members, then we do not have the staff to properly deliver the services that our citizens expect and deserve.

In this case, a councilmember was willing to openly discuss his medical needs, the difficulty he has experienced since losing his health insurance. His story is not the only one. In this instance he was willing to share his story in place of our employees sharing their story in public.

The city was able to establish an insurance group for part-time employees (Council Members are considered part-time employees for this group). The city does not subsidize the monthly premium for the insurance offered to this group.

The group has to pay the full monthly illustrated (COBRA) rate and has an individual deductible of $5,000 and a family deductible of $10,000. While this is not inexpensive insurance it is the only alternative for some.

Our plan is to offer this insurance for one year in hopes that the Affordable Healthcare Act is fully implemented in the near future and our employees can find more cost effective coverage.

Richard A. Huff

City Administrator

  • Robert Parrish

    As a public employee outside the City of Niles, this letter and comments left by others concerning this subject have caught my interest but also prompted this response.

    First, taxpayers, of which I am myself, have to realize that fringe benefits, including health insurance, is part of an employee’s TOTAL compensation package. Payment for these extras, even though they originate from tax coffers, are made for services rendered. Benefits are not simply given away. As for any organization, public or private, an employee has to exchange their time, talent and work for their total compensation which is both their pay and benefits.

    Second, the arguement that all the citizens of Niles who have lost their insurance should receive the same city provided insurance as the council member who lost theirs is misguided. The illogical thinking is “Hey, I support the city provided services through my paid taxes, if they get insurance, I want it too!”.

    But, they are numerous business organizations which we also support through the capitalism by buying their products and/or or employing their services. Many of the employees of these same organizations have lost their benefits and at worst their jobs. As previous consumers of their offerings, should we collectively be responsible for their well being?

    The bottom line I’m trying to pass on is that public employee’s work for their total compensation packages. For years, public employees have experienced lesser pay than their private employee counterparts in exchange for their fringe benefits. It was a choice they made when deciding to perform the job. The caveat is that they had to earn it through work. It wasn’t freely provided.

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